The hottest new trend in America right now is being busy. People walking down the street saying “Look how busy I am!”. Calling friends just to say that you can’t talk because you are too busy. I’m not joking, I have witnessed this. I was at a Starbucks one time and heard the guy behind me calling everyone he knows and starting each conversation with “Sorry, can’t talk long, I’m really busy today” I, for one, was very impressed by this man.
Today I am sitting in work with a sign on my back which reads “If I am not already doing it, It will not be done today” I am just too busy today. I have my list of tasks that need to get done today and there is no way I can possibly add anything else. I am actually typing this blog post one or two sentences at a time as I load the “House of Hair” radio show into our system for the weekend. I get a minute between segments while they are saving and I choose to fill that time with writing.
I wrote about this before in my post “The Case for the American Siesta” but as a culture we always need to be doing something. We are so afraid of down time. I imagine for many of us, if we aren’t doing something we feel like slacker losers. I know I do. I can’t just watch TV. Unless it is an action movie where the plot can change in a second, very rarely do I ever just sit and watch. I get out my iPad and I write, or check e-mail or play “Simpsons: Tapped Out” (I love that game) Like the goat looking over the fence, I always have this feeling that there is something good to find out there and I must be always searching for it.
But don’t we know living like this is killing us? If you are always working, thinking, searching and talking you are not resting. And if I wasn’t so busy, I would take the time to find some facts and figures that show that doctors report we are losing more sleep and are becoming more mentally unstable and depressed. Facts or not, I imagine nobody would really dispute me on this. We live in the age of ease where everything is done for us, yet we are more stressed out than before. Ironic, don’t you think?
My message for you all today is this weekend, take some time to relax, be quiet, think and totally unplug. Sit outside and watch the birds and rabbits. Listen to the wind and the rain. Pray a little, but mostly listen and experience God. Because if we are constantly talking, thinking and filling our time, how will we be able to hear Him and the world around us?
I am greatly concerned for our teenage generation. Those who occupy the age range of 13-19 should be and are far more advanced mentally than teenagers of past. They are growing up in a world of unlimited information literally at their fingertips. Teens today understand things that I don’t think I knew existed when I was their age. If they have any questions they can find the answer without breaking a sweat. Those 13 to 19 should be the masters of the known universe.
However, there is something they are lacking and it is the reason why they are not.
The drive to succeed. The force that comes from actually having to put in some work to get to a goal. Writing a term paper and having to first find a list of sources, actually find the sources, open the books, scan through the information, find the needed information, make note cards and then finally taking that information and putting it in essay form. After a student does that work, you better believe they are going to put extra effort into the goal.
Today, if a student wants to write a paper on Gettysburg, they only need to go online and search out a source and hit Ctrl+F to search the entire document for exactly what they need. And unless the teacher is especially astute they can always copy and paste the entire paragraph, change a few words and pass it off as their own. I have seen how this temptation of easy can corrupt the mind of an honor student into thinking they can get away with it. Students have told me to my face that they believe that if there is a simple solution, it is always better to take the easy road. Why should they have to spend an entire night breaking apart source materials, when they can spend ten minutes finding the exact information they needed, therefore allowing them to use the remaining time to work on their next project? Clearly this is a misinformed point of view on their parts, but it does bring up the topic of where to draw the line between taking the easy road and utilizing modern convenience.
Just because those who went to school before Google and Wikipedia had no choice but to do things the hard way, does it always mean that way is the right way? As a teacher, it is very hard to answer that question and draw that line. I have seen both sides of the homework world students live in now. One one end, I feel projects, homework and papers have become far less time consuming. While I was writing ten page papers in the 8th grade, I have seen those page requirements shrink in today’s schools. Teachers today more often opt for clean and concise writing rather than long, often rambling writing, with more used information. And on the other side, because of the ease of finding information, some teachers will pile assignments on knowing these students are able to finish them more rapidly.
To follow up on that, deadlines today are far more stretched out. Often I would have a 5-7 page paper due in one class on a weekly basis. Wednesday, for example, was paper day and we might get the topic the Friday before. Because of that, writing these papers were never a problem for me. 5-7 pages was an easy stroll and the set deadline taught me to manage my time. Today, deadlines are a thing of the past. My students would have a short paper due once a month. And they would have the entire month to work on it. And even after they were given more than enough time to finish the project, many times the assigning teacher would give them an extra few days to a week. Because of this, I found, these students seriously lacked the drive to finish anything. They were already living in an easy world and that world only becomes easier.
I don’t want to sound like I am blaming the teachers for encouraging this lack of motivation. I just think with how fast information technology has evolved and how comfortable the students have become with this age of information, it is increasingly harder to keep high expectations of their students. Like I mentioned before, try making a student read a book when they know all the information is already broken down for them the internet.
Success, like a participation trophy, is handed out to everyone. Red marks on a paper kill confidence. If Jimmy doesn’t color inside the lines, he is expressing himself. And if Billy gets up and runs around the class, he must have ADD. Our expectations for today’s youth are practically gone. Rules are meaningless, and teachers are impotent. Let them do as they like, you don’t want to break their personality.
I, for one, had higher expectations put on me. I chose to go to the more difficult schools and although I was not the best student to grace the halls, I worked my butt off and did my best. Taking it easy was not an option. Why run the five mile course when the ten mile course is out there? I wasn’t happy if I didn’t do all that I could do. And I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I didn’t put in the work.
I feel this belief is dying off. I read in Time Magazine that more and more college grads would rather be the assistant to a celebrity and bask in the secondhand light, than put in the time needed to gain their own recognition. And for that matter, almost every college grad thinks they are guaranteed a high paying position simply because they have a diploma. New recruits turn down well paying jobs because they wont have access to Facebook, going to a job interview with a nose ring should not make a difference, and it is perfectly OK to call the CEO directly and ask for a raise.
Times have changed and I am living right on the borderline. There is the old way that I still believe to be true and the modern way created to make the new generation feel more comfortable. Which way is the right way? Are t-shirts better than suits? Are books better than Google? And as long as you learned the information, does it matter the length of the term paper? I like to think I know the correct answers, but how can I be sure?
What I do know is the new generation has a great opportunity to use their advances in technology and usher in a great new age. If only they could stop Tweeting about Kim Kardashian for just one moment, and make their own future rather than waiting for it to be delivered on a silver platter.