It’s time for the adults to lay off and leave the kids alone

Image courtesy of pxfuel.

I don’t imagine Thursday, the first day of school, was much fun for a certain group of IB students at Choctawhatchee High School.

To bring you up to speed, the students were quoted in a story that appeared on the July 17 Whatever page about the new 18-credit high school diploma program approved by the Florida Legislature. The kids were asked their opinion of the new program.

To put it bluntly, they hated it … and used a few choice words to describe their disfavor, words about lazy students skating by, and kids growing up to be janitors and trash men.

As you might expect, those remarks triggered an angry response from both teenagers and adults. The Daily News received a number of letters to the editor taking the kids to task for their apparent arrogance and elitism.

I don’t know what was said to the kids on Day 1 of the school year, but I can’t imagine it was much fun either. Teens sometimes have an infinite capacity for cruelty. And some adults too, it seems.

I think it’s time to lay off.

If you want to be mad at somebody, be mad at me. I’m the guy who approved and edited the story, and apart from a few poorly chosen words, I agree with much of what the students said.

I don’t think their comments about janitors and trash men were appropriate. Any job is honorable, and janitors and trash men perform a service that’s essential to our existence. Without them we would all be janitors and trash men.

I have friends who are janitors and trash men, and they’re no dummies. One fellow I know could teach college-level philosophy.

But I can understand why the kids made those remarks. They’ve been taught all their lives that without a good education they’d grow up to perform some low-paying job. That’s a standard belief in our culture. Can the kids be penalized for repeating what they’ve been taught?

As for their “arrogance,” let me ask you this: What’s the IB program all about? More difficult courses and smarter students, isn’t it? In these days of preening sports “stars” and entertainers who make heroes of themselves for their drug addictions, can the kids be penalized for admitting they work harder and get better grades?

But I have bigger gripes. My real problem with some of the criticism inflicted on these kids is that it reeks of the righteous wrath you see from people who are hungry to draw attention to themselves.

It’s OK for kids to respond to kids, but I don’t understand what in the world would compel an ADULT to submit a letter to the editor critical of something a kid said or wrote on the Whatever page. Most adults I know would read the kids’ remarks, tell themselves, “Well, there’s a kid talking,” and move on to more adult parts of the newspaper, such as the comics.

Certain levels of humility and civility are expected of us all, letter writers included.

So give the kids a break and lay off.

(This column was previously published in the August 9, 2003 Northwest Florida Daily News.)

About the author:

Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”

Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.

As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.

Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at .