The YouTube Offensive: How High Schoolers Make Me Feel Old

Let me start by saying I’m not very old. Really. I mean it. However, not a day has passed in the last three years when I haven’t felt like I was someone ancient, you know, like people over fifty.

Let me explain. I teach high school students and, often against my better judgment, I find myself sounding more and more like those tragically uncool educators of my youth. My first year teaching, when a student told me he couldn’t live without listening to his iPod in the hallway, I quickly retorted, “Sure you can! When I was your age, we didn’t even HAVE iPods!” I cringed, apologized to the student for sounding like a grumpy old man, asked him to put away the device, and walked away, hanging my head in shame.

My students frequently ask me things, probably with the best intentions, that make me feel like I belong in a museum. In the last few days alone, I’ve been asked if I watch South Park (a relatively understandable question, I suppose. By the way, the answer is yes), knew what YouTube was (which puzzled me a bit), and why I had a Facebook if I’m old (which annoyed me considering I had a Facebook account since before my students were even out of elementary school).

All of this has made me start to reflect on my high school years and the experience my students are having.

Between classes, students passed notes to one another. Sometimes a teacher would intercept a note, perhaps read it in front of the class, everyone would find out that so-and-so had a secret crush on so-and-so, and you’d move on. Now, text messaging has become the primary means of communication for high school aged students. Don’t get me wrong, I love text messaging. I would tell you how many text messages I sent last month, but I’m mildly embarrassed at the number. However, there is a fundamental problem that students face when they stop communicating with each other in words and sentences and instead uz quik msgs lke diz 2 tlk 2 ech othr. I won’t go off on a rant about grammar and sentence structure and so on, but I think students should go back to sneaking a pen and paper in class to write a good four-page note. Those were glory days!

As an aside, I didn’t have my first fully-functioning cell phone until I was in college. There is absolutely no reason why a student in my school has and/or “needs” an iPhone. You can call your mom, girlfriend, barber, and text JOKE to 67022 all with an old school flip phone.

When I was in high school it took me a minimum of ten minutes to sign online. If it was raining it took a half hour. If it was between the hours of 3pm and 8pm on a weekday, when most people were rushing home from school and/or work, it would sometimes take close to an hour. If it was a snow day, and everyone was home trying to get in a chat room at the same time, forget about it. Today, my students have access to the Internet virtually everywhere they go, although by the number of computer and phone issues they allegedly have whenever a research assignment is due, you’d never know it.

If you wanted to express your love for a band, television show, or funny idea, you made a website for it. Often it was a juvenile site with a bunch of photos on it that violated nearly every copyright law known to man, but what did you care? Let them sue! You were in high school! Now, Facebook fan pages for every silly and insignificant thing litter the Internet. An example of a group I saw just today: “The first time I had a McFlurry I though the spoon was a straw.” Horribly insignificant (although I think I had the same experience with the McFlurry)…

Lastly, when I was in school, listening to a certain style of music didn’t define who you were. I was fortunate enough to grow up at a time with Napster, before Metallica started (rightfully) complaining about their property being stolen. I would try and download ten songs a day (which was a feat, considering I was using dial-up and the average song took about 45 minutes to reach my hard drive) and was pretty non-discriminatory about what I listened to. I experienced a number of songs from artists that were amazingly popular, never were popular, that I thought would be popular one day, and that had been popular decades before I was born. When I shared music with friends, it wasn’t judgmental, but instead, people were willing to listen to new things and listen to artists that weren’t always played on the radio. While some of this still applies to today’s youth, so many of try so hard to conform to an image that they shut themselves off from experiencing new things. Not to be a grump about it, but I think one should try and expose themselves to as many experiences as possible, especially musical ones, because something can almost always be gained from listening to a song — even a bad one. For example, I heard that new Justin Beiber song for the first time last weekend and I learned that I hate him.

So kids, stop making me feel old, or I’ll tell your moms and dads on you.  How would you like that?  I used to be in high school once, and I suppose, like you, I thought all of my teachers were lame and headed toward the retirement home.  I know the old teachers and, believe me, I’m not one of them.  Our lives may be different, but just know I’m still cool, like your older brother, not lame like your grandpa.

Now, will one of you cool kids please explain to me what YouTube is?

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202 Responses to “The YouTube Offensive: How High Schoolers Make Me Feel Old”
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