14 historic complaints about young people who ruin everything

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Nothing is certain in this life except death, taxes, and the existence in every generation of buddy-buddies who criticize things for not being what they used to be. This centuries-long collection of reproaches seems to suggest that the golden age of stability and contentment these geezers aspire to return to may never have existed in the first place. Yet the mere similarity of their views should console them …some things never change.

1. “So fatal a contagion”

Extract from an 1816 issue of London Times:

“The indecent foreign dance called the ‘Waltz’ was introduced … at the English Court last Friday … It is more than enough to take a look at the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs, and the tight compression of the bodies. . to see that it is a far cry from the modest reserve which has heretofore been considered distinctive of English women … [Now that it is] forced upon the respectable classes of society by the bad example of their superiors, we feel a duty to warn every parent against exposing their daughter to such a fatal contagion. “

2. “Emaciated and self-admiring freibbles”

In Parisian fashion: a cultural history, Valerie Steele posted a letter sent to Town and countryside magazine in November 1771 by a reader who wanted to get something out of his chest:

“Where have the virile vigor and athletic appearance of our ancestors gone? Can these be their legitimate heirs? Certainly, no; a race of frail effeminate, admiring, emaciated has never been able to descend in direct line from the heroes of Potters and Agincourt … “

3. “Total neglect of the art of speaking”

In the preface to the 1780 book A general dictionary of the English language, Thomas Sheridan wrote:

“The total neglect of this art [speaking] produced the worst consequences … in the conduct of all ecclesiastical and civil affairs, in church, parliament, courts of law … the miserable state of speech is apparent to people of all discernment and taste … if something is not done to stop this growing evil … English risks becoming mere jargon, which anyone can pronounce at will. “

4. “Corrupted the Morals of Many Promising Young People”

In the book of 1790 Memories of the Bloomsgrove family, Reverend Enos Hitchcock wrote:

“The free access that many young people have to novels, novels and plays has poisoned the minds and corrupted the mores of many promising young people, and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children healthy foods. diet ; and yet how indifferent are the provisions for the spirit, whether they are provided with healthy food, or with garbage, straw or poison? “

5. “A decreasing sense of duty and discipline”

In 1904, the psychologist and educator Granville Stanley Hall published The psychology of adolescence, in which he warned it was a dangerous time, especially for young people:

“Never have the youth been exposed to such dangers of perversion and arrest as in our own country and today. Growing urban life with its temptations, its prematurity, its sedentary occupations and its passive stimuli at the same time where an active life is most necessary, a precocious emancipation and a diminished sense of duty and discipline, the haste to know and to do whatever suits the state of man before the hour, the race mad towards sudden wealth and reckless fashions set by her golden youth – all of this lack some of the regulators they still have in the old lands with more conservative terms. “

6. “Lax clothes, low moral standards, episodes of hotels …”

Apart from the devil, nothing was more dangerous to the immortal soul than the cinema – at least, according to “The ‘Movies’ – The Greatest Religious Menace”, published in the November 6, 1926 issue of The Pentecostal Gospel [PDF]:

“[The screen artists’] the beauty, their exquisite clothes, their lax habits and their low moral standards, unconsciously become appropriated by the plastic minds of American youth. Let them do what they can; divorce scandals, hotel episodes, free love, all are ignored and tolerated by young people … The door to the eye is the widest and most easily accessible of all avenues of the soul ; everything that is portrayed on screen is indelibly imprinted on the soul of the nation. “

7. “A simple amusement of a very inferior character”

In its July 1859 issue, American scientist rallied around a nasty game that weakened both mind and body: chess:

“A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread throughout the country, and many clubs to practice the game have been formed in towns and villages … chess is a simple fun of a very inferior, which robs the mind of precious time that could be spent on more noble acquisitions, while it brings no benefit to the body. Chess has gained a high reputation as a means of disciplining the mind, but people engaged in sedentary occupations should never play this sad game; they need door exercises, not that kind of mental gladiator. “

8. “A lying umbrella”

Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure island, The strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and the 1894 essay “The Umbrella Philosophy” could say a lot about a person based on what they held over their head when it rained:

“A lying umbrella is a sign of great moral degradation. Hypocrisy is naturally sheltered under a silk; while the fast young man goes to visit his religious friends armed with the decent and famous gingham. Let it not be said about the carriers of these inappropriate umbrellas. that they go into the streets “with a lie in their right hand”? “

9. “Obscene wicked children”

In 1695, Robert Russel wrote in A little book for children and young people (subtitle To be good advice and instructions for your children, to sincerely exhort them to resist the temptation of the devil …):

“I find from sad experience how the towns and the streets are filled with obscene and mean children, and many children, as they played in the streets, have been heard cursing, swearing and calling each other nicknames, and it would sadden their hearts to hear what obscene and filthy communications come out of the mouths of such … “

10. “Dogs on their heels and other evidence of dissolute habits”

In a speech in the House of Commons on February 28, 1843, Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, said:

“A frightening multitude of uneducated savages … [boys] with dogs on their heels and other evidence of dissolute habits … [girls who] driving coal carts, riding horses, drinking, swearing, fighting, smoking, whistling and caring for no one … children’s morals are ten times worse than before. “

11. “Full of pride and admiration”

It’s probably safe to assume that the SBS writer was no longer invited to children’s parties after the publication of “Children And Children’s Parties” in The diary of mothers and the family visitor in 1853:

“See the little handsome of ten minauderies at home the little coquette of eight years, each so full of pride and admiration for his dear self, that there is little to spare for anyone. another … and admit that the sight is both ridiculous and distressing … the sweet simplicity and naivety of childhood, which make a real child so interesting, have disappeared (like the flower of the peach roughly torn off) never to come back. “

12. “The mad spirit of the times”

In “Degeneacy of Stature”, which appeared in the December 18, 1856 issue of The national era, Thrace Talmon wrote:

“Domestic luxury, the steam press systems in the school rooms and, above all, the mad spirit of the time, have not come down to us without a more than proportionate loss … [a young man] rushes headlong, with an impetuosity that ignites the sharp flint beneath his feet … Sometimes one of this class … amasses an estate, but to the detriment of his peace, and often of his health. The insane asylum or the premature grave too often end his career … We expect each subsequent generation to grow “much less”.

13. “An even more corrupt offspring”

In book III of Odes, around 20 BCE, Horace wrote:

“The age of our fathers was worse than that of our grandfathers. We, their sons, are more
worthless than them; so in turn we will give the world even more offspring
corrupt.”

14. “Young people have never been wiser”

In his book of 1624 The wise man’s foresight against bad weather, Thomas Barnes, the minister of St. Margaret’s Church on New Fish Street in London, complained:

“Young people have never been wiser, yes never more savagely saucie … the elders are despised, the honorable are despised, the magistrate is not feared.”

A version of the latter ran in 2013; it has been updated for 2021.


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