Mudcat Café message #38477 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #6498   Message #38477
Posted By: Chet W.
17-Sep-98 - 07:42 PM
Thread Name: Intellectual property
Subject: RE: Intellectual property
I have taken up a little research project, spawned one day when I was completely unable to communicate the idea of "three quarters of a pound" or even "three fourths of a pound" to the teenage clerk behind the deli counter at the grocery store. Since then, I have tried in every grocery store I've been in to order 3/4 pound of something. I have found that I am successful about half the time, believe it or not. You can get a pound or half a pound, or even a quarter of a pound (I guess because they're familiar with the quarter pounder burger at McDonald's), but 3/4 is completely beyond the comprehension of an amazing number of (mostly) young people. (one result I often get is that they will put whatever it is on the digital scale until it says ".34" - maybe I should ask for 7/5 of a pound to get ".75") I guess partly as a teacher, I am recognizing what I call a new kind of illiteracy emerging. They can read and write, maybe even add and subtract whole numbers, but they know absolutely nothing else. I think back to riding the school bus in rural South Carolina as a child, and there even the apparent dumbest kid (couldn't pass anything in school) could tell you what was wrong with a car just by listening to it. He could take the engine out by hoisting it up on the branch of a tree and fix it perfectly and put it back in, all in an afternoon. That was not illiteracy of the kind we have now. He knew the joy of being good at something, and he used his mind to good effect at it, and I hope he went on to make a good living at it. What I'm seeing now is teenagers who are not good at or interested in being good at anything. The joy of using the mind is gone, probably largely due to television. Everybody has probably heard by now that the average attention span of an American child is about eight minutes, which is the average time between commercials on tv. God help us all.

Chet W.