In My Day We Walked To School. Uphill. Both Ways.

Alan Wolk has a great entry today over at The Toad Stool. He tells of watching “Field of Dreams” with his two young children:

It was only 1989. A year that most you reading this blog had already been born. Yet there were no cell phones. No internet. In one key scene, Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones can only keep in touch with their families by calling them from a pay telephone. With a dial on it. My kids stared at it and wondered “what’s that?”
While we talk about things like “digital natives” and all, we can’t really fathom what it’s like to come of age at a time when all this isn’t new anymore. Or how rapidly the world and the way we act in it has changed. My kids (and they are not unique) are somewhat wigged out when we visit their grandparents who do not own DVRs. The younger one, in particular, does not quite get why Grandma can’t just pause the TV or call up the shows she want to watch when she wants to watch them.
And so they didn’t quite get why Costner didn’t just call his wife on his cell phone to tell her where he was. Or at the very least just text her. The microfilm scene was also a complete mystery: their world is neatly indexed, PDF’d and fully searchable online.

Children today are completely immersed in a world full of easy access to advanced technology. But does it impede their critical thinking skills? What would happen if a kid today had to do a term paper or report without accessing the Internet? Could they do the research? Could they conceive of a world without all this technology?
Remember, these kids will be entering the workforce someday soon–and the ad industry. Will they have the critical thinking skills, or the patience, to do research and complex assignments? Will it even matter?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. “Will they have the critical thinking skills, or the patience, to do research and complex assignments? Will it even matter?”
    I guess I don’t quite understand the connection you’re making here. Having grown up in the days of microfiche, library books and World Book Encyclopedia, I can say with some conviction that research in the digital age is infinitely more powerful to the dedicated, and no more superficial to the lazy.
    Sure, the same kids who would copy from Childcraft or an old newspaper article will simply cut and paste a wiki page, yes.
    But those kids who would lug home a stack of books from the library, and spend an hour scrolling through old microfiche reels? Man, they have the motherlode at their fingertips.
    Provided, of course, that they have the patience, filters and critical thinking skills (not to mention savvy Google skills) to find it and wade through the chaff.
    I see my own 8-year-old start to do research for school, and I only WISH I had the bookmarks he’s amassing.
    I guess you’re saying what if the Internet — or the modern age’s capacity to send PDF’s and spreadsheets — vanished.
    Like asking What if the wheel disappeared.

  2. Yes, the Internet gives kids tons of material at their disposal–as well as tons of lies, opinions, innuendo and bullshit. The more that they have, the more they need to learn to filter out.
    Are they being taught to discern what information is valuable and what isn’t? I know way too many people (not kids, adults) who take what they see and read on the Internet at face value. It has the potential to be very problematic.

  3. That’s exactly where the critical thinking skills come into play, DG. If someone believes everything they read on the internet, they’re in trouble.
    At the same time, I remember checking out plenty of books from the library back in the day that were filled with ‘bullshit’. Not lies, per se, but opinions, flimsy conclusions and poor writing. The same stuff that exists today on the internet. It’s just that now there’s more of it to sift through.
    Side note regarding the discussion overall:
    Every generation wonders how the next generation will survive. This isn’t exactly new territory we’re exploring here.
    It’s amazing to think that only a few generations ago, air travel was rare, TV didn’t exist and microwaves weren’t around. You don’t think the older folks at the time were wondering how future generations would survive?
    Change happens. Learning to adapt is what makes us human.

  4. @KMF–you’re exactly right. I’m simply wondering if our generation is teaching the next generation those skills so they’ll be able to deal with the onslaught.

  5. Danny G,
    I’m not convinced our generation is capable of teaching such skills. But seriously, it will all probably take care of itself. That is, just as society adapts/trains itself to filter out/ignore advertisements and messages, the new generations will do likewise. Deadlines will always dictate the editing of sources, and people will probably gravitate to the sources that prove most reliable. Search engines will do the work for us, like it or not.

  6. Thanks for the link love Danny.
    In regards to your question: If my own kids are any indication, the research they do in the early years is all about fairly straightforward stuff: what year did the Battle of Lexington take place, where was Abraham Lincoln born, what’s the scientific name for a kangaroo, etc.
    By the time they get to the open-for-interpretation stuff, they’re older and their critical facilities have been a bit more fine-tuned.
    And Duane is right- I often wish I had access to all the information they have access to! (Sports stats, in particular)
    They are learning the skills they’ll need to succeed in a digital world. It’s a different kind of resourcefulness, but a resourcefulness nonetheless.