Thursday, November 4, 2010

What is wrong with young people today? - A view from the past.

The following quotes illustrate that adults always complained about the behavior of the younger generation - even back in the days of the ancient Greek philosophers...

They [Young People] have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things -- and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning -- all their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything -- they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.
Peter the Hermit

"The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress."
(From a sermon preached by Peter the Hermit in A.D. 1274)

"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint".
(Hesiod, 8th century BC)

GK Chesterton
"I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid."
(G.K. Chesterton)

'The children now love luxury; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are tyrants, not servants of the households. They no longer rise when their elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize over their teachers.'
(Commonly attributed to SOCRATES by Plato, according to William L. Patty and Louise S. Johnson, Personality and Adjustment, p. 277 (1953), but the NY Times (April 3, 1966, p16) only found a reference to the Mayor of Amsterdam, Gijsbert van Hall, following a street demonstration in 1966).

It should be noted that the attribution of some of these quotes is historically shaky. However, these quotes can help to make the point that adults throughout history have been complaining about the behavior of young people, and civilization hasn't yet come to an end because of the rebelliousness of teenagers.


  1. This is great, my mother and I were talking about this stuff yesterday - the way nothing really changes! People have made the same complaints since forever.

  2. The quote attributed to Socrates has also be attributed to Plato and Aristotle. But its source is none of them. It comes from Kenneth John Freeman and was used in his Cambridge dissertation of 1907. He didn't attribute the statement to any ancient person but only offered it as a summary of the sorts of complaints made in ancient times about youth. More details are available at .

    1. Thank you for the clarification, Fred. As I was saying at in the post "the attribution of some of these quotes are historically shaky". Great that you could provide a better reference.


  3. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose... :)