Starcat 1 by my favourite artist

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Horror! The Horror!

I apologise beforehand that this is a slightly ranty post moaning about the youth of today, though I hasten to add I am talking about a select minority.

In my HE establishment, the exam season is in full swing. This is the time when the academic sheep are separated from the goats. It is a time of emails asking for information that has been published on our website for weeks, information such as: Hi teacher, I'm Jose/María, "Where/When do I take my exam?" "Can you tell me what is in the exam?" &c. &c. &c. And, most egregious of all: "I'm not sure if you're my teacher, because I haven't been to class, but could you please email me all of the extra materials that you've handed out during the course?".

Often such enquiries don't include the student's level or group number. I know that teachers are supposed to be omniscient creatures, but to know who Jose ( - an invented address, I hope!) might be  is beyond even our Holmesian powers.

And then there are the exams themselves where students point out that the exam contains mistakes; that it is impossible to place only one word in such and such a gap; they ask which is the correct answer in number 16 and a long list of other doubts.

Some turn up to university exams with their mums! Others arrive without writing materials. Having commented my disquiet at being a teacher in a kindergarten for young adults to several secondary school teachers, they have looked at me pityingly and asked me if I think that they don't have the same problems  

As mentioned above, quite a few students seem unable to find information on our website - or even the website itself. How is such a thing possible in a society where everone, both young and old, have a smartphone, Facebook and Twitter accounts and are able to illegally download music, films, TV programmes, &c.? The answer I fear is twofold. Firstly they are too lazy/uninterested to find this information by themselves and, more worryingly, our society in increasingly infantile.

We, and our children, are being reduced to a state of total dependence on others by the dazzling array of apps available. Our capacity to think for ourselves and take the initiative is being undermined by the fact that it is easier to offload such tasks to small pocket-held devices. It is obviously more convenient to use a calculator instead of dividing 4,356,798 by 17. Indeed, that's how I do it. But, like the consipated mathematician, I also know how to work it out with a pencil and a piece of paper. Unfortunately, young people don't.

Not too long ago I had a rather bizarre conversation with a 25-year-old student who told me about her recent visit to Disneyland. She enjoyed it hugely. I asked her, in ironc tones, if she had got Mickey Mouse's autograph. To my surprise she went misty-eyed and told me that she had - and Minnie's and Donald's too! She really did believe that three French students, dressed in foam rubber, were the real characters.

Yet another example. Next time you're in a public place, observe the people - of all ages - drinking water or sports drinks from bottles. Count how many have screwtop bottles and how many have the sort with a pull top that let you suck from the bottle on the go. All very convenient, but take pause; they are literally sucking at the teat! How infantile is that? I despair.

O tempore! O mores.

1 comment:

  1. As a teacher of computing, I used to criticize students who would hand in their coursework late because they had left it to the last minute only to find that the mainframe was down or that the long queue for the printer prevented them processing their work in time.

    Or, at least, I used to criticize them in these terms until I was given the task of co-ordinating the preparation of our department's exam papers. I then discovered that the teachers behaved in exactly the same way, handing in work late, or unfinished, with the same excuses that I had heard from students.

    What the responsible teacher is tempted to regard as the foibles of students are, I believe, the foibles of humanity in general. Students go to school and university to learn to acquire life skills and one of the hardest skills to acquire is self-reliance.

    Is our society becoming infantilized? It's an interesting question and I think it needs more observation and analysis in order to proceed to a solidly based answer. However, it certainly is the case that we are being bombarded with "easy to use" devices and applications and that, having come to rely on them, we feel lost when they are not available. For example, the other day when I was out, I realized I had left my mobile at home and experienced a sensation that, if it was not panic, was something very similar!