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These Kids Today…

21 August 2013

I’ve seen something interesting on Facebook lately — a meme going around that basically says “when we were kids, we didn’t need warning labels on stuff because we didn’t do stupid shit!” The thrust of the argument being, of course, an old one — that kids today are stupider than we were at their age. People have probably been saying that since Ancient Greece (or pick your favorite dead society).

Thing is, it’s completely untrue. Every researcher who has seriously studied the subject has come to the same conclusion — each generation of kids is actually smarter than the last. We keep having to adjust the IQ scale and IQ tests to make those numbers in any way valid. It’s something called the Flynn Effect, and it’s actually a real thing.

That means that the kids graduating my high school this year (18 years after I did) are smarter than me. And they’re definitely smarter than their teachers.

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Bellevue West High School, Class of 2014

I can understand why we want to think the younger generations are stupider than we are, or somehow “less” than we are. We see the media posting updates from Twitter where tweens didn’t know the Titanic was a real event, or we see a Jay-Leno-esque “Man on the Street” interview where people can’t answer basic questions correctly. But who’s really stupid in that equation — the kids who didn’t know that the Titanic was a real ship, or those of us who believe that a handful of tweets are representative of an entire generation of kids? 

Those stories are put together to make us feel smarter, better, or somehow “more” than those people who will eventually replace us in useful society. We all somehow know this deep down, but refuse to acknowledge it openly. The research is there, and it’s pretty conclusive — apart from geniuses and complete idiots (and every generation has its fair share of both), the average young person is smarter than the average adult. 

I wonder if this is a Western thing, believing that the kids are somehow less than we are. Western society places a lot of importance on individuality, that we are all different and unique. I wonder if folks in Communist China have the same feeling about their younger generations. Anyone who’s successfully managed to bypass the Great Firewall of China and finds him/herself here (for some reason), shout out and let me know.

I, for one, have decided to welcome our superintelligent overlords. My best pal Jeremy became a father this morning, so I’m going to start toadying up to that kid as soon as possible in the hopes that she’ll one day give me a job.

What about you, folks? Do you believe the research, or do you think we’re all headed for the Mike Judge film Idiocracy?

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