Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nostalgia ain't what it used to was

When I were a lad all this were fields / forest / sand dunes / open ocean (delete as applicable). Doesn’t everyone above a Certain Age remember going out riding bikes all day, building dens on waste ground, and nobody ever needed to phone their parents? Most parents didn’t have a telephone anyway, nor a telly.

And we all lived in t’shoe-box in t’middle o’t’road…etc. Hark! The strains of Sousa.

And what of the kids today? They spend all their time sndg txt msjs 2 thr frnds, or on those interwebs. Hours and hours on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or World of Warcraft. And when they’re not chatting on line to that 13-year-old girls-school athletics champion (who’s actually 47 and called Clive), it’s out with the Wii or the PlayStation.

Is it possible that this ‘deplorable’ state of affairs is a direct consequence of over-protective upbringing?

The kids of today aren’t allowed to go and kick a ball around in the street for fear of being run down by a motorist. They can’t go and play in the park either: “No Ball Games”, “Keep Off The Grass”. And anyway, how to get to the park? Ride bikes? What, on the road? Of course not. Some adult will have to helicopter the children to and from the park, and keep a close eye on them. It’s far too dangerous to leave youngsters to their own devices. A lot of playground equipment was torn down in the late seventies after it was deemed unsafe. Adieu to the witch’s hat; farewell to the giant Wicksteed cast-iron slide with a wooden cage at the top and the slippery surface polishable with a Mother’s Pride wrapper. Nowadays everybody knows that playgrounds and parks are hunting grounds for predatory paedophiles.

So what do we find? An entire generation of children who aren’t allowed out unsupervised and whose only connections with the outside world are the telephone and internet. That’s healthy and character-building, I’m sure, as well as waistline-building. Video games also corrupt the yoof, don’t they? Clearly if some adolescent spends all of his on-line time dressed up as a minotaur* and duffing up the Undead Lord of Khazi-Lid, he will surely re-enact these violent fantasies when he goes out and gets a Real Life.

Banished outside, with no money and not allowed to play footie or go bike riding, teenagers congregate beneath the only available shelter. And then get ASBOs for loitering at bus stops.

“But my teenage son/daughter/other is permitted to come and go as he/she/it pleases.” Really? How many youngsters nowadays are allowed out without a mobile phone? And without strict instructions that it is to be switched on at all times, and to phone home regularly? Not very many, I reckon. Far from being an emancipation contraption, the mobile phone is actually an apron-string.

Being able to communicate with friends across the planet, to be able to interact with those friends in real time (instead of the ritual annual exchange of Christmas cards in which everyone says that they really ought to stay more in touch and then don’t) is probably a good thing. It must surely be an improvement over the criticism levelled a few years ago at my generation: that we wasted our childhood sat inertly in front of the magic idiot-box.
    * In World of Warcraft they’re called Tauren, and my understanding, as a non-WoW player, is that they’re Good Guys.


the real nick said...

hear hear.
Seriously, I couldn't agree more. But what to do? Try bring up your children like you were brought up and the 'social services' will come a knocking at your door...

Gnomad said...

Tell me about it! We are now being told that, as teachers in the UK, we cannot set a task of more than fifteen minutes duration because the little cherubs cannot remain focused on a single task for longer than that.

An attention span of only 15 minutes? That's practically piscine! I am sure goldfish can manage better than that.

I had a mentoring report to write up recording a discussion with a potentially able child whose progress was "a cause for concern". In this discussion the child admitted to being lazy. I was not allowed to use the word "lazy" even though I was quoting the child directly. I had to substitute "sometimes lacked the proper motivation"

What a load of non-gender specific gonads!

In the world of English state education, the child is never to blame and therefore never has to take responsibility for their actions. Always it is the fault of the system or of circumstances or, most often, the teacher for not making things "entertaining" enough.

These children do all seem to manage to play WoW or Xbox for hours at a time and use their (anti)social networking sites for much longer.

It's not an issue of attention span, its an issue of motivation and personal discipline. This is very evident at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, The child sees no value in their education, a view often inherited from their unemployed, benefits-dependent parent (usually just the one) which means they can't be bothered to do any work.

Its no wonder that these kids "cannot" concentrate for very long on any one thing when they are never made to, a situation made worse by the fact that the law in the UK doesn't allow any effective discipline procedures in schools any more.

Attention span is learned, not inherent, If we do not demand it, it will never manifest.

There is some concern that "social networking" sites are actually retarding peoples (especially young peoples) social development (see here: and here:

The basic thrust of these articles seems to be that people who rely solely on social networking sites for their "human contact" end up as obese, dull, social retards with no life, who are nevertheless in contact with a vast support network of other obese, dull, social retards with no life. Now there's a surprise.

Cynthia said...

Ooh, well put, Mr. Gnomad. A major reason I myself teach adults rather than children is that I get to go into the first day of class and announce: "The next ten weeks will be difficult and probably boring. If you want to get out of the program you MUST pass this class. However, if you put up wiht the boredom and put your energies into doing what I tell you to do reasonably well, you should do all right." And then when they whine that it's hard or boring, I just remind them that they had been warned, and they (like the Marines) just need to "suck it up."

How you put up with the UK school system is beyond me.


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