"We didn't have [x] when I was a kid and I turned out okay"

Here's a statement that I'm getting really tired of hearing:


"We didn't have computers when I was in school and I turned out okay. There's no reason why kids today need 'em."

I'm sure that this argument was offered in the past as well:

"Buses? We walked to school barefoot, in the snow, uphill both ways!"

"I don't want to pay for indoor plumbing for the school. We didn't have it when I was a student and I turned out alright."

"Electricity? Pshaw! Do you know how dangerous those wires are? When we were kids we had oil lamps and candles and everything was fine."

"Back in our day we didn't need that newfangled writing and alphabet stuff. We actually used our brains and memorized things."

"Agriculture? Hah! It's the ruin of society! Kids are just sitting around getting soft while they watch the crops grow. When I was a child we actually had to run after our food. We were tough, not like these kids today."

And so on...

At some point we have to label this what it is: ridiculous. When we actually acknowledge and support this misbegotten, history-blind nostalgia, all it does is delay our much-needed recognition that the world is constantly changing and that we need to adapt in thoughtful but necessary ways. Change be can scary, but there's a huge difference between intelligent, reflective criticism and mindless, reactionary dismissal.

Remember all of the hubbub a few years back when everyone above the age of 30 was absolutely convinced that Facebook was PURE EVIL? Then they started using it themselves and realized that it was just another (albeit different) way to communicate. The furor died down and we started having interesting conversations about when and how Facebook might be a useful learning tool. How many of those Facebook-is-pure-evil folks reflected on that process and resolved to think about the next new technology differently? How many of them apologized to the young people in their lives for their knee-jerk comments a few years back? Very few, if any.

Is it wrong of me to wish that people who espouse this view be prohibited from holding political office or serving on school boards?

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

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