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Young people take technology for granted

My grandparents were born into what has been called the “greatest generation,” when people appreciated the little things in a period full of war and hardship.

My parents are the product of that generation, the “baby boomers,” who lived through a time when people celebrated their newfound prosperity and rallied for rights and change. So, what does that make us?

Some call us “Generation Y.” To me, we’re a generation of pathetic human beings who can’t do anything on our own.

Last week, I was in a three-hour night class and the projector stopped working. As a result, the professor had to switch to an oral lecture. What ensued left me shocked, scared and genuinely concerned. I heard some students saying things like, “I can’t take notes like this” or “this is ridiculous,” and once the break arrived halfway through the lecture, a large portion of the class left.

The fact that a large number of students were incapable or unwilling to write or even type notes based on a traditional lecture is indicative of a serious problem; we are not only reliant on an easy way of doing things, but we feel entitled to it.

Technological innovations that make our lives easier are seen as a birthright. And it is this sense of entitlement to technology or an easy way of doing things that is going to threaten our ability to function as human beings.

In September, author Beth Harpaz wrote an article for the Associated Press that stirred up controversy. She aptly noted some of the striking facts of our lifetime. Not only do some children not know how to tie their shoes or zip up their jackets by Grade 2, there are some college or high school students who have never done laundry or used public transit on their own.

In talking to my parents, they explained that individuals exhibiting these types of behavioural deficits simply did not exist 40 years ago, and if they did, it was not considered acceptable. I’m not in any way suggesting we ridicule these individuals. I’m just suggesting that expectations in our society have shifted and that the shift is decidedly for the worse.

University students who can’t manoeuvre through a library or use a map have become common, along with individuals who can’t write with a pen or even fathom surviving without the Internet on their cellphones.

Instead of considering this reliance a crutch, we talk about it out loud as if it’s something to be proud of, touting the fact that we can’t boil water or mail a letter.

While I’ve heard it argued that our skills have merely shifted towards technology and that it is natural that certain activities should become obsolete, I think this skims over the key issue at hand.

A skill deficit where students can’t boil water or do laundry has nothing to do with technology. Many of us merely lack those skills. For other tasks expedited by technology, we need to remember that these innovations are not foolproof; every once in a while they fail.

I can’t help but think of the Ontario woman who, earlier this fall, followed her GPS to the letter and drove into a marsh and flooded her car. Unless technology someday becomes foolproof and all-encompassing, we need to come to terms with the fact that there are still holes that must be filled by more traditional knowledge.

Even if technology was infallible, we must also realize that we are by no means entitled to an easy way of doing things at all times.

Though we no longer hunt or farm our own food like previous generations, there are some skills that are valuable for us to continue learning – not just instrumentally, but simply because they promote self-sufficiency.

Rebecca Vasluianu
Wilfred Laurier University
 

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