Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I saw one of those pesky lists...and I thought some thoughts, which I will share with you here

The other day, this article came across my Facebook feed. It's called "12 Skills Your Grandparents Had That You Don't", by Justin Abarca, and I found it interesting.

It probably really isn't aimed at people my age, but at the so-called Millennials, people born between the 1980s and 2000s (sort of, sources aren't that clear on exactly which years this generation covers). Still, I had a pretty strong reaction to some of the items on the list, and it is an interesting list. And so, my commentary:

Item one was "The ability to write legibly."

Well, my grandmother (my father's mother), whose handwriting I know best, didn't really have handwriting that was all that legible. That's first. And, number two, I have extremely legible handwriting - and by that I mean cursive writing - and I am proud of it. Of course, this brings up the whole controversy that I've been seeing the past couple of years over whether or not schools should continue to teach cursive writing, since no one writes anymore, but only keyboards. Yeah, no. I could do a whole post on this topic, and probably will at some point, but the short answer is, Yes, the schools should absolutely continue to teach cursive writing. For more than one reason. But, like I said, I'll leave it at that.

Item two: "Memorizing more than two phone numbers."

I've got to plead guilty here. I mean, I probably could memorize more than two numbers. Goodness knows that I've got who knows how many passwords I've got committed to memory, not to mention web addresses that I can spit out at will. And, while I can't remember my current phone number (I've only had it for a year and a half, and I don't really ever call myself), but I still know my phone number from when I was age 0 to 6. Of course, that was back when phone numbers had letters in them - our exchange was FI, standing for "Fireside". Yeah, I'm old. Also, I might not know my current phone number, but I have my library card number committed to memory. Probably says something about my priorities.

Item three: "Knowing how to use a phone book."

Of course, I know how to use a phone book. The problem is that the phone books that get published these days are wildly counterintuitive. I'm not sure why that is, but their classification systems are gone all wonky. The less said about this, the better. Anyway, it's easier these days to look up phone numbers on the Internet. Which is probably why so few people today know how to use phone books.

Item four: "The most basic of auto maintenance."

Well, I can change a tire if I really have to, and I can replace head and tail light bulbs. I've even replaced a complete headlight on occasion. I know where to add oil if necessary, but I can't change the oil - although I probably could do so if I had a place to do it. I could probably also replace a battery if I could lift the thing.

The thing is, this is sort of a false equivalence, especially if you have a newer car. The new cars are so heavily computerized that it takes an expert to do almost any maintenance that goes beyond what I've listed above. I kind of think it's stupid - I'm not sure why anyone wants cars that will be unusable in case of an electromagnetic pulse, but that's just me, probably.

Item five: "The most basic of home maintenance."

This is a little more relevant. I can do the stuff that is practical to do: change light bulbs, unplug a drain, replace a door knob, and like that. There is stuff I'd rather not do, though, if I can find someone else to do it. And that earthquake in Southern California as I type this is probably my father turning over in his grave for me admitting to that, since he taught me to do all that stuff. Oh, well.

Item six: "The ability to use a real, handheld, paper map."

My father would roll over in his grave if I couldn't do this. Of course I can read a paper road map. I can also read a topographical map, thanks to my geology lab in community college. In fact, I was astonished at the number of people in that lab who just couldn't get their minds around map-reading. That was a basic survival skill in my family when I was growing up. As an extra added bonus, I can not only read a paper road map, I can re-fold it correctly when I'm finished with it. That, I've found, is an even rarer skill than reading the things.

Item seven: "Knowing how to tie multiple types of knots."

Yeah, not so much. Was never a sailor. Was never a Boy Scout (girls weren't allowed when I was young; I was a Girl Scout, but as far as I can recall, we didn't do knots). However, I have to say in my defense that when my friend Brent was moving from Fresno to Berkeley years ago, I tied his mattress and box spring down in the bed of his small pickup (it was so small that it they would not lay flat in the bed of the vehicle). Then I followed him to Berkeley in my car, carrying some of the stuff that would not fit in his truck. It was a long drive, and there was a considerable wind that day, but that mattress and box spring did not move at all, even in the wind at highway speeds. So, apparently, I'm not completely hopeless at knots.

Item eight: "Writing a check properly."

This is the one that really confuses me. What's difficult about writing a check? No, really. I know checks aren't used as often as they used to be, but still...it's not hard. The thing that astonished me when I worked in retail was that there are people who don't know how to write checks. There were several times when customers would hold their checkbooks out to me and want me to write their check for them. The first time that happened, one of the assistant managers nearly had to pick me up of the floor, I was so surprised.

Item nine: "Knowing how to sew more than a button."

I can sew...with a lot of adult supervision. I have sewn, successfully. It is not something I enjoy doing. I knit. I do embroidery and cross stitch. I do kumihimo (medieval Japanese cord-making). But, yeah, I can sew if I have to. I prefer not to.

Item ten: "Knowing how to raise crops and livestock."

This is another thing sort of like car maintenance - where is the need to know this today; we have specialists. Of course, it's nice to have a garden. Not that I've ever had very much success raising food. I killed a cactus once, and they are much hardier than garden vegetables. But most people, as we migrate more and more into the cities, are not going to have the opportunity to have more than a small garden, and they certainly aren't going to have the room to raise livestock, aside from a chicken or two. Now, I can understand the value of having a theoretical knowledge of these things, because, who knows what might happen in the future. But, still, not the most relevant skills for most people in the modern world, at least not in the developed countries.

Item eleven: "Socializing like a human."

Of course I can socialize like a human. There were no home computers to speak of, and no public Internet, until after I graduated from high school, and we certainly didn't even have pagers, much less cell phones can do everything but wash dishes. So, we didn't have the distractions that we do today. If we were going to socialize, we generally had to do it face to face.

Now, this is not to say that I'm much of a party animal. I'm not good at the sort of small talk you usually find at parties, and I don't really like them. But, interesting conversation over a good dinner with a few friends? Yes, please.

Item twelve: "Being creative."

Honestly, I think that being creative has taken on new dimensions since the advent of the electronic age and since everyone has gotten online. There are more and different ways to be creative now than there were in the past. Now, I do think that more people could be encouraged to be creative, and that creativity could be more valued than it is. But, I don't think it was any more valued in the past than it is now. Not really. The true creative have always been the oddballs, and our culture hasn't ever been really friendly toward the oddballs among us.

Again, maybe that's just me, but it's something I believe.

And, finally, item thirteen: "Partner dancing without being gross."

It's been a long time, but I can partner dance the traditional way. I'm not good at it, but I can do it. I think, really, that this is one of those things that every generation gets complaints about as it is coming up. I can remember being a kid and hearing how utterly nasty dances like the Twist, and the Frug, and all of those were. Heck, the waltz was criticized by some as indecent when it was first introduced. So, you know, it just depends. Of course, having said that, some of what passes as dance these days really is gross.

Well, that turned out longer than I had anticipated. But, you know, that's the use of pieces like Justin Abarca's that appeared on BuzzFeed. They might seem silly, but they can also get you to thinking.

And, as you know if you follow along here, the management thinks that thinking is a good thing.

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