13 things our children have never experienced…

I’ve been thinking about this on and off for a while now.  It goes along with a recurring motif I touch on now and then – the future ain’t what it used to be.  Only this one works in reverse.  Because of the reality we live in today our kids will never experience a whole host of things that were a normal part of everyday life when we were children and young adults.  Some of the things now consigned to history we’re well rid of, others our kids are poorer for not knowing and some are neither.

  • TV Station Sign-Off

Think about this one for a minute.  If you’re in your 40s or older today you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Up until the late 1980s it was common for most of our local TV stations to sign-off at some point.  When I was a kid I knew I’d stayed up really late (and felt brave and cool for doing so) if I stayed up late enough to see one of the big network affiliated local stations say goodnight.  I vividly recall one station that played “Taps” with a grainy film of an American flag fluttering in the breeze in the background.  Then they’d throw up a [tag]test pattern[/tag] and a test tone until 5 or 6 in the morning, when they’d show the same grainy flag film with “The Star Spangled Banner” playing.  Today every station is on 24/7, even if most of them are only showing infomercials from 2 am to 6 am.

  • A President whose last name is neither [tag]Bush[/tag] nor [tag]Clinton[/tag]

Had to put this one in there.  There are plenty of good reasons not to vote for [tag]Hilary Clinton[/tag] (that is, if your state hasn’t already held its primary or caucus) but if you need an excellent reason this is it.  If Hilary somehow manages to win the nomination and then the general election we will be guaranteed (barring something unforeseen happening to her) at least 24 years in which no one whose name is not Bush or Clinton has been President.

  • [tag]The Cold War[/tag]

Probably doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is.  When I was a kid fear of some kind of uber war between the US and the [tag]USSR[/tag] was very, very real.  When [tag]Ronald Reagan[/tag] was elected President in 1980 my friends and I weren’t terribly sophisticated with regard to world affairs and politics, but we were convinced that the bombs were going to start falling any minute.  I grew up with several kids who behaved in their teen years as if [tag]Armageddon[/tag] of a nuclear sort was a certainty and whose choices were shaped by a very nihilistic outlook that grew out of this fear.

  • Pop Musicians who don’t make videos

Actually, it’s sort of remarkable that anyone makes videos anymore, considering that MTV doesn’t show them very often and the place of the pop star in popular culture has been near totally usurped by the latest video game trend.  Regardless, [tag]The Replacements[/tag] were probably the last band of any note to make an argument against promotional videos for their records.  And the old argument against videos – that they destroy the opportunity for the listener’s imagination to visualize a song – seems pointless in an era where pop music is so completely unimaginative.  Still, I can’t help but feel like kids are missing out.

  • A world in which [tag]mobile phones[/tag] are unusual

I can remember when I first noticed lots of people using mobile phones.  It was in the late 1990s.  They were still totally out of the reach, financially speaking, of my social and professional circle, so we, naturally, mocked anyone we saw talking on a mobile phone.  Now I only know a couple of people who don’t carry mobile phones with them all the time, and I even know quite a few people who no longer have landlines in their homes.  I’ve seen the results of this with Ryan.  He has no patience at all for unreturned phone calls.  If he calls someone he expects them to call him back immediately.  I really cannot say anything good about these devices, so I’m going to stop right here.

  • Non-digitized music

CD’s started it all.  I bought my first CD player in 1988, and I was pretty late to the party.  I stubbornly refused to go digital until records began to be released in that format that were not being issued on vinyl.  My how things have changed.  Currently all of my music (something in the neighborhood of 16,000 songs) resides on my [tag]iPod[/tag].  What I hated about CD’s was that I saw no point to them.  They were, to my mind anyway, no more convenient than LP’s and certainly did not sound any better than my obsessively cared for LP’s did.  And I didn’t like mp3’s much either, until I got my iPod.  The ability to have all of my music in my pocket was like some weird dream come true.  It’s certainly the only part of this future we live in that I wholeheartedly endorse.  But I do agree with the argument that by making the ownership of music intangible we’ve made it near impossible for kids to see any value (as in monetary) in music.  I don’t agree with the argument, but I understand it – if it’s just a file, then why should I have to pay for it?

Anyway, count this as just another thing that our kids are missing out on – the hours we’d spend sprawled on the floor or bed, stereo cranked, listening to music that was composed to be part of an album, often a complete story of sorts, holding the dust jacket in our hands, going over the photos and artwork with the sort of attention an art critic must pay to masterworks in a museum.  That’s all gone now.

  • Movies with no [tag]CGI[/tag]

You probably don’t even realize this, but there’s hardly a film made today that doesn’t have Computer Generated Images in it.  We watched “[tag]Blades of Glory[/tag]” on Saturday night – total fluff comedy, right?  You got it.  Tons of CGI.  In fact, you couldn’t make “Blades of Glory” without CGI because without it you could never make a film in which you convince people that [tag]John Heder[/tag] and [tag]Will Farrell[/tag] can not only skate, but skate well enough to compete in an international pairs competition and win it.

Then there’s animated film.  I’m an avid fan of the recent Justice League animated series.  Thing is, it’s about 50% CGI.  Everyone loves the [tag]Pixar[/tag] films, like “[tag]The Incredibles[/tag]” (a personal favorite), and we know they are 100% CGI, but I don’t think a lot of people realize that stuff like “[tag]The Simpsons[/tag]” and Disney stuff like “[tag]Lilo & Stitch[/tag]” are chock full of CGI work.

