A Letter of Apology

Card Catalog

To my dear children and students,

In light of recent events, I owe you an apology on behalf of my generation, as well as those that came before me. You see, we were never really taught how to research online. We were usually cooped up in the dust laden library, senior year, looking up a generic topic such as Popular Culture in America circa 1990 (as a side note, my topic was Princess Di and the title was “Can the Media Kill You?”). We scoured for days through newspaper clippings that our librarian had carefully cut from the local news sources and placed in file folders marked “Fashion” or “Murder” or even better, “Farming.” If we couldn’t find anything there, we were shown the big blue books along the back wall that housed information on everything…Uganda, Candy Corn, and even International Food Consumption. Yes, you guessed it, the all encompassing encyclopedia! This was typically our primary source in many instances. Again though, if you still could not find out the information you needed to write (not type) your 10 page research paper with additional bibliography and title page, you were shown the Card Catalog. Now you may not be aware of this part of Media Center, I mean, Library, history. The card catalog, seen below, was a terrific opportunity to find books on your topic! Yes, actual books. To begin, you looked for your topic, in alphabetical order, and then pawned through the index cards that were neatly labeled with information concerning what your library offered in accordance to the topic you picked. It was perfect, albeit draconian to you today. So, there you have it. Once we finally found the information related to our topic, we read it and then took down notes on index cards that we had already numbered and labeled according to each source. Once that was accomplished, we were able to start writing our research papers. Simple, right?

To get on with the apology, here it is: I am so sorry today that we tend to skip the research entirely, especially when it comes to social media. It’s as if we are playing the adult version of telephone at times, just reposting or retweeting what what posted by a friend of ours. I have no excuses and no concrete answers, only theories as to why my generation and others tend to post, tweet, and even debate issues that they have little to no evidence (or education) to support their claims. Here they are, in random (albeit humorous) order.

The Couch Potato Reporter: While I still respect the media (and worked diligently for them for over 5 years), all too often today we try to take on this role without any basis or fact checking. Since newspapers began, publishing the story first was a competition. Maybe today we are driven to be the one who ‘broke the news first,’ even though we are breaking it on social media and not given much credit aside from the SHARE button VIA Carrie Shay heading.

The Has Been: We all know a former athlete that never did much with his or her life after high school. This theory deals with the person who just may not be happy with where she/he is at today in life and looks for ‘glory’ any place they can find. It may be that my generation did not have the spotlight that you are all graced with each and every day of your lives (and yes that is sarcasm) online, through Facebook, Twitter, and dare I say the lovely, Instagram.

The Ego Maniac: We were not given this type of attention at your age (except maybe from our parents IF they were together and liked us well enough). Shall I say we were attention deprived then, or perhaps we are today, and now post as fast as we can to share with our Facebook friends and family that will hopefully shower us with compliments.

The Simple Sally: We had to work hard in school (see above research paper process if you do not believe me) and maybe, just maybe, we tend to look for an easier way as adults today. Maybe, just maybe, we tend to like this idea of a simple click solving problems…which leads to the final theory…

The Back Seat Activist: We feel good about sharing news with others. We feel good about posting who just passed away to let people know and grieve. We feel good about posting a donation page, even if we did not donate to the cause (yes, we do). I think it is Nietzsche who stated that we don’t help just to help people. In fact there is no such thing as true altruism. He said we help so we can tell others that we helped. Maybe he was right. Now we can tell the world not only who we helped, but how, and why.

Now, do not think I am judging other adults here, or even your generation. I am here to apologize. I am sorry students. And I am sorry children. My generation has not been one with many good role models to follow. I realize that I have succumbed to all of the theories above at some point on Facebook in the last few years (do we recall Kony 2012?) and i ask for your forgiveness. I am sorry we have not educated ourselves with the use of this new technology, and in turn never educated our most prized possessions—YOU, our youth. I am sorry we were not brought up with these tools, but am I really? These tools can be wonderfully dynamic, but also tragically destructing. It’s easy to click LIKE. It’s simple to click SHARE. It only takes a moment to hurt. Please take that moment and just do the research. I know I will. And I vow to teach others to do the same.

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6 Responses to A Letter of Apology

  1. Jaime says:

    Well said. I am on facebook a lot, most times for the entertainment value. The pictures, “status updates”, and rants some people post, continue to amaze me. I do have to admit, I don’t miss the card catalog 😉

  2. Dan Waltz says:

    Guilty, guilty and guilty.

  3. Paul Counelis says:

    Awesome. Needs to be shared.

  4. Susan Sage says:

    Carrie, what you’ve written is truly profound. I couldn’t agree more…So sadly true…In fact, I’m going to read it again when I get home from school today. Great food for thought — and hopefully action!

  5. Krista says:

    Well said. I know I’ve certainly shared something from time to time that I later learned was inaccurate or uninformed. And this even though I know you can’t trust the Internet. Why? Well, I can admit that sometimes I am simply too lazy to track down a reputable source. (Of course, even reputable sources are now subject to scrutiny. Objectivity in reporting is such a rare thing, but perhaps that is a different topic of conversation.)

    I don’t know if students in today’s age know how to perform searches that will take them to specific sites. For instance, if they type “search term:.edu”, do they realize the search should bring back material provided by universities and colleges? If they type in “search term:.gov”, do they know they’ll bring back government run Web sites? Is this taught?

    Also, as someone who has worked in higher education for the better part of my adult life, I’ve also noticed that students don’t come to the university prepared to do database searches. I imagine high schools don’t have the funding to subscribe to JStor or other online databases, but I don’t know that for sure. If they do, does anyone teach them how to perform an effective scholarly search?

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