Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quiz Kids

I asked the kids in my classes a question: do you believe your generation is more intelligent than, less intelligent than, or equally intelligent as your parents' generation?

Some said their parents' generation had more common sense. Some said they're equally intelligent, but today's generation is much lazier, so they do less with it.

I was struck the most, though, by the number (about half) who said that their generation is more intelligent because of the technology we have today. It suddenly dawned on me that these kids view the exponential development of technology over the last few decades as THEIR OWN. They see the advent of computers and DVD players and Blackberries as evidence that they're a quantum leap beyond their predecessors.

Ah, but it was time to throw a monkey wrench into that ointment. When I asked them, by show of hands, how many of them can build a computer or DVD player, though, or if they'd be able to repair their Blackberry if it went belly up, the room was strangely silent.

What they fail to realize is that they're merely the recipients of the magic boxes, the beneficiaries of technology which requires little beyond the memorizing of which buttons to push in what order (something "lesser" primates have been doing just fine for years; these kids got nothin' on Koko the gorilla).

Y'know, our parents and grandparents may have had nothing more sophisticated at their disposal than indoor plumbing and a rusty Studebaker. But my dad could fix that plumbing when it went wonky, and my grandfather could put a new water pump in that Studebaker when the old one breathed its last.

I just quoted the great Robert Heinlein in my last post, but another bit of his wisdom comes to mind at this moment:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

And sometimes, especially here lately, I find myself sitting up in the middle of the night, worried that the colony just keeps on growing...