Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Are kids today better "equipped" to handle the problems of tomorrow?

I can remember when I was a young—at least before I became cynical about where the positive side of it was even before I left home—there was a certain “wonder” about seeing new things and how “big” everything seemed to be. Like a lot of kids who lived close to woods, open fields, ponds and streams, I was particularly fascinated by wild animals and “bugs.” I wanted to keep ants, butterflies, frogs, tadpoles, snakes, salamanders and crayfish as “pets.” I wished I had the kind of nature book collection that someone I knew had, but since I didn’t I had to make my own, cutting out pictures and pasting them in notebooks, or failing that to find what I wanted, filling them with very bad drawings. Since my parents never seemed to divine this interest, or supported it if they did, this remained a “childish” endeavor. 

Naturally, there came a time to put away “childish” things and face the “real” world, which promised to be as “fascinating,” but in a rather less congenial way. Unfortunately this came rather sooner than I would have liked, even before I officially became an “adult.” Now, I sometimes wonder of things might have been different for me if I was one of those kids growing up in today’s world. Of course, I’m not referring to those blond, blue-eyed fry of bigotry and privilege who have the whole world laid at their feet, but just “normal” children who have the “good fortune” of living in the world of “smart” phones, social media, cable television and information at a few key strokes. 

When I was a kid, I had to pore through volumes of books just to glean what can be had now in a few minutes, and communicating with another person required a visit, writing a letter or reaching the nearest payphone. Not that those were “bad” things that people today think was a hopelessly difficult time; after all, the “greatest generation” got through all of that with little trouble—even sending humans to the moon and back. What has this latest generation or two done that is half as interesting? Making things “smaller” has done little to solve problems like the real energy crisis that is sure to come, and that requires more “smarts” than what a “smart” phone can provide.

I also don’t necessarily think that the current generation of kids are better off than me. When the personal computer finally came, I was able to appreciate what the technology could do to actually improve life and efficiency, especially for people who learned their craft by the time-tested method of hand, as well as in word processing and useful information retrieval. But in the “smart” phone age, where “communication” and retrieval of the latest trivia or rumor is consider “vital” to everyday existence, PCs are already considered “dead,” as are books. This is supposed to be a “positive” response to the problems this world faces? In many ways, then, I don’t have a real “positive” view of the future that confronts our latest fresh faces—especially in their hands. They don’t even know or care what “real” music is supposed to sound like, for chrissake. 

Still, putting cynicism aside, I wish I had been young enough to have access to the kind of things today’s youth have while still having many years ahead to see what the possibilities are. After all, “apocalyptic” visions of the future are nothing new; they were there when I was growing up, and we’re still here.

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