Monday, October 4, 2010

 

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

You will know already that I have spent a four day weekend on the federated campus of my Alma mater(s), St. Thomas University and the University of New Brunswick where I studied law.

Noteworthy and to digress just a bit: This week, St. Thomas marks its 100th anniversary as a degree granting institution of higher learning; whilst the University of New Brunswick; Canada's oldest and North America's second oldest university, is in the midst of celebrating its 225th birthday.

Be that as it may, times and (more importantly) the young folk on campus sure have changed in the forty years since I was last there as a student. Besides that they are all very young...well, at least in my eyes. It's noticeably hard nowadays to spot anyone who isn't wearing headphones of some sort, plugged into a personal music player whilst at the same time terribly busy texting on a hand-held device at buzz-lightning speed to Lord knows whom.

Oh well if one pays enough attention, they are frequently texting a contemporary who may just be standing, walking or sitting a few feet away either within eye contact or moderate shouting distance. "Qu'elle famille!"

All of which has me pondering over and about a recent Associated Press story published in several affiliated American newspapers perhaps too appropriately entitled - Are We Raising A Generation Of Nincompoops? - A story which explores the question of whether North America has been raising a generation of dysfunctional young people as the result of kids growing-up with push-button technology in an era when mechanical devices are being replaced by electronics. To wit: Velcro blamed for Second-graders who cannot tie shoes or zip jackets; Five-year olds in strollers. Teens and pre-teens befuddled by can-openers and ice cube trays; college and university students who have never done laundry, taken a bus alone, or addressed an envelope. A generation where the fast-food take-out and drive-through snacks have replaced home cooked meals...



Susan Maushart who is the author of a book coming out this fall entitled: "The Winter of Our Disconnect" cites her own teen daughter's struggle with a can opener..."Most cans come with pull-tops these days. I see her reaching for a can that requires a can opener, and her shoulders slump and she goes for something else."

North Americans have been blessed with so many comforts that kids have it all laid-out for them. In our modern world the absence of technology confuses young people faced with simple mechanical tasks. Raised in a generation where refrigerators have push-button ice-makers they don't know how to get cubes out of a tray, in the same way that growing up with pull-tab cans means you don't understand can openers. Their passivity is all-the-more encouraged by Velcro-sneakers and Pull-Ups underpants. Don't fret kid: You can pee in your pants and we'll take care of you.

Another author, Mark Bauerlein who wrote the book: "The Dumbest Generation" says growing-up with cell phones; I-Pods; and Google means kids don't have to figure things out or solve problems anymore..."They can look-up what they need online or call mom or dad for step-by-step instructions."

Of course some skills are probably no longer very useful such as adding Roman numerals, studying ancient Latin; and looking things-up in a printed encyclopedia and/or thesaurus. Seems to me we are all at least partly to blame for the current generation's incompetence. We've been convinced by modern marketers that without access to the latest gimmicks, gizmos, gadgetry and technologies the kids really will turn-out to be nincompoops. Maybe we have only ourselves to blame.

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Comments:
Working at a University in Australia, I can tell you how true your insights are. Hope the world never runs out of electrical power or our children will starve. Are we the parents to blame, I ask?
 
Alas, though the comments relate to my North American experience; I note with sadness from your observations that the problem is indeed universal.
 

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