At dinner recently, my wife and I were discussing an article about the rise of the “Yuccie,” or the Young Urban Creative, the latest name for 20-something hip, urban types that represents a combination of yuppie and hipster.
According to author David Infante, a self-proclaimed Yuccie, they are privileged young people that want to make money, but want to do it as a result of their own ideas, not someone else’s. They share the DIY ethos and the creative bent of the hipster, but harness technology and financial savvy to develop wealth. Infante connects their belief in the value of their own ideas to the “look at me” culture of Instagram and the Internet.
My wife and I reflected on how the description of the Yuccie sounded awfully self-centered, and made us feel nostalgic for the hipsters we met living in Chicago.
A Very Enlightened Child (AVEC)
My eight-year-old daughter was unusually quiet as she listened to our conversation, which must have sounded like it was in a foreign language. Finally, she spoke up. “What do they call us kids?” she asked.
I smiled. “Your generation doesn’t have a name yet” I told her, glad that she was too young to be grouped in with the “Yuccies.”
“Yes we do, I’m an… AVEC, A Very Enlightened Child.” My daughter went on to explain to us the characteristics of what she calls an “AVEC,” a term she completely made up:
A Very Enlightened Child is a kid who always wants to know more. AVECs want to make the world a better place and have interests and causes they are passionate about. A Very Enlightened Child likes learning that is active, challenging, and connected to the real world. An AVEC has opinions and ideas, and doesn’t want to wait until becoming an adult to make a difference.
I thought my daughter’s idea of “A Very Enlightened Child” was neat on several levels. It’s usually a media type who comes up with terms like “Yuppies,” “Hipsters,” or even “Yuccies,” but I liked the fact that my daughter was taking matters into her own hands and naming herself. I also liked the message of being “enlightened” as one that we don’t consider enough in education.
The definition of enlightened according to Webster’s dictionary is:
Having or showing a good understanding of how people should be treated. Not ignorant or narrow in thinking. Freed from ignorance and misinformation.
By “enlightened,” my daughter meant a child who uses knowledge not just to get better grades in school, but for a larger purpose. AVECs don’t want to just sit passively by and listen to others talk about what they know; they want to solve real-world problems that are important to them. They want a better life not just for themselves, but for people on the other side of the world. The fact that “avec” means “with” in French, adds to the inclusive nature of the term.
This youth empowerment message reminded me of something I might hear Kid President say!
What Kind of Education Do Our “Very Enlightened Children” Deserve?
Since I’m an educator, our discussion got me thinking: What kind of education would benefit the “very enlightened children” of my daughter’s generation? While the “Yuccies” may value making money from their own creativity, how can we give our very enlightened children the skills they’ll need to make a difference in the world?
Is the way we’re teaching today sufficient to help kids feel empowered and connected? Are we giving them a voice and nurturing their own interests? Do our students have ample opportunities to learn challenging, meaningful content? Are we helping build skills to think critically about their world and challenge the things they want to change?
I’ll be sharing my ideas of what will support our “AVECs,” but I want to hear from you. What kind of education do the “very enlightened children” of the younger generation deserve? What promising practices do you use to develop your own classroom of enlightened kids? Respond in the comment section below!
Ryan McCarty is a coach with Achievement Network, a nonprofit organization that helps school leaders support teaching that is grounded in standards, data, and the best practices of schools across the country. He partners with schools in Massachusetts. Prior to that, he was a literacy coordinator, instructional coach, and teacher in Chicago, Illinois. All views are his own. Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanP_McCarty.