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jallman

It's Scary When You Think About It....

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I'm not an alarmist but...

Something has come to my attention: the complete and total ignorance of the generation coming up behind us. Have any of you actually talked to a kid between the ages of 20 and 27 lately, give or take a couple years? It's apalling; the lack of life skills, knowledge of history, and understanding of literature they have. And don't even get started about their life philosophies...it will kill your soul to know how totally inept they are.

I'm sure our parents and our grandparents thought the same of us but [I]goddamn[/I] these kids coming up today are so ill equipped to manage this world. Did you realize that under NCLB that they are only required to read one Shakespearean play and that it is usually [I]Romeo and Juliet[/I]? No histories like [I]Richard II[/I] or [I]Henry V[/I] or even [I]Henry VIII[/I]. No comedies like [I]Taming of the Shrew[/I], [I]The Tempest[/I], or [I]As You Like It[/I]. No distinction in the fact that [I]Romeo & Juliet[/I] was a tragedy akin to [I]Macbeth[/I], [I]King Lear[/I], or [I]Antony & Cleopatra[/I]. No instruction of the relationship between the last mentioned tragedy and [I]Julius Caesar[/I].

They receive no instruction in ancient languages, instead forced to learn an invader's tongue just to get by in fast food restaurant jobs; no understanding of the Romance languages or what they mean to the Western world. They receive no instruction in Greek or Latin. Their educations in Spanish abandon the classical, proper Spanish in favor of the bastardized Spanglish of the Texas border.

They do not read the ancient epics of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and Odysseus. Aneas is completely foreign to their ears and the words of Herodatus, Polybius, and Tacitus may as well never have been written. Aquinas and Francis of Assisi are nothing more than antiquated names mentioned in passing in the dust jackets of the books overlooked by today's instructors.

Aristotle, Plato and Socrates are reserved as specialties in education...not required of every student but held back for only those who seek out educations in philosophy by choice. Pythagoras "was that triangle guy" and Copernicus "was that astronomy guy who made 'that model'" according to recent college grads I spoke with tonight. And, get this: 'Galileo had his head chopped off for believing the Earth wasn't the center of the universe', according to the astrophysicist among them. Really? That urban legend is considered fact with a young man who has a degree in [I]astronomy[/I]? WTF?

Dante, Milton or Goethe? Forget about it. The name of Faustus was completely unknown to a recent graduate of the humanitarian arts program at USC. The name "Beatrice" had as much importance to his mind as the name of the woman who plays Flo on the Progressive commercials: zero except as a novelty piece of trivia that might grant an edge in a match of Jeopardy.

These are things we had contact with coming out of middle school; these were things we were equipped with when we were confronted with current events in high school. And by "we", I mean the 30+ crowd. We understood that the Star Spangled Banner was written in response to the bombardment of Fort McHenry at the onset of the War of 1812 and not as "a battle hymn of the Continental Army of George Washington" (as was related to me by my own boyfriend tonight while we watched the fireworks over LA). We knew that the history of Europe and the colonization of the New World was one intertwined with the evolution of and resistance against the Roman Catholic Church; the move to enlightenment and the constant struggle to extricate the politics of nations from the spiritual direction of Rome. We knew, by heart, the 95 Theses of Martin Luther, tacked on the wall of The Caslte Church and what it meant to the schism between Protestants and Catholics. We were versed in the philosophies of self reliance passed down from Thoreau to Emerson. It was impressed on us that sacrifices were made morally, politically, and socially to help defeat the Nazi threat and defeat Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo during WW2. Oh, by the way, the Serbian Black Hand of WWI, assassin of Archduke Francis Ferdinand...totally unknown to the three kids I talked to today. The words of Roosevelt about "a big stick" and Kennedy about what we should "ask" and "ask not"...they were as familiar to us as the verses of the Pledge.

Not today's kids. What went wrong? Where did their educations break down and fail them? How the hell did they make it through without reading "All Quiet on the Western Front"? Why did the basic academic skill of demonstrating a geometric proof get discarded? The art of properly addressing and writing both personal and business letters is absent in today's young adults and I want to know why.

The degradation of the educations of our up and coming citizens today frightens me. A whole generation of people who have no understanding of how we got here are about to become the driving force in voting on where we are going. God help us...I hope it's true that He watches over fools and children.
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  1. 1069's Avatar
    Well, I didn't know any of that stuff either, Jallman.
    That's just... stuff. Trivia, basically.
    As long as they know how to reason, they'll learn what they need to know from the school of hard knocks, as they go along.
  2. jallman's Avatar
    Guy, you should probably not pretend to know other posters. I was raised Catholic. As far as the rest of your commentary, whatever. It was clearly just muttering about more things you don't have a clue on.

    1069, I understand what you are saying totally. I just find it difficult to understand how their education standards have lowered, even in college. I guess my biggest question is "what, exactly, [I]are[/I] they actually learning now?
  3. soccerboy22's Avatar
    It is interesting you say this because most of the things you say I either have learned or read. Most of my friends have followed the similar path as me, although some might not have read as much Shakespeare as I have.

