NOTE: With Phillyist going dark last month, the Gothamist network has allowed me to reprint some select articles on my own blog.
This month’s Philadelphia Magazine cover story tackles the issue of kids getting stupider. When I first saw the cover, I thought this would be an article that has a crazy headline and then backpedals. That thought was closely followed by “What does this have to do with Philadelphia?”
After reading the article, my first hunch proved (mostly) right. Author Sandy Hingston does wonderful job painting a picture of an appalled mother shocked that her high school senior son doesn’t know the days of the week, spends six hours a day playing Warcraft, and doesn’t read books in class (they watch movies instead), but then turns it all around by bringing in specialists to prove that kids today just learn differently. (Neurologist Anjan Chatterjee’s explanation about not needing to know the days of the week has to be misquoted). My issue with the article is that it is essentially the same thirty-year-old argument that started with the Atari generation and keeps popping up with every new technological fad.
Today’s villain isn’t the gaming console, it is social media. “Kids spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter instead of reading War and Peace.” The solution to this issue is still the same—pull the kids away from the computer/tv/video game and make them do something else. I don’t have kids of my own, but I am around plenty of people who do. I see parents who let their kids do whatever they want, and I see the parents that regulate. Guess which kids are doing better in school and can actually hold a conversation?
Bottom line, if your kid spending six hours playing Warcraft bothers you so much, unplug the fucking computer and lock them in the basement with a book-light and the complete works of Leo Tolstoy. Another crazy idea: play the annoying game they are obsessed with to get a window into their world.
Back to my other question about what this article has to do with Philadelphia (since it was published in Philadelphia Magazine), as far as I can tell—not much. The Daily Beast ranked Philadelphia as the 11th smartest city. The University of Pennsylvania continues to dominate the college scene while Drexel, Temple, Villanova, Swarthmore, and Haverford gain recognition. Additionally the city seems to be developing its own identity with a culinary renaissance and our art, drama, literary, and musical scenes have burgeoning support structures in place as well.
I get what Sandy Hingston is going for—have one conversation with a mumbled-mouthed sixteen-year-old with a hoodie over his eyes and ear-buds blasting and you will want to damn the whole generation, but we need to be patient. Hingston’s article says that these kids excel at absorbing massive amounts of information in small bites, maybe they are keeping to themselves because they don’t like what they see.