Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Mind the gap.

I believe I've alluded in the past to the generation gap that seems to exist between people of my age and today's high school students. On numerous occasions - including this very evening at dinner in my own Jesuit community - I've heard it said that the cultural, social and technological changes of the last three decades have reduced generations from groups of people born within periods of ten to twenty years to groups born in five-year (or even smaller) blocs. What would once be regarded as a single generation is now seen as a succession of several mini-generations. To provide an anecdotal but telling example of the gap between mini-generations, today's high school students can't remember a time when access to the Internet and cellphone use weren't widespread phenomena. I can remember such a time, and that fact means that I necessarily view the world in a different way than young people only a few years younger than me.

As you might imagine, the above reflections were prompted by an experience I had today at school. I recently agreed to help coach SICP's Scholastic Bowl team, and this afternoon I attended one of the team's practice sessions. As they would at a competition, the students listened to questions on various topics - history, language, math, science - and buzzed in to give answers. As you can imagine, the kids who do Scholastic Bowl are very bright; as I had expected, they correctly answered an array of very challenging questions. However, none of them could identify Boris Becker, Ed Koch or the movie Bull Durham. 1980's pop culture trivia that I take for granted is apparently becoming alien to modern teenagers.

Reflecting on the generation gap between myself and today's high school students helps me put my ministry at St. Ignatius College Prep in a larger context. Many of my experiments in the novitiate have focused on bridging the kind of gaps that too often drive people apart. Working with elderly nursing home residents on my hospital experiment was a means of bridging the gap between youth and age. My experiences working with refugees in California and Ontario helped me bridge gaps between different cultures and religions. And now at SICP I find myself trying to bridge a new and different kind of generation gap. Such is life as a Jesuit novice. AMDG.

2 Comments:

At January 23, 2006 11:17 AM, Blogger LilBucner said...

did you tell your students about the class we took with Ed Koch at 'deis, in which all he could do was berate students that "you don't know what the hell you're talking about!"?

 
At January 24, 2006 11:02 PM, Blogger Joe said...

LilB -
No, the Koch class didn't come up. The sadder thing is that the kids probably haven't heard of Ann Richards either, and in their own city none of them can remember a mayor other than Richie Daley.

 

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