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[personal profile] victorthecook
They're already here, and they're writing for news magazines. Today I read another of those scare articles (are we raising etc.) somewhere or other. It doesn't actually matter where -- more will come along if you wait a bit. If you're in a hurry, you can find previous years' (decades', centuries') editions with no trouble.

This particular author was harping on children being unable to empty ice cube trays and use dial telephones. Frankly, if they can't, it means that widespread use of automatic icemakers and pushbutton phones has (finally) made this knowledge obsolete. Yay human progress. But just as I don't judge people by their ability to drive a curricle, I can't be bothered by this.

If there's a global icemaker shortage, people will adjust easily. Meanwhile, these ephemera of popular culture can join mule-packing and the use of reel-to-reel audio tape as niche or novelty material. Get over yourselves, pundits. Meanwhile, these kids can use not only their phone, but yours, to do things you could do yourself if you weren't hand-wringing over where the dial went. In other words, they're picking up information that's useful now, not what was essential in 1950. Or cutting edge in 1910.

The fundamental erroneous assumption that the authors of these screeds make is that everything they learned as children should of course be learned by everyone, forever. Given the rate of increase in human knowledge, this is impossible -- and indeed, counterproductive. If you think that knowing who Bessie Smith was is vital knowledge, you're accepting that something else has to go missing -- Abigail Adams? Jonas Salk? If you want people to memorize the multiplication tables through 25x25, it's legitimate for people to ask why they should still bother.

After all, even your phone has a calculator in it. You do know how to use it, right?

Date: 2010-10-01 01:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
[Frm LJS] I found the article you probably allude to. I think one of the author's points is that the youth faced with an ice cube tray didn't try to figure it out. In the author's view, he lacked the curiosity, persistence, and/or skills to figure out the problem rather than put the ice tray back and go on to something else.

Yeah, there are many an outmoded skill, but there are some that are timeless. How to read a map (a street map at least). Give directions to a location. Swim. Basic first aid. Laundry. Simple cooking. Simple sewing. Use a book's index, etc.

Not everything is digital, and not everything that is digital is correct.

Date: 2010-10-01 03:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, as I said, one article set me off but this is practically a genre.
Some skills are enduring -- but I think three of the ones you've named are on life support.

Certainly not everything is digital, but more and more stuff is. And there are certainly modern skills that aren't digital. Consider cooking with an induction cooktop versus a coal-fired stove. Or skateboarding. Or using those cool wheely shoes kids can get today.

And anyway, if you're twelve and in an unfamiliar house, do you risk breaking something or spewing ice all over the place? Maybe it's less socially risky to drink a room-temperature beverage, or to ask for help. And who would consider the risk that their host would write an AP story about their guest's ineptitude?

Date: 2010-10-01 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
[frm LJS] 12 and unwilling to risk damage/mess -- could be, and if I were the guest, I'd be irked at the reporter. (Tho I suppose it is a hazard of visiting one...)

I have done a talk for young lawyers that included "this is a book" and reminding them that once they are out of law school they may not have all the nifty full-text indexed databases that they get for free as students -- they need to know how to use books. (And books are still what many judges use, even if their clerks are more net saavy.) Full-text searches are nice, but don't work if the court uses different terms of art, or for older cases that may be good case law but aren't in the cheaper databases that go from say 1950 onward. Indexes and annotated statute books are still critically imporant to be thorough. I may mention in an upcoming talk going to the UConn library for some older, obscure journals that I literally blew the dust off of to find the article that supported a key point. The internet doesn't have everything...yet.

Paper maps still have their uses -- we read on and off about folks who get themselves lost, or stranded, when the GPS is wrong, out of date, or traffic forces an alternate route. I'm coming across an increasing number of folks who can't give clear directions...

But I agree on the basic sentiment. And you are right that it isn't a new one. I've read medieval and renaissance writers commenting, in effect, on "kids these days" with their pointy shoes and their newfangled slashed doublets, etc. Heck, it may be that the Lascaux cave paintings actually translate to a tirade against cave-youths and their newfangled hunting methods...


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