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July 28, 2008

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I’m not as pessimistic about today’s youth. We do have a major problem with equal-access to high quality schools – but the other problems you cite – TV and the Internet I don’t see as problematic as you do. Teens and kids today are learning these new technologies which will be crucial to working in tomorrow’s economy. Virtual collaboration, web research, subject-matter engagement (through quality blogs and forums – e.g. The Oil Drum) will be important skills.

Do kids waste time on leisure activities? Of course. Is this unique to the upcoming generation? I doubt it. It’s just taking different forms.

Do we have problems with kids playing too many video games and watching too much TV? Yes. But I see far more important threats than this. School-quality – which includes nutrition, physical education, and the liberal and fine arts – is the more important issue.

And don’t worship the baby-boomers too there much John. While the civil-rights marches of the 1960’s were commendable, the boomers have also given us the culture wars and extreme unsustainability in everything from social entitlements to energy to the built environment. The next generation will have to sacrifice greatly to dig our way out of the baby-boomer hole.

I'm still waiting for the conjunction of Botox treatments AND tattoos: what happens when your spider-web, demon-skull, or (in the occasional case of *comparatively* good taste) Polynesian tribal designs shrink-up and distort in response to aging, or age-fighting treatments such as Botox and plastic surgery? Only when special-topic entertainment news items such as this appear, will I know that we've finally entered the Age of the Apocalypse.

At any rate, having finally realized after the fact what Phoenix has lost since Mr. Talton has left -- though indeed, had he remained, his columns would (because of the very market pressures he was not previously free to denounce) be the merest ghost of their present, tell-it-like-it-is frankness -- I would, in the spirit of the Internet Age, like to dedicate this wistful music video to his memory:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=grj04zP1Etw

You keep trying to associate journalism with literature and all I can do is laugh. I do read the newspapers (online, and only the free pages because no way would I waste money on that) and I find them formulaic, uncritical of the establishment point of view, constantly making excuses for authoritarianism, regularly dishonest and inaccurate, and quite frankly an insult to any reader.

I watch people on the train reading Rupert Murdoch's free "MX" trash and I can certainly say that Rupert will never go broke from underestimating the intelligence of his audience.

I wouldn't buy a newspaper for a child, I don't have that level of cruelty in me. I would buy them an Internet connection because even though the Internet also has plenty of rubbish, it does have the redeeming feature that the reader can be selective and make their own choices about how they see the world. That selectivity is very valuable, sadly we live in an age of blanket disinformation that requires a whole lot of cynicism just to see the end of the street.

Also, please, teach kids the basics first. Teach them mathematics, statistics, fundamentals of the physical sciences and teach them the Scientific Method (which is all about skepticism, and testing for yourself). Maybe even teach a bit of simple philosophy too. With those basics they are equipped to make sense of the world.

For learning History, it's hard to beat Wikipedia (yes it is full of errors and whitewash, but so is every history book).

I teach English courses at a local community college and deal with unprepared, under-educated, resentful teens all the time. It is the Age of Entitlement. Not all students fall into this category, but too many do. It's a real problem in Arizona. I write about it sometimes on my blog, www.hotdishing.com Thanks for showcasing this topic! The state of education in this country needs all the help it can get.

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