Social trends

Impressive Youth

One thing we see quite a bit of are posts on social media and articles on supposedly reputable news sources that express horror over the terrible literacy and writing habits of teens and young adults.  Some sources blame text messaging (LOL) while others wring their hands over the terrible decline in the educational system under either the left or the right, depending on each individual or media outlet’s political leanings.

Of course, here at Classically Educated, not only do we believe that every political party has an unfair bias against the cultural elites (which is irrelevant in this context, but we like to remind everyone of it every chance we get), but we also believe int he scientific process.

Which means that we decided to put the theory to rigorous scientific examination* to find out if all the fuss was justified.

The first thing we did was to try to track down some modern writing from young adult, maybe someone younger than 22 or 23 years of age.  Fortunately, one of our editors works with a woman who fits the bill and also enjoys doing some creative writing.  So we asked her for a story.

After reading it, we were pretty depressed.  It needed a little polish, but, other than that, the story was not only competently written and well thought out, but it the ending was brilliant.  In fact some of our editors and contributors, who are also writers wept openly and are considering giving up their word processors because if the forthcoming generations are going to write that way, we’re all pretty much doomed anyway.

More importantly, the writing was grammatically correct with not a LOL or WTF to be seen.  It was even set in a culturally interesting milieu.

Of course, we still weren’t convinced,  A twenty-one-year-old might not have been affected by the full brunt of the texting-centric social culture, and therefore might have outgrown it.  What we really needed was something written by teens and pre-teens to figure it all out.

Impresiones 2011

Fortunately, we had something to hand, a small volume of prose and verse published by a school called Belgrano Day School in Buenos Aires.  This is an institution very much in the spirit of those we listed among our World’s Most Awesome Schools.

The book in question is entitled Impresiones: A Bilingual Anthology (2011) and is perfect for our purposes because it has prose and verse in both English and Spanish.  It should give us a pretty good idea of whether the people immersed in the texting culture were having any literacy issues (we chose the 2011 edition because the authors are now adults, which means we’re not exposing teens to any particular scrutiny, but they were teens when this was written).

Well… while none of our editors decided they had to give up literature forever after reading this, the writing, on a sentence and grammar level, is all very good.  Even in those stories written in English (remember that these are students whose first language is Spanish) were well-written, and seemed to be thought out in English (one of the easy ways to tell when a story was written by a Spanish speaker is that the sentences, while grammatically correct, use a word order that is more typical of Spanish than English–dead giveaway that the writer was translating as he wrote, not thinking the story through in English).

It might be argued that these examples are no use because they’ve been curated.  The anthology was probably the best writing of the year at that particular school, and the woman’s story was an outlier: written by someone who is set on becoming a writer.

Infinite Monkeys With Typewriters

That’s true, of course, but it doesn’t really matter.  You see, it’s always been like that.  Even twenty or fifty years ago, most people wrote like a drunk chimpanzee.  The joke above describes the literary efforts of any given 99% of the population in whichever era you choose to name.  But the fact that the good ones are still good puts any idea that texting obsessively is killing the language.

Which makes sense if you think about it.  There’s a good analogy for this which we don’t remember the source for (if it was you, drop us a comment and well give due credit): Text messaging is like playing catch.  It’s not a rigorous exercise in perfection, but it can’t do the person doing it any harm; after all, it’s still writing, and not everything is ROFL.

So everyone can stop panicking and go back to your political arguments.  We, by the way, are trying to clone Tiberius.  Now THAT was a leader (you can yell at us in the comments, that’s what they’re for).

 

*All right, we didn’t do a rigorous scientific examination.  We looked at a couple of isolated anecdotic cases.  So sue us.

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The Good Stuff – A Classically Educated List

Recycling Bins

Looking back over the past few months, it’s clear that Classically Educated has, perhaps, been slightly less than complimentary regarding the general state of modern affairs. While we still feel that humanity in general is moving in the wrong direction, away from individuality and more towards a groupthink distopia where ensuring that assorted rage-spewing morons and other sub-optimal intelligences feel like worthwhile members of society despite all evidence to the contrary is paramount, we also want to take the time to recognize that not everything is wrong in the world.

