Is our generation falling behind in street smarts?

Staff reporter Nolan Peterson ponders whether his generation is lacking some intelligence that other generations once had. Creative commons photo: Jorge Royan.

By Nolan Peterson

It all hit me while I was driving to school one morning. I took the right turn from Valparaiso into the parking lot like I do every morning, However, after I had finished turning, a loud noise came from the front of my car. Panicked, I pulled over into the closest parking space to see if I had accidentally hit something (knowing my driving ability, it wouldn’t be the first time).

Luckily, it was just the hood of my car that had popped out of place, and all I needed to do was open it up and slam it down nice and tidy. Easy fix, right?

Wrong. Dead wrong. In fact, so wrong that it took me almost ten minutes to figure out how to open up the hood while everyone that passed through the parking lot stared at me as if I were the most incompetent person on the planet. I obviously know that’s not the look everyone was giving me (at least I hope), but for a second I felt like I had the mental capacity of cane toad.

This pessimism about myself, though, led me to think critically about two potentially life-changing questions. First, if a basic everyday task like opening up the hood of a car gave me fits of insanity, what other “basic” tasks could I not do? And secondly, am I the only person my age that can’t open the hood of a car, or are there others out there like me? Am I apart of a lacking generation?

Let’s start with number one. To be blunt and brief, yes. However, my answer is way more complex than that. First off, I’m defining a “basic task” as something like putting in a spare tire or appropriately using power tools — basically handyman kind of stuff. All of this I cannot do, which some of you out there may find rather sad, but in some ways, how often and/or necessary is it that the occasion in which changing a tire arises? Maybe more than I’m estimating, but it’s one of those things where it’s become more of a right of passage from father to son than anything of purpose and reason.

With that said, I think there is some valuable information that this generation is missing out on. According to a study by National Geographic reported in a CNS News article, people between the ages of 17 and 24 are six times more likely to know who won the final season of “American Idol” than who’s the Speaker of the House. Trust me, I love my singing competitions and reality shows as much as everyone else, but that stat is horribly pathetic. I mean, goodness gracious, the fact that the name of the person third in line for our nation’s highest position has gone by the wayside, nonetheless what his policy is or what he stands for, is flat-out disgraceful. I’m not asking kids my age to join the Paul Ryan fan club, but instead to be more informed about basic government or geography.

Our generation isn’t just unskilled or inept though; We have talent nobody else has. We are innovators of a new frontier, challenging a technological future and striving for the betterment of human existence. Never before in human history have people been able to communicate with each other across the world within seconds. Our generation has been able to conquer so much that our ancestors couldn’t even dream of. We have conquered technology, science, math, history, and human rights more than any other generation has before us (work is still yet in progress, of course).

So, the challenge issued to my generation is that we don’t need to get any more book smart; rather, we need to focus on getting more street smart. That’s not to say, “Let’s all give up on working hard in the attempt to be book smart. Instead let’s focus on fixing the tires on our cars when they blow out amongst many more.” I know the book smart jobs pay the bills, but it’s time that our generation take control of the so called “basic tasks.” Let’s stop being dependent, get our act together, and smarten up street style together.

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