The 21st century is the age of technology and innovation. The rapid pace of development affects absolutely everyone in society, especially the younger generation. But how do we know if they’re reaping the fruits of that progress in the best way, rather than squandering or misusing it?
One of our age’s most pervasive and influential tech advances is the Internet. Its rich benefits are numerous, and everywhere. Thanks to the Internet, information is easier to access than ever. These days we can find pretty much anything on the World Wide Web—from the history of ancient Rome and the American democracy, to how to cook the best mac and cheese.
It’s all there. Google is your friend.
However, many of us, especially younger people, find ourselves devoting most of our time to the trivial, less-edifying aspects of social media. Rather than take advantage of the many materials online that can add to our useful knowledge and skills, and improve our lives, too many people use it for little more than entertainment.
How do we fix this? Should we fix this at all? There’s no simple answer.
Can the older generation be blamed for accusing their children and grandchildren of this attitude, for claiming that today's youth are short on values and aspirations, that they’d rather just while away the hours getting lost on the Internet? But even if there’s some truth to the charge, it’s only partly true. Changing times, technologies, and worldviews don’t mean that newer generations don’t have dreams, the capacity to challenge old habits and attitudes, and the wherewithal to realize their own potential and vision for themselves.
At GEN, we believe that showing someone the path, and trusting them to find their own way is a better strategy than the quick fix of simply telling them what to do. We trust that today’s youth can decide for themselves what they want to be, and how. GEN uses social projects like JAZZ to achieve these goals. JAZZ is an “IRL” (in-real-life) solution to some of the Internet’s drawbacks, such as online anonymity and safety. When they’re on the Web kids can be anyone they want, they can ask weird questions and not be judged. However, it’s very difficult and rare to find a true place of community online, where they can dive deep into a topic and discuss it constructively.
The JAZZ team finds speakers to present weekly talks to JAZZ participants, and prepares and manages those talks in a format in which the guests won’t feel “cornered.” The girls and boys in the audience are moreover encouraged to speak their minds, and ask potentially sensitive or awkward questions, that often go against what’s considered “normal”.
The mission of JAZZ is to prepare young people for real life, which is often difficult and scarier than their experiences on the Internet. Having taken on the mission of educating the younger generation, we think it’s more effective to not correct, but rather to guide. During our weekly JAZZ presentations speakers try to convey information in such a way that a young gal or guy would think that they came to a particular conclusion independently. So with time, they start to trust us just as much as they trust Google.