Resenting the Youth

Amanda comes close to articulating the thing that always trips my wires about Those Kids Today stories:

As much as it defeats the desires of curmudgeons to believe that kids
these days are somehow losing their way, the truth is that IQ scores
have been rising steadily over the generations, a phenomenon known as the Flynn effect. Science writer Steven Johnson wrote an entire book, Everything Bad Is Good For You,
where he effectively argues that the very “overstimulation” that people
like Farndale resent is probably why people keep getting smarter.
Having spent the past two days deeply immersed in the newest version of
Super Mario Brothers, I can safely agree with Johnson that video games
actually worked my brain pretty hard, with no noticeable decline in my
literacy skills. After all, a good video game is a rapid fire series
of problem-solving situations. Shouldn’t we want kids to spend their
leisure time working on that? (Scientist friend on hand wants it to be
known that video games are used as therapy for ADHD kids, to retrain
their brains to concentrate. Also that it works a lot better than
boring kids to death in public schools.)


Not that I think any of this reality will cause the curmudgeons of the
world to lay off complaining about kids and their video games.Once
you give yourself permission to resent kids for having access to
pleasures that baffle you
, you’re probably not going to be in the mood
to applaud them for also being better at problem-solving and having
greater comfort with rapidly changing technology.

Emphasis mine, because it is resentment, and the reason it makes me crazy is that it’s unproductive. Look, man, I’m sorry I don’t have to walk uphill both ways to school, but that … what … I mean, what does that even DO? If I apologize for not knowing how hard you had it, can we move on to cure cancer and end poverty and shit now? We have things to DO here.

I pull this shit, too, I’m not immune, I wear 1940s dresses and write about local history and this is mycurrent favorite movie, but let’s not pretend it’s a dodge. For example, my telling you all about how I used to go home from my job at the paper with line tape in my hair and six bandages on my fingers from Xacto knife cuts and covered in wax from doing paste-up may be funny to us both, but it doesn’t actually help you get the paper out your own self. Living in the world we live in, what are we to do? Memory lane is awesome, I live there part of the time. But memory lane starts being a destructive escape the moment you start acting like it’s a year-round hangout and using it as a way to avoid worrying that somebody is passing you by.

Now, granted, not everyone thrives with the Wii or the Interwebs jacked directly back into their heads, but this is exactly the point. This one-size-fits-all attitude that the future is always scary and entertainment is always suspect and pop culture is always destructive and TV rots your brain and typing on a typewriter is just more virtuous because it’s REAL ™ and whatnot is just as dumb as saying the iPhone is automatically better than anything ever and Facebook is the new Christmas andyou old, motherfucker and we should all stop speaking to one another in anything but binary and burn all our books because they take up space in the library. People do not all react the same way to everything.

We all have things that shaped us and we all have values but this turns into an argument not about those values but about brand loyalties. The Internet does not prevent us from working hard or having meaningful interaction with others, not by its own self. Video games by the nature of their existence do not make someone an anti-social asshole, they just help people who are already anti-social assholes reinforce those tendencies; if it wasn’t video games it’d be something else. Didn’t we have this dumbassed argument after Columbine, already? I don’t even play video games, because I’m lazy as hell and it takes work to build up any skill at those things, but I get so nuts when people try to blame the existence of morons on anything but those morons.

And it doesn’t really say anything all that nice about the speaker, either, saying that your generation was awesome just because you didn’t have all this stuff. Better to argue, really, that it was your superior work ethic and your general adherence to Good Things in The World and your innate power of Great that kept you from sucking, and not a lack of access to Playstation.


10 thoughts on “Resenting the Youth

  1. OK so I had to go read Amanda then realized still don’t get it so had to read original article and Honestly I don’t think this is about kids…it’s about Parents and parenting.
    Kids always have gotten bored…that isn’t new or news. I have no problem with all the tech goodies today or kids using them. This is the world in which we live and it’s pretty damn cool. But I do admire friends who get their kids involved in sports or other physical activity in ADDITION to letting them play with video games etc. Those parents wouldn’t throw out the Wii but rather throw in some Little League…But ya know that requires more effort from The Parents

  2. Anyone who cites the Flynn effect as a sign of anything but the fact that IQ tests suck has, alas, got a serious problem. Thomas Jefferson: not a moron. The average person of his day: not a vegetable. Or, to bring things forward a bit: all the people who invented quantum mechanics or vers libre or modern manufacturing techniques really were smarter than today’s average college graduate.

  3. “all the people who invented quantum mechanics or vers libre or modern manufacturing techniques really were smarter than today’s average college graduate”
    Yes, and they were smarter than the average person who didn’t go to college because there were fewer colleges and fewer people going to hem.

  4. the baby boomers will always win the ‘generation wars’. too many of them.
    we may be ‘smarter’, but we have just as many ways to STAY stupid.

  5. If there’s anything that irks me about the post-Reagan generation, it was summed up concisely by a bunch of these Reaganchildren ganging up on us oldsters in a thread on Slashdot where we were talking about integrity and ethics, and someone said (exact quote): “You act like there’s somethingwrong with believing two contradictory things at once!” and the rest of them said, “Yeah, exactly,” and so on.
    Another Rubicon moment for me was trying to teach business ethics to a group of Reaganchildren, and having basically the entire class agree that anything corporations did to make money wasby definition ethical, because corporations exist to make money.
    I got nothing to say to people who have no sense of either integrity or ethics, frankly.

  6. The notion of video games destroying society is probably just as much a heap of horseshit as is the notion that video games teach problem-solving skills that are directly transferable to solving all real-life problems–being able to react to a limited and fixed set of variables faster than someone else is probably not going to make one a better molecular biologist, for example, although it might be a useful skill on the battlefield.
    The great tendency of all younger generations is to dismiss the past, and the great mistake of older ones is to think that the past is all there is. Nothing new in that. If one is open to both past and present, it makes possible the synthesis of ideas which suggest the direction society will take in the future–certainly as useful a skill as video-gaming.

  7. Interrobang,
    hasn’t gotten any better, has it?
    I’m seeing video games touted as ways to keep geriatric brains from going into Alzheimers.

  8. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, I once saw an old letter from a father to his lazy, good for nothing son telling him to stop hanging around in bars with those goon friends of his and trying to hook up with floozies. It was written in hieroglyphs and perhaps 2,500 years old. You’ll notice that dad expected his son to be able to read it. Dad probably had climb up the pyramid both ways and make bricks without straw when he was a lad. Some things never change.
    I was big on video games back in the 70s when they were laboratory prototypes, but by the 80s I had other fish to fry. Still it was great to see all those neat games get out of the lab and into bars, arcades and people’s homes.

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