Authored by John Mac Ghlionn via The Epoch Times,
Gen Z is “rotting” away, according to a recent New York Post piece. Millions of young people now spend inordinate amounts of time “bed rotting,” lounging about for extended periods of time, eating food, watching Netflix, and playing video games. But this “rotting” must be viewed through a broader lens. Gen Zers are struggling, and their struggles will cost the country dearly.
By 2025, Gen Z will account for just over one-quarter of the global workforce. That’s bad news for everyone. It’s especially bad news if you happen to live in America.
A recent CNBC report highlights the many ways in which Gen Zers lack skills other generations take for granted. These digital natives may be able to create a good meme or take a mean selfie, but when faced with other actual human beings, they crumble.
Tara Salinas, a professor of business ethics at the University of San Diego, told CNBC that Gen Zers have “always communicated online,” and for this reason, “their interpersonal skills, or soft skills, have suffered.” COVID-19, she added, certainly made the problem many times worse.
It’s easy to scoff at Gen Z. So many articles have been written about this seemingly fragile generation. But it’s important to realize that it’s not all their fault. Many Gen Zers are products of an utterly hopeless education system.
As the author and prominent psychologist Daniel Goleman has noted, 67 percent of the skills that employers are looking for in their employees are in the area of social and emotional intelligence (soft skills), yet schools spend less than 2 percent of an average school week teaching and developing these skills. In many schools, noted Goleman, they don’t spend any time developing these skills.
The importance of a soft skill such as emotional intelligence (EI) can’t be emphasized enough. Strong EI is vital for a healthy, meaningful existence. Before going any further, though, it’s important to get our definitions in order. People high in EI are able to identify, manage, and control their own emotions. Furthermore, they’re able to identify and understand the emotions of those around them.
According to experts at Harvard (pdf), high EI is a protective factor for suicidal behavior. Difficulties with emotion regulation are intimately associated with suicidal ideation. Not surprisingly, considering so many Gen Zers lack adequate levels of EI, they tend to suffer from depression and commit suicide at higher rates than members of other generations. A 2018 study carried out by Spanish psychologists argued that EI should be integrated into suicide prevention programs. But I would go one step further. EI should be integrated into the entire education system. The development of EI should be of prime importance to all educators, from kindergarten teachers to university professors.
Which prompts the question: How does one actually teach EI?
Key elements of EI include self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Self-awareness is a thinking skill, one that focuses on an individual’s ability to accurately judge his or her own thoughts and behaviors and respond appropriately. As obvious as it sounds, the more accurately an individual can evaluate their actions and behaviors, the better equipped they are to face the challenges of the world. The same goes for a person with a strong capacity for self-regulation. Those who score high on self-regulation have the ability to identify a strong emotion and respond in a manner that has the least negative consequences. Instead of throwing a tantrum when denied something, for example, a child can be taught to ask why they were denied the request. A lack of emotional self-regulation skills can lead to self-destructive behaviors later in life, such as drug abuse and alcoholism.
As is clear to see on college campuses across the country, both self-awareness and self-regulation are in short supply. Many of the young people who lack discipline are products of a failed education system. They enjoy harping on about the importance of inclusion, respect, and tolerance, yet become increasingly flustered when their opinions are challenged.
An effective EI program teaches children how to communicate effectively. It teaches them that, more often than not, listening is more important than talking. The United States, like so many other countries, is a nation populated by conversational narcissists, people who genuinely love the sound of their own voices. If we’re always talking, then we’re rarely, if ever, listening—and that’s a problem.
Listening affects virtually every aspect of an individual’s life, from academic performance to job performance to romantic relationships. The average American spends about 45 percent of their communication time listening (or not listening) and roughly 30 percent of the time talking (the rest of the time is spent reading and writing). Yet, for some reason, the education system fails to teach the children of today and the adults of tomorrow how to actually listen.
Denise Daniels, creator of The Moodsters, the first evidence-based global children’s brand to address emotional literacy and resilience in young people, told me that “children’s emotions are the cornerstone of children’s positive mental health, which is the number one issue facing children in the U.S. and around the world.”
Daniels, a Peabody award-winning broadcast journalist, parenting and child development expert, and author who specializes in the social and emotional development of children, recently returned from Washington, DC where she was invited to work on children’s emotions and policy issues with the America First Policy Institute. In other words, when it comes to the importance of EI, Daniels knows what she’s talking about.
“Today,” she said, “when the lives of children have been upended—by the pandemic, by social media, by grief and loss—children need age-appropriate emotional coping skills more than ever.” But to actually develop these skills, she concluded, “children need a strong foundation in emotional literacy: the ability to understand and manage their own complex feelings, and to recognize those of others.”
This is where schools come in. In these highly turbulent times, with people of all ages and political beliefs locking horns over various issues, we need more resilient citizens, the type of people willing to listen to the other side and channel their own emotions in a constructive manner.