Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Question at Dinner

Sitting in a restaurant last night, there was an interesting conversation. John, Arlie, and I were discussing the US Civil War. Arlie is a true millenial - meaning the generation that grew up with electronics, the internet, and have no aspiration to research anything because they can "google" it.

Here's how the conversation went:

John: "So how long was the Civil War?"
Arlie: "Um... ten years?"
Me: "No, it only lasted four."
Me: "Who was president during the civil war?"
Arlie: "Abraham Lincoln"
John: "Well at least you know that."

Then the waitress comes by, herself the ripe old age of 23. John quizzed her too.
John: "Do you know how many years the Civil War lasted?"
Waitress: "Um... I dunno. 7?"
John: "Actually it lasted four years from 1861 to 1865"
Waitress: "Really? I had no idea I'm a communications/journalism major so I don't do much in the way of history"

A little later the waitress returns from the kitchen with something, and said:
Waitress: "I asked the people in the kitchen how long the civil war lasted. None of them knew but the one guy pulled out his phone and said he could 'look it up'."

Sigh. What are they teaching in schools these days? How to Google questions on your iPhone? I would give the benefit of the doubt if I didn't have this conversation daily with different students on different subjects. I once had a conversation with a student and told them that I wanted to visit Italy. His reply was, "Is there anything to see in Italy?"


Susan at Stony River said...

Oh boy. I have a niece who lives in Maryland, and some of the ignorance that comes out of her mouth nearly knocks me down. She's forty.

Why isn't it *embarassing* to be caught knowing nothing of Italy, or the basic facts surrounding the Civil War (in WV of all places, whose history is so tied to that era)? Occasionally I've hit a blank in my knowledge of something, and felt mortified. Then you see national-level politicians on TV who don't even know where Korea is---what happened to us?

Angela said...

I had breakfast this morning by myself and I noticed a man at a table with his son. The son was either texting or surfing! It really made me want to say something. Their food arrived and the boy in his early 20's put the phone away and he actually talked to the dad. Then I glanced back again and noticed that the dad was talking on his phone! lol What has happened to people that makes them think that the person on the phone is more important than the person they are with!

My daughter is 12 and in the 6th grade. Last week she wanted to look up her definitions on the internet! I said No! Use your book! She said it was easier to use the internet. I told her I don't care! lol

I hope it doesn't snow that much at your house tomorrow!

Jason Burns said...

I agree, Susan. West Virginians, of all people, should understand the civil war because it is OUR history. I don't get it - why someone would purposefully choose to be ignorant. And if I say that, they look at me like I'm the ridiculous one!

And breakfast (or any meal) by yourself is great for people watching. I'm sure that the whole time you were watching the father and son, Angela, they didn't notice you. They never do - the electronics have their attention. I'm waiting for the day when students get run over for not looking before they cross the street, and all because they have their head stuck in a text message.

They're calling for 3-6 inches of more snow here, unless of course the weather changes. It's drizzling rain already. Oh well, if the power goes out I can read books by kerosene lamplight.

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