As if we needed another reason to feel older…

The annual survey on incoming freshmen at Beloit College has been released, and as if I wasn’t already feeling older this summer Tuesday morning, this provides ample evidence that the times they are a’changing, again.

The incoming freshmen and women of the class of 2014 have always lived with and been surrounded by technology; they consume games and have been weened on education programs.  They use technology even if they don’t understand how it works.  Enhanced user interfaces have made even the simplest tasks automated.  Emails and cell phones have been constants in their lives.  They are surrounded by information yet they appear to actually consumer very little and perhaps understand even less.  They are satisfied by easy searches and are unaccustomed to challenging the veracity of what they find.   They are schooled in utilizing tools and speak of too kits; they can create sophisticated media, but I am not sure they appreciate its power to do more than entertain.

It seems worthy of longer discussion about how these”kids” are truly different, partly because of technology, partly because of upbringing and education.  Suffice it to say, what they find interesting, important and meaningful as well as how they rely on technology, sometimes in lieu of real experience, will continue to send shock waves throughout the media world.

Excerpts from a story filed by Dinesh Ramde, Associated Press Writer

“MILWAUKEE – For students entering college this fall, e-mail is too slow, phones have never had cords and the computers they played with as kids are now in museums.

The Class of 2014 thinks of Clint Eastwood more as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry urging punks to “go ahead, make my day.” Few incoming freshmen know how to write in cursive or have ever worn a wristwatch.

These are among the 75 items on this year’s Beloit College Mindset List. The compilation, released Tuesday, is assembled each year by two officials at this private school of about 1,400 students in Beloit, Wis.

…Remember when Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Dan Quayle or Rodney King were in the news? These kids don’t.

Ever worry about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.? During these students’ lives, Russians and Americans have always been living together in outer space.

… Another Mindset List item reflects a possible shift in Hollywood attitudes. Item No. 12 notes: “Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.”

A number of incoming freshmen  said they partially agreed with the item, noting they were familiar with Eastwood’s work as an actor even if they hadn’t seen his films.

…Jessica Peck, a 17-year-old from Portland, Ore., disagreed with two items on the list — one that says few students know how to write in cursive, and another that suggests this generation seldom if ever uses snail mail.

“Snail mail’s kind of fun. When I have time I like writing letters to friends and family,” she said. “It’s just a bit more personal. And yes, I write in cursive.”

Peck did agree with the item pointing out that most teens have never used telephones with cords.

“Yes, I’ve used them but only at my grandparents’ house,” she said.”

And once we thought getting a telephone call was a big deal…

Author: Peter Shaplen Productions

More than four decades of experience as a journalist, producer, reporter, writer and professor of news, corporate production, crisis management.

2 thoughts on “As if we needed another reason to feel older…”

  1. I know that just going to college with people half my age can be both entertaining and scary at the same time.

    The first time I witnessed someone texting during class I was shocked. Then there was the person shopping on Amazon during one of Peter’s classes (unbelievable). But when in one of my classes someone brought in a pizza and the instructor did not make them take it outside, that’s when I realized just how immature a lot of these people are.

    In the United States we have gone backwards when it comes to how to treat young people. We expect them to stay children until they are 18. And then we throw them into the “real world” without any of the tools necessary to survive. We are the only country that does this and it shows.

    It’s time to reevaluate how we treat and look at young people and the process of growing up. Just 50 years ago most young teens had jobs while in school. They learned responsibility at a young age. And they had free time on their hands.

    They could go outside and play with their friends. They had time to ride their bikes just for fun, take hikes in the hills, go down to the river for a swim, and just sit and relax.

    Today parents force their children into organized activity after organized activity. Most teens don’t have jobs and our education system has become all about brain power and not about life.

    The educational ability of the average person is being ignored. When our President speaks of wanting our children to be like Edison, Bell, and Einstein, we are in trouble. They were geniuses. So are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. We can not teach people how to be like them. Genius is not something that can be replicated.

    Technology has been great to us as a nation. But it is also about big business. The same with media. The want of giant profits by big media and technology companies are partly to blame for the shift that is taking place in media.

    At the same time, media companies are not adapting and not spreading their hard learned lesson of responsible journalism. Are the evening news shows relevant today? I’m not sure they are. Their rating are falling and they are now taking up resources that could be utilized to strengthen online efforts to develop new reporting standards.

    For websites, have you tried navigating one lately? I don’t go to any of the network and local station sites. They are overly complicated and difficult to search. Why would I choose to look at a complicated site when I can go to a site like where it is a simple blog and all the news stories are listed one right after the other and use photos (and yes, I know that the site is horrible and reports very little real news. Just using it for an example).

    It’s time for a major shift in how news is presented. And it’s time to get young people reengaged in the concept of responsible journalism and why it’s important to know the facts before making opinions.

    Luckily we have some great schools that have the ability to do this. I am so proud to be a student at the Academy of Art University. Who would guess that an art school was have one of the best media departments in the country. The School of Multimedia has the ability to change at the drop of a dime and there is a commitment to bringing in instructors such as Peter who have the background in journalism that is necessary to teach ethics and responsibility.

    And as the departments archivists, I am proud of the fact that within the next few months we are going to be able to share with students the work of great reporters from the past and show why their work was so important.

    It’s time to reevaluate how we look at media and how we are raising young people. Both are good examples of how we as a society are failing.

  2. Thoreau must have been able to see into the 21st century when he said, “Men have become tools of their tools.” I think that about sums up the life of kids with their computers today. Do they even know who David Thoreau is? I suspect their schools have focused more on making them superb data entry “machines” rather than observers of the world beyond a computer screen. I think they are the ones who should feel old…settling for living an existence of the mundane and repetitive. And pecking away on large and small key boards non-stop. Is that the stuff day dreams are made of?

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