The most interesting conversation just happened in my neighbors kitchen and only seems like the most revelatory idea I have heard in a long time. Time will be the judge. It started with the typical complaints from professors, of which I am one, around the same age late 30's early 40's, about students who have a very different approach to social interactions in the classroom. The question that arose concerns our understanding of students and their ability to comprehend the issues that impact lives such as politics, economics, and social responsibility. We question ourselves about the thoughts that our parents and academic advisors had about us and if they were the same? Or are we just getting old and we have fallen out of touch with those 20 somethings whose lives are inundated with techno this and iStuff that only to become like our predecessors?
The conversation moved to the idea that the technological shift that has happened is so pervasive that little time has elapsed to adjust our thinking about consequences, or benefits of these advancement on teaching, the quality of education, and the real benefit of human interaction when learning about design in particular. As any good researcher worth their salt would ask, "is that necessarily bad that students have lost the ability, or more appropriately bothered to socially engage in the polite policies, and political morass that we have had to endure"? On the one hand, it is important if the shift, as great as the one we are currently experiencing, gets lost in the transition we later determine to be of value. On the other, (I credit my wife for this idea) it may be the perfect thing these people will need later in their lives.
As things become more difficult in the arenas of politics and ultimately by economics our students may need to be less socially engaged, less empathetic, and in many ways follow a kind of logic that is "pragmatic". We see it in our students who are not interested in the subjects they have decided to study and have fewer motivations for applying themselves to the work that we would categorize as passionate. As the populations become greater and as jobs become less prevalent these people will need to make difficult choices concerning others. If we believe in the broader "entitlement" tag defining this generation it may be easier to make these decisions if they are less attached, not emotionally involved and can turn away groups who are effected by problems that could make their lives more difficult. A kind of toughness their parents did not have and disconnect to ignore balance in social organizing their parents fought to achieve. This may seem bleak but it does give one some comfort to know that the quality of detachment has its benefits. Text on my children, its only words on a screen.