The defining generational shift

Thanks Justin for all the kind words about my blog and for pointing out so many great blogs and sites to check out.  Duff&Nonsense: entertaining, erudite, chock full of that British understated ruthlessness – love it.  Gypsy Scholar: covers the gambit and not easily pigeon-holed into a particular category – a well-written, eclectic mix of commentary.  Just this morning I started reading waka, waka, waka, Malcolm Pollack’s blog:  plan to spend days reading through his archives – the writing is top-notch.  I’m sure their blog lists contain many more blogs worth perusing. I’d like to venture out on a limb about Gypsy Scholar’s recent post.

Gypsy Scholar posted a piece, “Nonlinearity: E-Books vs. Physical Books“, which delves into the pros and cons of e-readers, when matched up against physical books and it led me to ponder this matter a bit further and after I pondered this a bit, I thought about how truly spoiled we, who bask in the modern world of luxury, are to have so many varied ways to access information, great literature, connect with other people around the globe.  Certainly, anyone who has ever tried to find the index or bibliography of an e-book, knows the frustration of simply flipping through the pages of a physical book and trying to do that with an e-reader.  As technology improves, my optimistic nature leads me to feel confident that glitch will eventually be ironed out.

Writer’s warning: Proceed at your own risk, the following rambling post is this writer’s “oh the demise of American culture” rant of the day.

The trickier problem seems to lie in the sad fact that there’s no cure for stupid and the handing tech toys to most of the world’s inhabitants seems to spread  a “too-dumb-to-exist” virus faster than 4G access.  Yes, it’s been a long time since I posted a pet peeve, but here goes.  Everywhere you wander in America (even perhaps around the globe, if news footage is reliable) you see the masses, preoccupied with their cell phones, iphones, tablets, etc.  Often my mean-streak breaks loose and I wonder, “these $%^#!* morons can’t even string together a coherent sentence, so what in the Hades can they be texting about all day long?”  Yes, I really do think things like this and on occasion, my nice, demure self lets thoughts like this slip from my lips…….. accidentally, of course.  American culture teeters toward the end of a three act play, where no one remembers the first two acts and we’re zooming to a climatic final scene, curtains poised to drop and there we slouch slurping our big drinks……..  glibly unaware.

For the bibliophiles, an e-reader offers us one more way to indulge our obsessive passion for acquiring books and just the knowledge that I’m carrying around a small home library’s worth of books in my purse makes me feel giddy.  No longer am I left flipping through outdated, grubby magazines,  while waiting to see the doctor nor do I have to suffer making or enduring aimless small talk, with lengthy rambles about the size of one’s kidney stones or some undiagnosed “rash”.  It’s so convenient to pull out my e-reader or tablet and block out the other inhabitants, so yes, technology serves as a very useful barrier to unwanted social interaction.  But for all these wonderful uses, I work and interact with ordinary people and way too often I hear people tell me they bought an e-reader and haven’t really used it yet or worse I’ve heard the following comment more than a handful of times, “I bought a kindle, but I don’t really read books”  Yes, acquiring these gadgets is about acquiring these gadgets – not really expanding one’s reading options.

In the early years of owning a PC, one bright morning my children were getting ready for school and living in a very temperate Southern state, we don’t get much in the way of cold weather (although Southerners bundle in big parkas as soon as the temperature drops below 60°F).  One of my sons rushed to the PC and he had to go online to find out if it was cold enough to wear a jacket.  In dismay, I blurted out, “Are you stupid?  Just step out on the front porch and find out!”  He looked at me, affronted by my ignorance, and said, “Mom that’s not as accurate as the weather online.”  Many times I’ve thought back to this as the defining generational shift in America – those who lived before computers and actually had to rely on their own brainpower to figure things out and the PC generation, where if someone wrote about it online it trumps even trusting you own up close and personal experience (even if that weather info came from several hundred miles away).

The love of books seems a more full-bodied experience than ownership of an e-reader.  There’s something awe-inspiring to meander along rows of books in a beautiful old library or even to find a small makeshift library tucked into a few fourth-floor rooms on a tiny US Army kaserne in Germany.  Often, I would bundle my youngest daughter into her car seat and we’d head to this library on Schloss Kaserne, after I got my other children off to school. I’d find some story books for her and some books for me and we’d find a comfy seat and spend several hours at a time reading.  Very few people used that library and my husband and other children turned their noses up at this tiny library, but for me it brought back childhood memories of sitting for hours in our old pastor’s attic, where his wife kept all her old magazines and excess books stored on neat shelves, in perfect order.  She had every edition of some magazines going back to the 1920s, when she had married our pastor.

