We all pretty much universally recognize that Grandma and Grandpa could do things we have no clue how to do nowadays…
But how did it get to be so that we are so very less skilled than our forebears?
I think that perhaps part of the answer is very simple. We don’t have to be.
Why was this knowledge never passed on to our parents, and then from us?
Again, same answer. It didn’t have to be.
It was the modern age, after all. Why bothering teaching your children such things as cooking and gardening, when they’ll never be burdened with having to do such things for themselves. We’re America, after all. We’re all Middle Class here! We’re rich and prosperous and on top of the world… until we’re not.
But even now, after the serious economic troubles in 2007 things haven’t changed one whit.
We’re still spoiled rotten, as a general thing. We’ve been born into a world where nearly everything is handed to us on a silver platter. Near magical devices such as microwaves are the norm now instead of the exception. Just put it in, press a few buttons, and voila! Near-instant heated and cooked food!
I remember the first microwave my family bought back in 1982 or so. It was a combination microwave/range. And it cost something like $900. And that was the sale price as it was a scratch/dent model. Regular MSRP was something like $1200, but my Dad got a good price on it because it had a dent in the side on the bottom. Well, as that side faced the wall, no biggie. 🙂
It was very neat to be able to cook hot dogs in about 45 seconds, instead of having to boil a pan of water first on the stove. But thankfully, my parents stressed that the microwave was a convenience, not a replacement, for knowing how to cook. After the newness wore off, my father only used it to heat up leftovers and to heat water for tea and coffee. He never actually ‘cooked’ whole meals with it, as so many folks do today. Today, if it can’t be cooked in a microwave, it isn’t cooked at all.
This is how my wife learned to cook. When I married her, she could barely boil water on the stove top, or even cook noodles. If it couldn’t be cooked in a microwave, she couldn’t cook it. She would make (reheat) mac and cheese and cook fish in the microwave and think it was delicious. Now, she can’t stand the taste of such things prepared in that manner.
Nowadays, microwaves can be had for around $50. And if anyone knows how to cook anything, it’s usually in a microwave. And that’s the extent of their skills. No one thinks they need to know how to really cook anymore. Heck, I’ve met people who can’t even operate a toaster. I kid you not.
But these are only symptoms of a larger disease. A disease in where we can get away with sitting on our duffs all day long without having to give too much thought to anything at all.
Most of us have running hot/cold water on demand, centralized heating/cooling on demand, electricity on demand, food on demand that we don’t even have to prepare ourselves… (Would you like fries with that?) The list is nearly endless.
And all of this happens without us having to do a damn thing other than turn on a faucet, press a button, flip a switch or speak into a microphone.
Wow! Aren’t we skilled?
Sometime when I was around 13 or so, I started to feel quite embarrassed as a human. I just woke up one day and asked myself what skills I had. I mean REALLY had. Sure, I knew how to do a bunch of different things, and thanks to my parents, knew how to cook extremely well from a very young age… and sure I could catch fish fine and hit a moving target with either an arrow or long arm, but what ELSE did I know? Could I live on my own if I had to? What if something happened to my parents and I had to live on my own, or truly be a ‘man’ at a young age, like my own paternal grandfather had to do at age 12? What if war broke out and I had to take care of myself or my family? (These things historically do happen, you know. Even if they’re not pleasant to think about.)
Was I physically and mentally capable of doing so? Would I even survive?
I asked myself, in my current mindset, what was the skill that I was the proudest of? My own answer astounded and horrified me.
I was a whiz kid at video games. I wasn’t just good, I was darn good. I could beat Super Mario Brothers in record time. That’s what I was most proud of. That was my ‘accomplishment’ that I held nearest and dearest to my heart.
Wow, I thought. That’s pretty pathetic. So pathetic that it sickened me.
At the age of 13, my grandfather was already a man. Working a full time job, doing a man’s work, and supporting his family.
And what was I doing? I was pressing buttons on a video game controller nearly 40 hours a week.
I was ashamed. For all of the useful things I knew, I wasn’t a man. Not even close. I was a boy playing with toys. I wasn’t a worthy heir of my grandfather’s noble legacy.
I also thought about what I was learning in school. That was also pretty pathetic, and ultimately, totally useless. Nothing I was learning would ever help me even survive, much less thrive. I’d already long since learned the ‘Three Rs’ and there was nothing else they could teach me other than rote memorization fluff that I could absorb on my own, if I was thus inclined to spend tremendous hours on such worthless endeavors. (I haven’t found an actual use for Trig or Calculus yet!)
But still I had to show up and have 9 hours of my life vacuumed from me against my will every week day.
Did you know that handwriting isn’t even taught in most schools now? And that they actually graduate kids who can’t even read and write beyond a rudimentary level? I’ve even read that they graduate kids who can’t read or write at all. How is that even possible? How can you make it through twelve years of school and not know how to read or write? Well, thanks to the failed Prussian school system model, we now have the largest group of idiots to ever walk the planet graduating from our fine places of learning.
The schools have failed. The parents have failed. The government has failed. We have failed.
It’s time to take a new look at this problem of cranking out utterly useless people each generation, and find a way to fix it.