During the era of my great-grandfather, there was war. To die was a common fate. To survive was top priority. They did what they could to secure a chance for their children to survive, be it by fleeing the land of war or by fighting back the enemy. They either brought their children along with them as they fled, or they left them behind as they went to the frontlines.
During the era of my grandfather, the war had ended. But the country was in shambles and a lot of rebuilding was required. While people did not die like dogs anymore, going hungry was a common destiny that generation shared. When they had families of their own, they did what they could for their children not to go hungry. Their children could not have good food, but at least they did not starve.
During the era of my father, people generally are better off as the country’s rebuilding had reached a certain stage by this time, enough to reap in some of the benefits. While most are still not well-off, their children had a decent house to stay and decent food to eat during the growing up years. But for my father’s generation, not being educated well was a common path they walked as they grew up. Many of them went on to take lower level jobs and slogged their whole lives as the average blue collar worker, while the selected few who had university degrees went on to take better jobs. When they had families of their own, they did what they could for their children to be educated. It was that generation which started pushing for their children to be highly educated so that they could get good grades and subsequently enter good schools, which consequently lead to good jobs with the final result of it being commanding high salaries and social prestige.
With the push of my parent’s generation, I graduated with not one, but two university degrees. Education was a very important thing to my parents, as they sought to give me what they did not have. As a side note, I worked and paid for my own university fees though, with some very minor contribution from my parents. Most of my generation grew up without worry – without worry of war, without worry of starvation, without worry of being uneducated and above all else, without worry that life may fail them.
From the above we can see that each generation tried to give the next what they lacked and what they wished to have. From basic survival to food to education, each generation reflected upon themselves and did what they could so that their descendants need not suffer the same agony they did. In my grandfather’s generation, the majority of the people did not die like dogs anymore. In my father’s generation, the majority did not go hungry anymore, and in my generation, university degrees were as common as you can get.
During my era, we lived in a time of peace and abundance, though not necessarily in luxury and excessiveness. We do not need to worry about food, and education was made compulsory to us all. But it seems to be as I look around at my peers, that for my generation few of us reflected on ourselves. Perhaps it was due to the abundance we have that we lacked almost nothing, that people of my generation failed to reflect and think of what they could do for the next generation. Instead, I see many parents from my generation pushing their kids further in the line of education. From demanding straight As to stressing on them the importance of memorising whole textbooks with as many side skills as they can such as piano or ballet, parents of my generation threw in an insane amount of money just to make sure their children are academically superior.
It may look excessive but nothing fundamentally wrong at first, however that is a shift in the way we do things as compared to the previous generations. My great-grandfather’s generation survived the war, but did not go further and pushed their children to obtain survival skills in the harshest of environments. My grandfather’s era survived being hungry, but did not go further and stuff my father’s generation with so much food until it was excessive. My father’s generation grew up without much education, but they did not push us to score straight As. Each of their generation sought out something which could elevate their children by focusing on a higher level, but only our generation focused on doing well on an existing level which we had already achieved.
One may do well if he excels at his current level, but it is even better if one can climb up to the next. Why stay at Primary 1 and score 100 marks for every exam when you can advance further to Primary 2? What is it that we should give our children that our generation do not have? My answer to that is financial management, problem solving, risk management and critical thinking skills. That is the next level we should aim for our children.
My era grew up with textbooks. From Biology to Geography, from Mathematics to Literature, we achieved academic qualifications our parents could only dream of and many of us went on to be white-collared workers. That was built on the foundation of our parents’ generation. We simply worked hard on the foundation they built for us. But all that our parents and the schools gave us, was the ability to be a white-collared worker. We are trained to be workers from young. We are not trained to be free.
From proper financial management, to calculated risk management, to critical thinking and problem solving, each of these skills enable us to be critically aware of our surroundings and on how to manage ourselves in our environment. To know what is going on and to do the right thing in terms of our march towards a free individual. You cannot say you are free if you are enslaved by a job. You cannot say you are free if your thinking is based on what the puppet media tells you. You cannot say you are knowledgeable about current affairs if all you do is parrot out what the official media reported. Yet this is exactly what happens to most people of our generation. This is what we lack, and this is what we should give to our next generation. We have been given an education by our parents’ generation, meaning we have the mental capacity to think further and to go up another level. And we should do that.
To me, the next level we should open up for our children is to guide them towards being an independent free adult. You may have the same thinking as me, or you may have your own idea on what the next level is. It is entirely up to you, for all of us are different. But I would believe our generation to have failed if we only expand on our current level instead of pushing ahead to the next.
A person’s foresight determines the kind of life he will be living, and his depth and breadth as a person decides what kind of experience he will have. As our forefathers build the foundation for us, we should also aim to do the same for our descendants too. Afterall, across human societies, humans lay the foundation of today so that their children will have a better tomorrow. That is how we came from stone age to where we are today – through the accumulation of wisdom and experience of all the generations before us. That has happened for thousands of years and should continue on until the end of humanity.