The first thing I notice about any book is the binding.  I admire lovely bindings and that’s before I even open the cover.  An e-reader can never copy that feel of a book between your hands, but the ease of accessing so many classics, histories and information so easily offers a huge trade-off.  Would that we could copy good teaching methods as easily as we copy books to digitized formats.  Our pastor’s wife (mentioned in several previous posts) spent her time being a good pastor’s wife – helped in the church, helped in the community, helped us with our many reports and school projects.  And yet, by training she had attended Teachers College Columbia University in the mid-1920s and I most assuredly benefited from her many years of informally teaching me.  My brothers, sisters and I  would run across the road to the parsonage whenever we needed more information than our books at home offered.  She would stop whatever she was doing and devote as much time as needed to help us find information and offer advice.  This lovely woman would bookmark passages from books, pages in magazines and write notes of things she thought I should read.

I think that the issue confronting us is lazy self-indulgence, where failing schools is just a small part of the problem – just walk into any big box store, where the majority of Americans shop.  The book section rarely is crowded, yet the electronics area, particularly the gaming section usually swarms with young men.  What are the girls shopping for – mostly clothes, freakish hair color, looking for “as seen on TV” merchandise.  And it’s the rare shopper who isn’t otherwise preoccupied with his/her cellphone.  There, I’ve said it, we have the laziest, most self-indulgent culture on planet earth and that’s what’s ailing America.


Filed under Culture Wars, Pet Peeves

5 responses to “The defining generational shift

  1. Justin

    You’re welcome LibertyBelle.

    And thank you for:

    (although Southerners bundle in big parkas as soon as the temperature drops below 60°F).

    Elicited a great big ‘ol ‘yeah, an’ if anybody wants to see what a stampede looks like in real life utter the word these letters spell out.

    S … N … O … W.

    (Just please, don’t say it where I live.)

  2. You might find my posts on bibliomania interesting. Or just go get Holbrook Jackson’s tome by that title.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  3. Hi Jeffery, I read your Isaac Disraeli post on bibliomania and if you have others the search of your site didn’t pull them up. Your blog contains so much information, on so many topics, that I’m amazed at how you can produce this blog, plus manage a demanding position teaching (a career that demands so much of your personal time). I’m making it a point to check your blog daily, so I don’t miss new posts and I’ll keep reading through your old stuff too. Love your Saturday post about your high school math teacher. Teaching, both formally and informally, ranks as one of the most noble undertakings in this world.
    If I had made better “career” choices when I was young, I think teaching would have suited me perfectly, but being rather odd, I did go to college a year, with family and my high school teachers determined I should become a lawyer and/or get into politics. Headstrong me, decided I hate sitting in classrooms and that the last thing I wanted to do was become a lawyer (I would have made a terrible lawyer, because I stutter under pressure). My poor parents were devastated by that decision and my father exasperatingly said, “You’re so smart and you can do anything! What do you want to do?” I told my parents that my dream was to be a homemaker…. In the midst of the feminist revolution, yep, I went against the tide. Of course, due to my mother’s relentless nagging about enrolling in college for the fall semester, I called the Army recruiter one day and signed up, because I thought at least I would learn a skill and have a job, until I could become a homemaker some day. Being a homemaker and teaching my children was the best job in the world. My kids are grown and in recent years, I’ve thought often about teaching history as a career that I might be good at and love. Of course, I’ve talked about writing for decades too and haven’t done more than this little bit of scribbling online, lol.

    You summed up so eloquently what teaching should be in your tribute and I am saving this in my quotes that I collect:

    “Well, perhaps you didn’t find anything fundamental to do in math, but you’ve accomplished a lot through the influence you’ve had on your many grateful students. We learned rigor and discipline under your tutelage, but also the importance of humor, creativity, and critical thinking.

    And those are all fundamental to a proper education.”

  4. I don’t know why a search for “bibliomania” turned up only Isaac Disraeli — my own search brought up several posts.

    Thanks for the kind words on my post about Jim Scott — he was one of a kind!

    As for writing . . . a blog can lead to that. It seems to have led me to my novella . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  5. Jeffery, Perhaps I wasn’t fully alert at around 4am and didn’t notice the other bibliomania posts, which I’m now reading. Your letter to the Williamsburg Center of International Arts and Letters brought to mind a long-held desire of mine to engage my own children and now grandchildren in reading the classics and in the process to value books. The American classroom, from my vantage point as a parent, looks more like a political battleground than an institution dedicated to inspiring future generations, which would certainly have to entail studying the classics. It pains me to hear educators arguing as much about what shouldn’t be taught as what should be taught. How can we shoot for the stars if we’ve clipped our wings from the get-go?

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