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...


Amber Love said...

Now that aging is something prominently on my mind, I often worry about what life will be like when it's my father's time to die. He does everything for us when it comes to good ol' fashioned manual labor. Finding a reputable handyman is like finding the next Chosen One - into each generation, one is born. Being humble is at least a gift some of your kids have.

BrikHed said...

That was a great question. I agree with the "lazy" statement and I think that example is really played out in the movie Wall*E.

Look at kids today, they are too busy walking around with an iPod in their ears and texting their friends to know what is going on in the world.

What problems do our kids need to fix today? If things get tough they quit. Man I must be getting old.

NuclearToast said...

Hmmm, interesting question. I would say that intelligence is more or less the same, but the knowledge spread between generations is different.

Kinda like the difference between creamy and crunchy peanut butter.

Troy Hickman said...

I hate to say it, but I've been teaching at the college level since 1989, and over the last twenty years I've seen a steady decrease in overall sharpness. I have theories as to why, but that's a subject for another time.

Snorii said...

Teachers are obviously to blame... well, them and parents... and Apple and their snarky commercials! And when I say parents, I don't mean the students' parents, but rather the teachers' parents and their parents before them. The further back we go, the more problems I see. I'm amazed that we made it as far as we have. Thank goodness we still have PC guy here to save us all with spreadsheets and word processing!

Rip Ford said...

Every generation thinks it's smarter than the ones that came before it. It was 40 years ago that the phrase "don't trust anyone over 30" was coined and it wasn't an original thought then.

As for a growing decrease in overall sharpness, in addition to the usual suspects I would also place some of the blame on technology.

As technology advances, devices become more complicated requiring a greater degree of specialized knowledge to service. 40-years ago if you took your car in for service, they'd pop the hood and take a look at what was going on in the engine. Today you go in and they hook your car's computer up to their computer and run diagnostics to see where problems might be.

Additionally technology has created all manner of distractions. You've got television, the Internet, video games, iPods, etc. It's very easy to go through life these days without taking the time to learn how to do things for yourself.

NuclearToast said...

Just had to post this related clip.

Juggling Jason said...

Ew bugs!