    I can tell you in high school I read probably about 7 Shakespeare plays in class and I have personally read the rest expect for Henry V (I am eventually going to get around to it) and his sonnets. I also had to reads bit of Chuacer. We also read Dante's Inferno (which lead me to finish the Divine Comedy) and parts of Milton's Paradise Lost (which I also eventually read). I read Homer's Oydssey and Illiad multiple times both in and out of class. In high school I took Latin and therefore translated not only Virgil's Aeneid, but also Cicero and Ceaser. And probably about 50-60% of the history you mention I covered in high school.

    Since entering college I have finished the parts of history you mention and probably much much more. I am currently taking Spanish were they teach us how the speak not only in Latin America, but also Spanish and how certain words developed the way they did. To be honest though I am only in Spanish II and it is suppose to get more to the roots and evolution of the language. I have also read Gilgamesh and some other Shakespeare plays. I have honestly had to read so much Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates that for a while I never want to open a book by them. I have also had to reread Milton, Dante, Chaucer, and I have currently started a class on Detective Novels from Europe starting with one of the most famous Sherlock Holmes (one of my favorite fictional characters).

    Probably one of my most favorite recent non fictions that I have read because of school is Herring's From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Policy since 1776. I have also read, because of school and because of personal choice, numerous other non fiction titles in both Political Science and History as well as IR since most PO classes meet with an IR class. I have also taken a math history course which was actually really interesting.

    This no where near does justice to my education, but I just tried to touch on points you mentioned. I think the main problem with my generation, I am 21, is that our dislike of reading. We don't really want to further our education, but just do enough in order to get by so we can get back to our video games. That reason alone was probably the biggest reason why I gave up playing the stuff. There are certain people that I not only know, but that I have meet that are surprised by the fact I am taking a foreign language during the summer, a pretty intense English class, an LSAT class as well as personally reading Herodotus' The Histories.

    I mentioned earlier that my friends are similar to me, but honestly that is only true to my friends here at BU. When I go back home to SC it is very similar to what you have experienced. I mean I still help my friend who goes to USC with not only his PO homework, but also the entire process of writing a paper and he has only passed his math requirements because of me. I hope your experiences with my generation is the minority and not the majority because I would fear for my children's generation then.
  4. reefedjib's Avatar
    I have to say that while I recognize a lot of the authors and characters you wrote, I haven't necessarily read them. I am 42 and so I went through high school and college in the 80's and 90's (I went into the Army for 3 years before attending college). A lot of what you mention is English, Philosophy and History. I read a few Shakespeare plays, War and Peace, Great Expectations. I learned some history and I would be able to tell you that the Star Spangled Banner was composed on an English ship during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry. I can't recall who wrote it though.

    Then again, my personal focus was always Math and Science and while I may not have the history of those subjects in memory, I do know how to do those subjects.

    Education is a varied thing and someone into music would remember a lot more about music than Physics. I agree with 1069 that the important thing is to learn to reason and how to learn on you own. How to process information. My guess is that the students of today know very well how to do those things, seeing as how they are growing up in the information age. They may not know how to use a dictionary or look things up in a library, but they can web search with the best of them!

    But like all generations, you have those who cannot write a paper and who cannot study a subject. They get admitted to college and ask for your help to do all their work for them. Soccerboy22 sounds like he knows about this experience. Best advice is to let them sink, if they are demanding you completely carry them. Why are they your friends?
    Updated 07-07-10 at 10:17 AM by reefedjib
  5. soccerboy22's Avatar
    Well they are my friends because of a very complicated high school career. Plus I honestly value an education more than anything else and when I explain things to them I am reinforcing the information into my own head so I do get something out of it. And I do agree that what type of field you are going into does determine if you know some of the things he mentions. I am double majoring in Political Science and History and double minoring in Economics and English. So I do end up reading a lot of different authors and different historical books so I should know most of the things he mentioned. I also don't think we know how to reason or learn how to do things ourselves better, it is just we have a different venue in which to gain information. That said in every paper I have written so far in college I have sourced an actual book, so going to the library isn't completely dead.
  6. marywollstonecraft's Avatar
    shrug.

    I work with university students. I find that in some ways they are far better skilled than my generation (I am in my fifties), and in other ways they are sadly lacking. I find though that they are often intelligent and interested in learning - and willing to explore different solutions to problems that are presented to them.

    and that is the most important thing.
  7. rivrrat's Avatar
    I find it sad too, Jallman. I talk to my 13 yr old niece about things she *should* be learning about, only to find out that she really doesn't know jack ****ing **** about... well... anything.
  8. Tucker Case's Avatar
    Most of the people I know in our age group aren't particularly well versed on most of this stuff either, Jall.

