Sunday, January 20, 2008

Put Down That Rattle And Tell Me About Van Der Waals Force, Son

Everywhere I go I am told - usually by young parents - that "today's generation of kids is so much brighter and smarter". This claim is followed by evidence that involves their precious and his or her precocious mastery over some electronic gadget, almost always the TV remote. Exhibit A is then followed by vigorous head-nodding by everyone at the dinner table. The topic is deemed to have been satisfactorily concluded when one of the diners makes this profound observation: "when we were at that age, we were *so* clueless".

I don't know about you, but I am getting tired of this talk. For two very good reasons. One, it is so not true and two, because it is utterly false, man.

Our generation (well, technically not my generation. I am from the "between the 8-track and the Cassette" generation) mastered the Sony Walkman whose interface and operation so much more complex than an iPod - another gadget that often pops up as Exhibit A in this discussion. We wrote unmassive single-player non-role playing non-games like "Hello World" on the C64 computer which, if you recall, had no mouse and let me tell you mommy, that's too much for little Einstein. When we wanted entertainment, we had something called a "shortwave radio" which involved - gasp - sitting and listening to a song for a full 45 seconds. Times were hard and our minds sharp.

But I am not here to discuss each generation's gadget-fu or to argue over which generation is more intelligent. My rant here is about the message implicit in the Young Parent's Claim. Because when you extrapolate the thing backwards (or forwards), you arrive at conclusions that go against everything we know about Mankind. Here's why.

I distinctly remember *my* mother making several Young Parent Claims about me to her friends. I fully agree with her, but come on. If every generation were more intelligent than the preceding one, wouldn't that make us all a bunch of idiots compared to the Class of 2058? Ooh, look, little Pappu made a working prototype of the teleportation chamber using mashed potatoes and Similac!

Or, if you take this argument backwards, it just means the Early Man was not very smart. Is that so? Agriculture? Fire? Clubbing neighbor to death with a branch of a tree? Hello!

What I am saying is, we were not that much smarter or dumber tens of thousands of years ago. Nor will we be much smarter or dumber tens of thousands of years from now. We will always be who we are: a bored, distracted, violent species with unwavering belief in its abilities and wisdom.

All right, one last point. when CaveMoms gathered around a fire and chatted (engraved?) about how "little Gwggrr has grown opposable thumbs!" or how their 1-year old daughter knows how to read the sundial, that should have been the first and last time anyone had to endure "the kids these days are so clever!" at a dinner party.


Space Bar said...

Oh but they are! My son said just yesterday,

oops! Wrong persona.

And all that C-insertnumberhere thingy got me worried about which generation I was from until I read back a little and found the 8-track and the Cassette generation line.


??! said...

From the title, I was expecting more about what now seems to be as the fundamental flaw in these conversations.

If anything, the current generation is arguably more techno-savvy, just not necessarily more intelligent. Or even knowledgeable, on a broader level that is. I mean, in the ICSE, I believe you can now opt to drop science from the 8th std onwards in favour of EVS (or so it was being planned). So a whole bunch of them will grow up not knowing where their carotid artery is. Or Lenz's laws. Or logs.

Stupid gits.

??! said... and I must have been simultaneously typing that. So wunnerful.

Space Bar said...

??!: I'm sure a large number of people who were made to do science until class 10 don't know where the carotid artery is. And I frequently use all my fingers (and the joints) to do math.

*K Alert*

I don't think any of this constitutes real intelligence.

Seriously, though, I think that is precisely the point: that most proud parents confuse an ability to do tech with intelligence. I know one young mother who told me that she was all for plonking her son in front of the TV because it was good for him. "How?" I asked, incredulous. She claimed it helped him multi-task. "He can watch something and eat at the same time, and if I ask him to put the glass down on that table, he can hear me and understand."


Space Bar said...

yeah, we're going to do simultaneous typing of comments - I can see that.

km said...

sb: K would have proud of ya :)

??!: I meant most of this in jest, of course. NOT. And techno-savvy? you really think so?

??! said...

well...modern-tech savvy. But I see your point. And SB's.

km said...

??!: if by "modern tech-savvy" you mean familiarity with Wii and PS3, I completely agree with you :)

Tabula Rasa said...

yeah, modern kids are so tech savvy that they learn about wii willie winkie.

(michael jackson alert!!)

km said...

TR: I had a colleague by that name (MJ) Things weren't easy for him.