So, as a public service, we offer a list of things that are good about the world.

1) Left and right, except in the US, are no longer separated by religious differences. Many atheists now believe in a free-market economy as opposed to being Marxists – which makes sense since the kind of personality that will question the teachings of religion would probably also question a system that has failed every time it’s been tried. Likewise, many deeply religious people are now adopting socialist views. This is especially evident in Latin America, where sectors of the Catholic church have actually sided with the populists in the region (although this isn’t by any means pervasive).

We believe this is actually a good development, because, as definition of left and right get more flexible, people can pick and choose what they believe in all aspects of life instead of being forced to side with a view they disagree with just because that is the group they mostly belong to. Perhaps the US will catch up soon – we’ll believe it when we see an atheist Republican candidate, though.

mars_crosshairs-717225

2) Humanity is taking serious aim at Mars (the link is just one recent example of the many Mars missions in planning stages). We’ve spoken before about just how critical it is for mankind to regain its focus on expansion and exploration, and regain its thrust.

For decades, misguided hand-wringers have been saying that the resources used to explore space would be better invested on Earth. They were wrong – humanity’s history has shown that humans need to explore, to expand and to grow… or that they will wither and decay (see Empire, Roman). Fortunately both private companies and major governments have seen the light, with innumerable Mars missions in the works.

3) Most airplanes that take off neither crash nor disappear mysteriously. That’s not necessarily good for anyone in Bermuda making a living off of credulous kooks, but it’s good for the rest of us.

The Bermuda Triangle

4) People are taking global warming seriously. Now, as a rule, Classically Educated tends to think that the world is not going to hell in a handbasket. We look around to see a world with growing peace and prosperity (a well-researched corroboration can be bought here). Basically, if you were born today, you have less chances of dying violently or of any disease than you did at any previous time in human history. We believe that everything will be fine in the future.

However, we also understand scientific data, and we don’t see any reason for intelligent people to deny the clear evidence of climate change. For this reason, even if governments are trying to avoid the economic consequences of truly going green, many private citizens and especially major cities are taking the baton and running with it. Oslo actually has to import trash to run some of their power plants, which is extreme, but a sign of the times. Even less enlightened cities have begun to implement recycling initiatives.

5) There are elections in Venezuela this year. Who knows… maybe they can finally throw off the yoke of populism. If they do, South America will finally have thrown off all dictatorial governments, another continent to be 100% democratic.

6) Printed books seem to be making a comeback.

Now this one is a bit weird. We generally embrace technology as a great thing, and love how it changes lives and society for the better. But in this case, it seems that both studies and consumer preference are telling publishers that people a) connect better emotionally with paper books than ebooks and b) learn more from paper textbooks than ebooks. I’ll add my own two cents and say that I prefer to read books with photos rather than see them on a screen, especially large-format books – but that is just an opinion without studies behind it.

So the fact that print book sales have been better than precious years during the second half of 2014 is a great sign – plus, books are utterly beautiful.

7) It has been said by futurologists that the first human to live for a thousand years has already been born. I certainly hope so, but even if it’s not quite true, medical advances over the past few years have meant that it’s increasingly difficult to die of anything but cancer. Yes, it still happens, but less and less. And gene therapy should make it even better.

8) Despite access to nearly unlimited amounts of data online, on their phones, most people are still dumb as sand, which makes life so much more entertaining for the rest of us.

9) The year 1984 wasn’t remotely like the novel.

Anyway, this is an incomplete list, and we’d love to see your additions to this list below. We’ve missed or omitted many – but all optimism is welcome, and discussion is positively encouraged.

Classically Educated Looks Forward and the Result is… A Coffee* Mug

Garden of Eternla Delights

Here at Classically Educated, we love to look into the past.  Parting the mists of time is not just educational, and it doesn’t just keep humanity from repeating the past’s errors (although, it doesn’t seem like we’re very good at that), but it’s also fun.  We know we definitely enjoyed the series of articles on the Bismarck – and we are always looking for interesting takes on history.

