My husband has been fortunate to have a car donated for his use during much of his coaching career. The latest is a snazzy candy apple red BMW with enough blue tooth capability to handle basically everything in our middle aged lives. (And yes, I realize that label implies an assumption that both of us will live past the century mark.) During a recent ride we had a question about the music features. I immediately looked in the glove compartment but the car, like my iPad, understands that actual printed owner’s manuals are so 20th century. Our next bright idea was that it was probably stored somewhere in the car’s computer and when we managed to call it up it gave us a polite message that we shouldn’t be reading instructions unless the car was in park. I’m sure the view from the front of the car would show it indulgently rolling its headlights at our efforts. Finally my husband solved the problem by saying, “I’ll just ask Tyler.” As if this needs explaining,Tyler is a 20something co-worker who has never been in the car, but will know the answer immediately. It reminded me of a lady who once stopped my daughter on the street with the question, “You look young. Could you fix my iPod?” My daughter saw that the woman had accidentally set the device to play the same song over and over again. She reset it and the woman thanked her and left happy.
Recently a Los Angeles school district launched a $1 billion project to provide each of its students with an iPad fitted with security settings by school administrators. It took the first students who received the devices a week to alter the settings, get on social media, and teach all the other students how to enable the capabilities that the adults had protected them from. The project was immediately halted, because what should be done when innovative educators are out-innovated by the students? Not only that, but any teacher who could teach a skill at near mastery level to one of the largest school systems in the country in a week’s time would undoubtedly be hailed as teacher of the century. It was like the ending of every Scooby Doo cartoon when the adult lamented that his plans were perfect if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids! Then, the adult often pulled a mask off his face, which confused me as a child because I had never seen this happen in real life, but it seemed like a great idea to the cartoon perpetrator almost weekly.
Every generation thinks that the previous one is out of touch and the following one is out of control. If anything is different now, it’s that the latest generation has the best toys of all time. As an educator, it feels like uncharted territory. As a parent, it’s a relief that I can ask my kids for help. As a church goer, it’s obvious that we can’t just project PowerPoint slides in the sanctuary and call ourselves cutting edge. Influencing the next generation may involve a little more humility than we can comfortably muster. I guess I'd better get used to house bands instead of choirs and preachers in skinny jeans and fashionably wrinkled shirts. Insert an audible sigh here. On the bright side, the young church attendees seem to consider faith without works to be dead and to value people over social norms --- sounds awfully Biblical to me.