Adults have been complaining about “kids today” since Socrates and the rest of Athens’ senior citizens were walking around the agora with their cloaks hiked too high. It’s not fun or original to bemoan the concerns and dreams of younger generations. (You hear that Boomers?) Still, it’s natural to be disappointed about the results of a new poll done ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing. It says more American kids would rather grow up to be a YouTube vlogger than an astronaut.
Go ahead, take a minute to process that information. We certainly needed it, but only because this is our fault and not the kids.
LEGO commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct a survey (that we first learned about at Ars Technica) of children in the U.S, UK, and China, aged 8 to 12. They wanted to gauge kids’ interests in space exploration five decades after Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon. The good news? Kids still dig space! And they even know a little something about arguably mankind’s greatest achievement.
–86% of kids say they are interested in space exploration; 83% of parents think their kids are interested in space exploration.
–90% of kids say they want to learn more about space.
–85% (88% US, 87% UK, 79% China) can identify Neil Armstrong as the first person to walk on the moon.
–Only 2% believe it was Buzz Lightyear.
–China (97%), US (88%), UK (87%) think a human will go to Mars in the future.
–China (95%), US (68%), UK (63%) would personally like to travel to space or another planet.
Now the bad news. When the survey asked those kids what they would like to be when they grow up, only 11% of American and British kids picked “astronaut,” despite being allowed to name three choices. The top choice of young Americans (29%) was “Vlogger/YouTuber” (30% in the UK). Astronaut was the number one choice (56%) for Chinese children, with “only” 18% aspiring to that sweet vlogger lifestyle.
It’s doubtful anyone (unless they own Facebook stock) will be happy about those results. The easy/lazy/ignorant thing to do though would be to look at these numbers and whine about social media while insulting young people. But this is an indictment on the society these kids are growing up in, not on them. Kids should be thinking big between the ages of 8 and 12. They shouldn’t be worried about careers, which is – whether you like it or not – what being a successful vlogger or YouTube star offers. And it’s one many more will make a living from than those who try to become astronauts. Somehow, 50 years after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, we’ve made it more appealing for a kid to make a video about watching a rocket launch than to be on one.
The lesson here isn’t that “kids today” are a problem, no more than they were when Socrates was complaining about them. The lesson is that older generations need to remember to build a better world so kids can dream of visiting others someday. That’s how we got to the Moon in the first place, and it’s how we’ll go beyond it someday with a bunch of astronauts who are only eight-years-old right now.
Featured Image: Universal Pictures