The Chaos Kiteboarding Class of 2022
For those of you unfamiliar with the sport of kitesurfing, just imagine balancing a slippery board above choppy waves while strapped to a giant kite in a windstorm. The best kitesurfing occurs when winds exceed 20 MPH, when most sailboats have headed into port, and kitesurfers regularly master winds exceeding 40 miles per hour. As you can imagine, the stronger the wind, the rougher the water, so kitesurfers have to survive not only the waves but also the invisible gusts that can shoot someone 50 feet into the air without warning. Scary for some; fun for others.
The invisible wind and uncontrollable water combined in violent conditions look exactly like what the Class of 2022 has faced for three years. And like kitesurfers, our 2022 graduates have learned to master chaos. Three years of COVID. . . global upheaval. . . closures and quarantines. . . economic upheaval. . . global disasters. . . the potential of World War III! The Class of 2022 has kind of sported all of that.
This shouldn’t surprise us, as their lives are characterized by chaos and change. We had generation gaps, but they know the generation issues. Baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y have lasted for decades, but post-smartphone generations evolve every 3-5 years. My space . . . Facebook . . . Instagram.
. . Snapchat. . . TIC Tac. . . all the generational changes that have risen and fallen rapidly. The average TikTok user can’t stand videos longer than a minute – a quick image assault for us oldies, but kitesurfing for our graduates. Honestly, being hypnotized by flashing colors and sounds isn’t that unusual. Just visit any casino and you’ll find people my age similarly transfixed, so I guess that means the current generation might be catching up with the baby boomers.
You went to high school during the time of COVID, so your brain works differently. You’ve learned to harness the chaos, ride on it, and when the gusts come, soar through the air with grace. We old folks might call you distracted, incoherent, and reckless, but we’d be wrong. You are all this world needs right now. We were trained to enter a profession for life, but you are nimble and adaptable, ready to be fluid in your career. We had a handful of friends, but your social network can include thousands and transcend all geographic, linguistic and cultural boundaries. Even so, you’ll struggle to build relationships with graduates five years from now.
You virtually connect with people from all over the world, but they will speak any language face-to-face with real-time translators. You have learned coding, but they will just describe something and a computer program will create it for them. You swipe screens to order stuff; they will simply “think” and it will come to their doorstep. We’re going to college, but they’ll get micro-degrees and go from career to career. This generation may work from home, but their generation will be working in virtual reality. Work in pajamas or play as a giant Koala, the choice is yours!
Inevitably, these young people will call you out of touch, but remember. . . YOU will create everything. You are the post-pandemic generation who will shape a world violently shaken by wind and waves. While others struggle in the waves, you’ll happily glide and fly above the chaos. The class of 2022 is a pivotal and transformative generation. Agile. Adaptive. Intelligent. Without fear. And in thirty years, I will live better thanks to you. God willing, I will continue to kitesurf with you.
We old folks couldn’t be in better hands. You not only survived the greatest global disruption in a century, but you also tamed the turmoil with grace. The future is scary for some of us but fun for you. Happy kitesurfing chaos, class of 2022!
Tom Deighan is Superintendent of Duncan Public Schools. You can email him at [email protected] and read past articles at www.mostlyeducational.com.