Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Trouble With Kids Today...

That, of course, is intended as a laugh line.  The first commentary on that topic was written in Cuneiform, on clay tablets.  But it's still a workable headline, and appears in all major media, under various disguises, at least 4X per year, per newspaper, or talk show, or whatever.

Hi!  I'm still not dead yet!  This post will be, I hope, relatively brief; since a) short is better in this world, b) I have other urgent things I must do in the next few hours, and c) - it has dawned on me, finally, that even if I wrote about the "stuff" included in the post title at length, and to the extent of my expertise on the topic; I would not really be able to communicate even "most" of it.

Probably lost you already, with that one!  Back to the "Kids".

I have an unusual perspective available to me on the subject.  I remember being a kid myself, in considerable detail; I was paying attention to kidness at the time.  I have 2 from my first marriage, now both in their 30s (yes, I know B, closer to 40 for you, but I'm blocking, and prefer to keep it that way.)  I also have one right now who is 10.  Smack in the middle of Kid, for her, though as part of that experience, she denies it, and identifies far more as a "young lady".  And I teach, multiple ages.

The thing that triggered this blog post; I'm currently re-reading, for the umptieth iteration, a book that was written for kids; over 100 years ago, which is a very great favorite of mine.  I still read aloud to my 10 year old, though she frequently now reads some of whatever it is to me, too; we both like it a lot.

And I hesitated, about attempting to read this one, over 100 years old, to Smidgen.  Still hesitating.  Writing this, instead, half thinking perhaps writing it, or your comments, will clarify things.

Not, at all because she wouldn't understand the dialogues, embedded dialects, topics from pre-industrial cosmos, or that she wouldn't enjoy the book.  She handles all that kind of stuff already, just fine.  She would love to pick up some new tag-lines; and learn new, esoteric words.

I hesitate because I'm -just a bit- afraid of putting her on a path that will separate her even further from her classmates and peers.  The vast, vast majority of Kids these days are completely unfamiliar with the literature of the previous century, both words and concepts; and give you blank incomprehension if you try to communicate with them using such referents.  I need- you need - Smidgen needs - to communicate with them, and of course they are totally worth communicating with.  But cultural referents outside Twitter are now a barrier.

Smidgen already drops words and references that leave not only peers but many adults with blank faces.  Do I really want to make it worse?  The other horn of the dilemma (did you know dilemmas have horns?) is that I believe deeply that nothing you learn is ever a waste; at some point, it will enrich your life.

This sort of generational shift has happened many times, since the cuneiform editions, and we've survived.  But we have something different going on now, too.  Not only is there a possible barrier due to time passing and changing us- Kids Today have instant access to incomprehensibly more information, and varying cultural sources, than us ancients ever did.  It's very easy for this dumb kid who doesn't understand you at all - to be a PhD level expert, in grade school, on some topic you know nothing about yourself, have no frame of reference for, and no interest in.  Leaving both parties feeling the other is without worth.

That too has happened before, but never on the current scale.

Oddly- the best cure for incomprehension I've found is also a major part of the problem - YouTube, and its derivatives.  It's now my tool of choice, when my Kids (all 3) do not understand something I'm trying to explain.  It'll usually take me around 30 seconds to find a video that crosses and connects viewpoints.  The most frequent scenario is the Kid has to be dragged, by me, to the screen, and parented into wasting time watching something they're SO not interested in; halfway through the video they start to "get it"; and by the end, they're absorbed.

You can see the neurons connecting up.

But boy, is it a lot of work.

Ok, a tad longer than a good Tweet; but hey, short for me.


knutty knitter said...

I'd read the book myself. I remember being a kid myself and learning - the hard way - just not to go where others couldn't follow. As long as she has access to current stuff too, she'll be fine. I think it's called having a foot in both camps :)


Greenpa said...

Hi, Viv! I think you're right. But I do know some folks with feet in both camps who really struggle with it. And I do get the idea it's a bit different today; they're buried in information, on line "shows" etc. And so much of it of stunningly low value. The schools are not helping. sigh. :-)

Diane said...

I'm clueless. What is the book to which you are referring?

Greenpa said...

Diane - well, I was kind of not specifying, to focus on what I see as a "problem", weird though it may be. Many books might fit, these days.

But! I'll tell. It's "Two Little Savages"; by E.T. Seton, which is the true story of the summer that led to the creation of all "scout" movements. Published 1903, lived somewhere around 1880 (?). An obscure bit of history. Seton wrote the first 'Boy Scout Manual", and was first "Chief Scout" for the USA - and when Baden Powell visited him, before going back to Britain to launch the Boy Scouts - Seton already had 30,000 boys in an organization called "The Woodcraft Indians".

I AM reading it to Smidgen now. As expected; every other paragraph, I have to explain a word no longer current - but she's now loving it. Like yesterday, when we hit "...the most worthless trash ever foisted on a torpid public."

She enjoys with when we hit those now- but with every explanation, the distance between her and her age group widens. And today, I DO think it's worse than when I was a kid in that situation. Today's "phone zombies" - who believe themselves to be the acme of civilization - live in some other universe, and are not ever going to visit the one I live in... the one I hope Smidgen can see and understand...

Spice said...

Updae: He gave in. Smidgen and Greenpa are now enjoying "Two Little Savages". And Yes she will be a little wiser for it and a little (more) different from her classmates. But it will serve her well in the end.