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Ageism

10 May 2013

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I’ll make an informed wager that adults in the 1940s thought kids were getting dumber.

A conversation at work the other day included “when I was that age, I could spell properly, not like the text-speak crap my kids use.” The implication there was that young people today are somehow not as smart, or that you can judge a person’s intelligence from the way they compose a text message.

I disagreed in the conversation, and I disagree now. Kids today are probably smarter than we were at that age. They have more access to information, for starters. And I’ve read studies suggesting that child literacy in America is at it’s highest point since ever. Personally, I’ve had conversations with friends’ kids that make me think Damn, I wasn’t anywhere near this bright when I was nine. My thoughts mostly revolved around food and recess.

I’m not sure what it is that makes adults (of which I am one, ostensibly) think their generation was superior to all others. Mine was pretty average, really. We put out our fair share of geniuses and idiots. I’d imagine most generations are like that.

And as far as text-speak goes… it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t see shortened sentences, hyper-abbreviated words, and acronyms as a sign of lesser intelligence. I have a good friend who’s my age (a few months older, in fact), and I joke with him that he texts like a 14-year-old girl. He is, easily, one of the smartest people I know.

As much as my writer-friends on Facebook and Twitter rail against the “dumbing down” of the English language, I see what’s actually going on. Any language is shaped by useage — it adapts to fit how people speak and write, not the other way around. If that wasn’t the case, this blog posting would still be in Old English. Language evolves, it changes to fit the times. What we learned in English class in the fourth grade isn’t really relevant — just think how many words that we use every day didn’t even exist back then.

So take it easy on the kids, all right? We’ll all be working for them in five years anyway, if we’re not already.

What do you think, folks? If I’m way off base, go ahead and give me shit about it! That’s what discussions are all about.

And have a great weekend!

One Comment leave one →
  1. 10 May 2013 1242

    You probably know I agree with you. It’s easy to say kids today are brain dead and numb from American Idol and reality TV. Text messaging gets knocked a lot. All kinds of things. Maybe it’s because I’m exposed to more stories with the Internet, but I see a good handful of stories about kids in science fairs not making baking soda/vinegar volcanoes, but solving things that have companies like, “We need to buy the rights to the thing that teenager made! Why the hell didn’t WE think of that?!”

    There are some log-dumb teenagers who are oblivious to the world around them. But…I remember those people in high school. I remember smart people, too, and the smart teenagers today know so much more than the smart teenagers from my generation. The only thing I think my generation has up on them is we were able to perhaps focus a bit more because we didn’t have so many distractions. If I had a teenager, I like to think they’d understand the benefit that comes with a certain solitude and being okay in your own head. But I knew kids who were always on the phone and couldn’t stand just sitting and thinking when I was a teenager. But notice I used the past tense…we were able to perhaps…

    Today, the adults I know are more active than teenagers with games on their phones, and they use social media just as much. Some adults text a lot, too. So someone my age may say, “We had better focus at that age,” but does that matter when, as adults, we’ve become just as distracted? I look forward to seeing what the generation below me comes up with. I would not be surprised to see some cool things from them.

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