The generation of entitlement

My grandparents were born into what has been called the “Greatest Generation,” a time when people appreciated the little things in a period full of war and hardship.

My parents are the product of that generation, the “Baby Boomers,” who lived through a time when people celebrated their newfound prosperity and rallied for rights and change. So, what does that make us?

Some call us “Generation Z.” To me, we’re a generation of pathetic human beings who can’t do anything on our own.

Last week I was in a three-hour night class and the projector stopped working. As a result, the professor had to switch to an oral lecture. What ensued left me shocked, scared and genuinely concerned. Multiple students could be heard saying things like “I can’t take notes like this” or “this is ridiculous,” and once the break arrived half-way through our lecture, a large portion of the class left.

The fact that a large number of students were incapable or unwilling to write or even type notes based on a traditional lecture is indicative of a serious problem – we are not only reliant on an easy way of doing things, we feel entitled to it. Technological innovations we’re lucky to have to make our lives infinitely easier are seen as a right the world owes us. And it is this sense of entitlement to technology or an easy way of doing things that is going to threaten our ability to function as human beings.

In September, Beth Harpaz’s article in the Associated Press stirred up controversy. She aptly noted some of the striking facts of our lifetime. Not only do some children not know how to tie their shoes or zip up their jackets by grade two, there are college or high school students who have never done laundry or used public transit on their own.

In talking to my parents, they explained that individuals exhibiting these types of behavioural deficits 40 years ago did not exist, and if they did, it was not considered acceptable. I’m not in any way suggesting we ridicule these individuals. I’m just suggesting that expectations in our society have shifted and that the shift is decidedly for the worse.

University students who can’t manoeuvre through a library or use a map have become commonplace, along with individuals who can’t write or even fathom surviving without the internet in the palm of their hands.

Instead of considering this reliance a crutch, we talk about it out loud as if it’s something to be proud of, touting the fact that we can’t boil water or mail a letter.

While I’ve heard it argued that our skills have merely shifted towards technology and that it is natural that certain activities should become obsolete, I think this skims over the key issue at hand.

A skills deficit where students can’t boil water or do laundry has nothing to do with technology. Many of us merely lack those skills. For those tasks expedited by technology, we need to remember that these innovations are not fool-proof; every once in a while they fail.

I can’t help but think of the woman earlier this month near Quinte West, Ontario who followed her GPS to the letter and drove into a marsh and flooded her car. Unless technology someday becomes fool-proof and all-encompassing, we need to come to terms with the fact that there are still holes that must be filled by more traditional knowledge.

Even if technology was infallible, we must also realize that we are by no means entitled to an easy way of doing things at all times.

Though we no longer hunt or farm our own food ourselves like previous generations, there are some skills that are valuable for us to continue learning – not just instrumentally, but simply because they promote self-sufficiency.