Youth Today: refugees of a failed system

Michael Wesch, a professor of cultural Anthropology at Kansas State U, caught a lot of people’s attention with a YouTube video that summarized the essence of Web 2.0.

Recently he helped 200 of his students at KSU collaboratively surveyed their own media habits to really question traditional education — which is obsolete at best.

These 200 students came up with the following statistics:

My average class size is 115.
18% of my teachers know my name.
I complete 49% of the readings assigned to me.
Only 26% … relative to my life.
I will read: 8 books this year, 2300 web pages, and 1281 Facebook profiles.
I will write 42 pages for class this semester.
And over 500 pages of email.

What a huge disconnect between the way today’s youth interact with the word, and the way they’re taught. The stogy world of academia and formalized education, handcuffed by well-meaning but out of touch administrators, needs a wake up call.

In my undergrad I taught a second-grade classroom of inner city kids all of whom were given regular violin lessons at a special charter school head by the brilliant Larry Scripp.

Putting a violin in a 10 year-old’s hands, who has grown up in a South Boston housing project their whole life, is one way to turn the system on its head. Another way? Academics should take a master class from youth marketers.

That’s the real promise for me personally of covering a topic like designing for millennials — that we won’t just market to them more efficiently (that’s a pretty disingenuous goal). But that by learning how to capture young peoples’ attention and communicate to them, we’ll be able to improve their increasingly difficult, confusing, and fragmented lives.

I really need to study (week 4; Jan. 20-26)