CGI is to film and TV today what the pods were in “[tag]Invasion of the Bodysnatchers[/tag].”  There’s no escaping it.

  • Seeing people who ride bikes without helmets

Personally, I think riding without a helmet in this country is just stupid about 90% of the time.  But when I see people riding on an isolated bike trail, going 7 or 8 mph wearing helmets I just think it’s goofy.  It’s like wearing a helmet while on a brisk walk.

The biggest problem I have with helmets on cyclists is that I think it makes people think cycling is more dangerous than it truly is, and this is particularly true for kids.  Kids are small and prone to be a bit scared of the great big world around them anyway.  If everytime they see someone moving faster than a leisurely stroll that person is wearing a helmet then they must start to assume that movement is, in and of itself, dangerous.

  • The 55 mph highway speed limit

Remember this.  I remember that my father had a vintage MG roadster that he put into mothballs when the national speed limit was implemented in 1974 because the way the car was designed it was impossible to drive it in top gear any slower than 65 mph (and it really wanted to go 80).  The full federal statute wasn’t repealed until 1995, but by 1988 rural roads and most long stretches of uninterrupted highway in the western half of the county had much higher limits.  Of course in 1995 oil was trading at something like $19 per barrel.

The really funny thing is that the national speed limit was signed into law by [tag]Richard Nixon[/tag].  I can’t imagine a Republican who’d even support such a law today.

  • A world without websites or email

This is a big one folks.  [tag]The internet[/tag] has existed since the mid 1970s, but the public didn’t get its hands on it until 1990 or so, and then it wasn’t until 1993 or 1994 that real commercialization started to take hold.  Still, if you were born in 1990 then your world has probably never been internet-free.

Here’s my favorite “kids these days” story regarding the internet:  At one of my former jobs I was part of a group who traveled to the Midwest to visit the headquarters of the three major office furniture manufacturers who were bidding to win my company’s business.  One of those companies was Herman Miller.  While at their headquarters in western Michigan one of the people we met was a woman who gets paid by them to analyze social trends and identify ways in which these trends might impact the world environment.  She told us a story about her children, all in their teens, who would race home from school every day and jump on their computers to log on to instant messaging clients to spend the entire afternoon chatting with the very same friends they had just darted out of school with.  The group listening to this suddenly got a collective brain-lock.

Why, we wondered, would you leave your friends at school and rush home to chat online with them?  Couldn’t you just socialize in person?

  • Most people paying cash or writing checks at stores

I was flummoxed the other day while standing in line at the grocery store when I actually saw someone take out her checkbook and write a check for her groceries.  I seriously had not seen anyone do that in a couple of years.  That made me stop and think – how long before having printed checks to access funds in your account will cost you an added banking fee?  Probably not very long, I’d guess.  By the time Ryan is an adult I doubt he’ll know anyone who writes checks for anything at all anymore.

I bought new checks about three months ago because I’d hit the stack of checks in the box with the little reminder card on it.  I’m easily two or three more months away from needing to actually use these checks though.  If it weren’t for our monthly payments to daycare and a couple of other semi-oddball things I’d never use up the remaining checks in this last checkbook.  I pay my bills online, I buy my groceries with a debit card and I never take my checkbook out of the house.  And it’s a rare thing for me to have more than $20 in cash in my wallet.

In 1971 the [tag]Nixon Shock[/tag] basically took US currency off of the gold standard.  Since then currency has been pretty much nothing more than virtual value, so in a sense nothing much has changed, but I have to think that with fewer and fewer people actually exchanging physical currency for goods and services (or even promissory notes – which is really what checks are) that psychologically the concept of money has to have dramatically changed.

We’ve seen this as recently as in the last year with Ryan, when his mother had to explain to him that holding a credit card didn’t mean that one had access to infinite funds.  It was a revelation to Ryan that even though it seemed like just swiping a card through a slot paid for everything, there was a limit to how much these plastic fantastic cards could pay for.

  • News media that isn’t filled with sensationalism and/or trivia

Many would argue that we haven’t had real journalism for much longer – that it took a nose dive in the early 1980s when Ronald Reagan started dictating rules of behavior to the White House press corps, and they’d be right.  But the real death knell for journalism in the major media didn’t come until Bill Clinton was elected.  The press, particularly the press in D.C., was so overcome with joy when the Democrats were returned to the White House in 1992 that they didn’t know what to do with themselves.  Even though Clinton caved on virtually every promise he’d made during his campaign and behaved more like a moderate Republican than any kind of Democrat before him, the press didn’t like to hit him very hard.  When he was criticized it was over trivial stuff and thus ended any kind of rigorous political reportage.  By the time Dubya took office there wasn’t a spine left in any of the major media outlets, and any that started to grow back during his early Presidency was utterly wiped out by the events of 9/11/01.

Is it really any wonder that during the height of the Presidential Primary season there was more news available about [tag]Brittany Spears[/tag] than any of the candidates, or that most people in the US, while they have strong opinions about the war in Iraq, still cannot point out Iraq on a map or globe.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: