Thursday, September 04, 2003

Perils of aging, er, growing up

CNN cites Beloit College's annual Mindset List (article here), saying that "For this year's college freshmen, computers have always fit in a backpack and ... Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie are old enough to be their parents." Aaaak! I grew up with Bert and Ernie (annoying indeed, I always went for Barkley), and I remember my first computer, which ran on an 80286/8088 processor and you had to use the 5.25" floppies (you know, the ones that were really actually "floppy"). I figure I'm getting old. My sisters always shoot me a glance when something refers to the 80s--although I was in grade school then, they, meanwhile, were infants at the time.

College freshmen in the US are now younger than my youngest sister, who is 20 and has a hard time accepting that she is no longer a "teen". More so college freshmen in the Philippines, where my niece started school early and got accelerated, and she will be starting college when she is fifteen. It was mentioned that "even those in their 20s feel old reading the list, since the pace of cultural change is swift these days." If that study had been conducted in the Philippines, it would have uncovered that today's teens don't really have much to say about Ninoy Aquino, whose death and the consequent People Power revolution happened in their infancy or even earlier. A few years' difference gives you different clothes, different icons, different drugs of choice.

The professors who put this Mindset List together have a good thing going: they recognize that for teachers to teach effectively, there must still be some level of relating, especially if the subjects to be taught deal with communication and the arts. I remember when I used to teach: I was one of the youngest teachers at the university then. I figure I was able to relate to my students and brought in some analogies that the Dean Emeritus would not have bothered to think about.

I'm glad for trends in entertainment, lifestyle and technology that still have mass appeal. It's not that I'm trying to be younger than I actually am, although my sisters and I do watch the Disney Channel and the PowerPuff Girls. It makes me hopeful that later, my children (or nephews and nieces) and I will still have more than a few things to talk about. Maybe we do have to retain some degree of wonder and frivolity.

Teens, meanwhile, would do well to look to the past, although this is already evident in that there was a resurgence of Beatlemania a few years back (with my sister as proof) and the whole flared pants updated trend. But not just in these aspects--entertainment and fashion. I think that teens today should also know who John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were, not just in the interests of history, but in the interest of humanity; much in the same manner that even if I was not aware of the brutality of Martial Law, I was able to encounter it through various accounts and literature.

I also figure it's a teen thing; because now that I'm a bit past my teen years, I find that I actually relate more with my parents and have begun talking to them a lot more than when I was a teenager. Maybe if they had had access to a Mindset List when I was a teenager, we wouldn't have been as distant from each other. But I doubt. I really think it's innate in that adolescent phase to be quite distant and rebellious--some sort of Way of the Teenager.

On a related note, I also came across another article citing a study that says CDs may soon go the way of the vinyl. CD sales are down, while legal, paid downloads are gaining ground on them. It wasn't just the vinyl--it was followed by the eight-track, cassette tapes, betamax, laser discs. It's ever-changing, this technology of ours. Sometimes it can be scary. But as long as people keep a mainframe where Beatles, Janis Joplin, and Carpenters songs are stored, along with a recording of Natalie Merchant's live cover of The Gulf of Araby, I think it won't hurt. Just making sure that, as was the case earlier, we should be able to look back to what came before.

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