Realizing the generation(s) gap

My first Social Security check arrived this week and, along with it, became a “shocking” revelation from myself that I have indeed passed middle age. Then, as if on a cue, the music that I was enjoying from my car radio went into overdrive and played: “Don’t ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry, So just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.”

Graham Nash wrote that popular song that was sung frequently by David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and himself: “Teach Your Children.” Today — it has changed and evolved over two generations — it would most likely be “Teach Your Parents” as sung to the young generations.

Through a strange twist of something known as fate” we (my wife and I) — both over 65 — are blessed to have a granddaughter — legally our daughter — who is 13 and has begun the eighth grade in our care. Think a moment … let that situation truly sink in … and then lightly and very slowly read on.

It is futile to get a real grip on raising a “second” generation “eighth grader” by looking back to my days in the eighth grade. Back then I lugged English, history, science, and math textbooks along with a notebook around every school day, (thankfully my typing class did not have a textbook nor did we have to lug those manual Smith-Coronas or Underwood typewriters around) but we did haul our books home where they were not touched until the following morning, we played ball (that was which ever sport was in season — and soccer had yet to be invented), listened to the latest LP’s (that’s ‘long playing’ vinyl records) with friends, and enjoyed Pepsi’s, Sun-Drops, and Coke’s along with snacks, watched TV, and then lugged those books back to school the following day. If you were in the band — and I was — you also lugged you instrument and case along with the books. I had a coronet.

I even asked my wife Lynn what she did after school when she was in the eighth grade.

“Well, I rode the bus from Central School to North Laurinburg (all of Laurinburg’s eighth-grade classes were then at North Laurinburg) and back to Central where I waited until my mother got off of work and came by to take me home. Then I’d listen to the Beatles albums and talk to friends on the phone.”

First realization: Eighth-grade girls are/were different than eighth grade boys – in many, many ways, and the difference between eight graders today and the eighth graders over 50 years ago is far greater.

Today, Lynn took our daughter to orientation at the eighth-grade STEM’s Academy (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program at Carver Middle School near Laurel Hill where she has begun her final year — before going on to SEARCH of Scotland High School.

Trying to enlighten myself I asked our daughter if her listed math class was an introduction to algebra. Her response added a few years to my physical age.

“No, we had algebra last year!”

In our time algebra was thrust upon ninth-graders in high school, and was viewed as a futile attempt to combine “arithmetic” numbers with letters such and “x” and “y” and parenthesis marks that have always belonged exclusively in English classes.

At Carver Middle School she was given something known as a “Chromebook,” which is actually a laptop computer that has now replaced textbooks.

Today’s readings, lessons, etc. are all contained in the Chromebook along with what the student will hopefully do for homework, and it is actually returned to the teacher over the Internet! Back in our days we could make up stories of losing ‘phantom’ or truly non-existent homework papers, and maybe fool them just once. Today, you had better know a professional computer hacker to accomplish the same task! Our dogs may have eaten our homework paper, but it is highly unlikely that your dog would eat your Chromebook — even if it were tied between two delicious steaks.

For certain our public educational system is performing wonders preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s world, but STEM’s is lighter on history, and history certainly needs to be taught and understood.

As a first lesson to this generation needs to assure them that “The Flintstones” were not patterned after our generation.

We’re wishing a great academic year to all students … just be careful and do not ask “Fred” or “Wilma” for help!

Beacham McDouglad is a Scotland County historian and Laurinburg resident.