    My knowledge of most of it actually comes from my own pursuits, not my formal education. It wasn't until I was required to take a language in college and my Italian professor happened to be a Medieval philosophy scholar and an esteemed expert on Dante that I read anything from Aquinas or La Divina Commedia (It really is better in it's original tongue, BTW).

    But even in those cases, it was my professor's passion for the subject which sparked my interest and led me to read them, not a formal requirement of my school.

    I must admit, though, my own knowledge of Shakespeare is pretty weak. I've never had a strong interest in his plays.

    My knowledge of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Brahe, Ptolemy, and other classic astronomers was entirely derived from my own readings on them... and I originally started college as a physics major myself.

    Even after I switched to psychology, I read the original works of Freud, Jung, Ellis, Perls, Bandura, Rogers, Pavlov and other psychology theorists on my own. Not as part of a class requirement (although now that I'm in Grad school, I've finally had a professor make reading at least one original work by one of these theorists a requirement for class. Also, reading Yalom's work has been a requirement in a couple of classes)

    My knowledge of American History did come from a teacher I had in high school, but he was really old school (He was so "old school" that he was, quite literally, Hilary Clinton's US history teacher in high school. ). If I had a more "modern" US history teacher I don't think I would have had nearly as much information about the founding fathers as I have now, nor would I be able to call myself an "anti-federalist" in my political stances because I'd be completely clueless as to what that would mean.

    What I'm saying is that, while I would consider the two of us to be exceptions, our own generation isn't all that well-educated -at least in the classical sense.

    From the sound of it, you were lucky enough to get the right kind of teaching in school (although I also know you've gotten quite a bit of your education through your own efforts outside of school just as I did). I was lucky enough to have a natural passion for learning that was kindled by those two old-school teachers I just mentioned.

    The problem is that paradigm of education has shifted in this country. I think it shifted well before I was going to school, too. The fact that these two teachers I'm referring to were in their 70's and retired shortly after I had them is a significant one. They were part of a dying breed, IMO. As they disappear, they are being replaced by a new generation of teachers that really needs to read the "Battle of the Books" by Jonathan Swift (Which is also something I read on my own ).
  9. jallman's Avatar
    I am finding all your comments fascinating. It's really funny to me that I went to a rural school out in po'dunk NC and it appears we had stellar educations compared to some. A friend of mine pointed out over coffee last night that I have been comparing the educations in California to the educations we received in the South, where there is a huge disparity in the curricula and what they focus on. Also, Tucker, you brought up an excellent point that I didn't think about: most of my teachers were [I]ancient[/I]. My last year of high school, 4 of my 6 teachers were retiring that year.

    I guess I am just kind of saddened that kids aren't exposed to these great works and that most of them aren't motivated enough to go out and seek an education in them.
  10. Tucker Case's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by jallman
    I am finding all your comments fascinating. It's really funny to me that I went to a rural school out in po'dunk NC and it appears we had stellar educations compared to some. A friend of mine pointed out over coffee last night that I have been comparing the educations in California to the educations we received in the South, where there is a huge disparity in the curricula and what they focus on. Also, Tucker, you brought up an excellent point that I didn't think about: most of my teachers were ancient. My last year of high school, 4 of my 6 teachers were retiring that year.

    I guess I am just kind of saddened that kids aren't exposed to these great works and that most of them aren't motivated enough to go out and seek an education in them.
    I'm guessing the age of your teachers is a much bigger factor in your education than the region that you were educated in, to be honest.

    There was only one other professor/teacher I had that was in that age group (in a college geography class) and he was a taskmaster. We basically had to memorize every single thing that was ever placed on any map in the history of mankind (at least that's what it felt like).

    I didn't bond with that teacher as much as I did the other ones mostly because I have precisely ****-all interest in learning more about geography. Medieval literature and US history? Sure. That's interesting stuff. The name of every single river in Illinois? **** that. I ran away from that class just happy to get my A.
  11. Jimmy Larkins's Avatar
    ya those kids of today...they sure are ill-equipped...i should read more shakespeare though.
  12. RedAkston's Avatar
    I see what you are getting at Jallman, but I don't think you hit the nail on the head. I went to one of the best schools in the state of Indiana and many of these issues you bring up were not stressed or even brought up (and I'm 38). What bothers me most about the 20 somethings today is that so many of them feel they are "entitled". They lack the drive to better themselves and earn what they want or desire. It's been getting worse and worse with each generation. This isn't a new phenomenon, it's just getting more and more noticeable.
  13. Ockham's Avatar
    My niece calls me and asks, "Someone at work told me that you can take corn off the cobb and plant it, and it will grow more corn and I didn't believe them. Is that true?"

    She's 23, lives in a rural area and the rest of this family have been growing things in gardens all our lives.

    Shakespear? Milton? Dante? Hell I'd guess most don't know where milk comes from.


    Kid #1: Why are those cows all different colors?
    Kid #2: It's because they give different kinds of milk
    Kid #1: Huh?
    Kid #2: Well the white cows give white milk, and the brown cows give chocolate milk.
    Kid #1: Oh right.