The present, too, is fascinating, as long as it involves travel to new places or experiences with new groups of people who have interesting, thoughtful takes on life – or who simply cross the street very differently from what you and I might be accustomed to.  Romance is also interesting

But we don’t often look into the future all that much, which is kind of ironic considering that Classically Educated is a blog, with contributors from all over the world, most of whom have never spoken, much less met face to face.  Most have never even been in the same country as the rest.

So let’s look forward – specifically, let’s try to guess what will change people’s lives the most.

It has been said that new communications were going to change our lives fundamentally, and it’s indisputable that they have… except not fundamentally.  Having fingertip access to information and entertainment has created changes that range from the way people learn, to the way people date.  But it hasn’t really changed the fundamental way people interact with each other.  We still make friends with the people we have physical contact with, mainly.  We still – despite Google having the answer to everything – ask ourselves why we’re here, and where we’re going.  We go through teenage angst (and read Stepanie Meyer books), fall in love, get married, get jobs, some people get divorced, and then we die.

We could posit that immortality would be a big-and fundamental-change, but I sincerely doubt that it’s the next one coming down the pipeline.

So we’ll look into the one thing that has been – and will probably continue to be the biggest motor to social change since the Industrial Revolution: production methodology.

Wait, what?

Industrial Revolution London

Bear with me.  Factories were the innovation that began the migration of people from the country to the production centers in a major way.  Factories needed workers, the population was growing, and there was really no need for more mouths to feed in most peasant hovels (yes, this is an insensitive oversimplification, but it is still accurate).

Ford Production Line

Then came Henry Ford, and his production line.  While the clear, obvious consequence of this is that distances for the common man suddenly became much shorter in practice, mass production also meant that people could have stuff, lots of stuff, for reasonable prices – and they could have the same stuff as their neighbors.  This actually did change the way people interacted, and we’ve been living in the automobile age ever since.  Computers are a byproduct of this age, but have served to accelerate it and make it more efficient as opposed to shaking the foundations.  Ditto the internet and smartphones – refinements on the social structures of the industrial/automotive age, not really a huge change except in efficiency (even the supposedly doomed music industry is still around, it seems).

Perhaps the single biggest missed opportunity to really change things so far has been space exploration, but the imbecilic insistence on solving Earth’s problems first has scuttled that until private industry can afford to take humanity’s next step (so, despite his electric cars, I find myself rooting for Elon Musk…).  The gentler, kinder world we live in means that the timid rule the public budgets.  Too bad.

So, what’s next?

We believe that the next big change will be atomized production.  Not just decentralized, but atomized.  Yes, we are still some years from the home nano-factory, but it will get here sooner rather than later, though hopefully not as described in Nancy Kress’ story “Nano Comes to Clifford Falls” (you can read the first part of the story here).  The first steps – Print on Demand and 3-D printing are already here, refinement will take things to another level, as it always has.

But back to nano.  Just think about it for a second.  When you can produce anything you want at home (or in a communal nano-factory a few blocks away), limited only by the availability of plans and the cost of materials, factories will disappear.  So will the factory worker…  A lot of literature which talks about the proletariat will be tossed out (or more likely, subjected to obvious revisionism), as that word will cease to have its original meaning, at least as regards to the productive part of the value chain.

I actually believe that this will be better in the long run, but a LOT of governments are going to try to block it, especially those that produce tons of stuff…  And if it isn’t the government, it will be the unions.  Countries will suffer revolutions because of this, but at the end of it, humanity will have taken a huge step forward.

Are you ready for that change?

Classically Educated is.  In fact, we’re so enthusiastic about it (assuming most of us survive the cannibalism while we work out the implications) that we have joined the first wave.  We have created a Classically Educated Mug on Zazzle, and anyone else who loves the site, or just the concept of a classical education can buy it here (all photos of you – or your cat – posing with the mug that you send our way will be included on future posts)!

The Completely Awesome Classically Educated Coffee Mug

*We recommend you fill it with tea, which is the correct beverage for reading the classics…  But this, of course, is a strictly non-commercial exercise done for scientific reasons 😉