Thoughts of a 21st century luddite

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Thoughts of a 21st Century Luddite
Thoughts of a 21st Century Luddite

Very recently I made mention to a close friend, that I was somewhat of a Luddite (Okay, more that “somewhat” but that is a topic for another time) and we laughed that most anyone today would have no idea who Ned Ludd was and the brief movement to which he lent his name.

That casual interchange got me wondering what today’s “best and brightest” know about history and the world events that shaped our societies today.

I did a quick search and found some interesting and perhaps disturbing things about students in the United States and I would hypothesize similar results elsewhere in the world.

Just to look at a couple samples:

In September of 2015 the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) released a survey that shows how little college graduates and the general public know about the Constitution.
“According to the study, nearly 10% of college graduates think Judith Sheindlin — commonly known as Judge Judy — is on the Supreme Court; one-third of college graduates can’t identify the Bill of Rights as a name given to a group of Constitutional amendments; and 32% believe that Representative John Boehner is the current president of the U.S. Senate. Shockingly, 46% of college grads don’t know the election cycle — six years for senators, two years for representatives. Turning to the general population, the report finds that over half (54%) of those surveyed cannot identify the Bill of Rights accurately, and over 1 in 10 (11%) of those ages 25–34 believe that the Constitution must be reauthorized every four years.”

Another study published in Forbes magazine showed similar results in the areas of geography and history.
“In 1980, the fact that Paris is the capital of France was ranked 6th in terms of questions answered correctly. By 2012, this fact had dropped to 23rd place among questions answered correctly. Equally comforting, 30% of students in 2012 thought that Baghdad (capital of Iraq) was the capital of Afghanistan (whose capital is Kabul). 6% thought that Nairobi (capital of Kenya) was the capital of Africa (a continent). Moreover, 21% thought that Budapest (capital of Hungary) was the capital of India (whose capital is New Delhi). And the kicker: 12% thought that Mount Everest was in the Appalachians.
If you are dismayed by Millennials’ grasp of basic geography, their grasp of basic history will not make your heart sing either.  By 2012, knowledge that Lieutenant Colonel George Custer lost the Battle of Little Bighorn fell from 58th to 79th place.  In 1980, the identity of the Egyptian matriarch, Cleopatra, was the 32nd most known fact. In 2012, it had dropped to 54th.”

While I view these and other studies about what millennials do or do not know about their history and their world, I am a little more chagrined about what I hear anecdotally about how well they know the world they expect to live in and contribute to.

For instance I wonder if they really understand that upon graduation from high school or university that getting and holding a job is expected of them, not presented to them because they take in oxygen and ingest food. And more to that point, do they understand that upon graduation, the days of having their every need met and their errors tolerated and forgiven have ended (unless they work for a government agency)?

Do they understand that they can no longer dress ready for either bed or party and successfully interview for a Fortune Five Hundred company?

Do they know that those techni-colored hairstyles, numerous face and body piercings, and elaborate tattoos that decorate their hands, neck and face are a barrier to some positions that require meeting the public?

Do they realize that a vocabulary that includes the word “like” every three words and perhaps the occasional expletive is no longer appropriate in the workplace and can even offend clients?

On a personal level, do they understand that a prospective mate and lifetime companion is not there to meet every self-centered need of themselves? Rather that pleasing each other is much more fulfilling and leads to a lifetime of growth and happiness.

I realize that I am closer to the philosophy of Ned Ludd than I am to millennials and I also am confident that the millennials will not only survive, but ultimately triumph and reshape this into a world I cannot begin imagine.

I wonder at the fact that person to person conversations have given way to texts, Facebook, and that ilk. I understand that the manners I was taught as a boy are the subject of derision today. I am excited for our grandchildren, and also somewhat scared for them as the gap between those who strive and achieve and those who wait for a hand out widens.

As I look back fifty years, I could only have imagined today’s world as a science fiction novel. What the next fifty years bring for today’s youth should be something to behold.

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