Saturday, March 3, 2012

Times Change

I have three sons.  They’re all grown men now, but in the 1970’s, from the time the oldest was about three up until they discovered girls, the older two boys were obsessed with the question:
Could a person jump from the Empire State building into a pool of Jell-O and live.
Answering this burning question required many trips to the local library where they learned, serendipitously, thousands of interesting answers to questions they hadn’t even thought to ask.  
A professor of physics at Humboldt State University met with them, talked about interesting stuff like variable terminal velocity and demonstrated the practicality of math and physics.
They sent a letter to the Jell-O’s headquarters. The company didn’t have an answer to the boy’s question, but they did send a coupon for free pudding.
Basically, my boys still argue about this burning question (though admittedly now it’s mostly after a beer or two) and the only thing they’ve ever agreed upon is that the first to try the jump should be their youngest brother.
Here’s my point.
Today, a child would find the answer to this interesting puzzle on the internet.  She or he would learn a lot of miscellaneous information while ciphering the answer.  Of that I have no doubt.  But, almost certainly, the child would do this research alone, in his or her room and any interaction with people would be through tapping on a key board.
And that’s a shame, I think.  Not just for the kids.  But for the parents who miss out on these adventures in learning with their children.
Well, times change and every generation bemoans the loss of the past. 
The other day I stopped at a garage sale on the way home from Walmart and an old couple was selling one of those blood-red sets of Encyclopedia Britannica.  One whiff of that book glue and dust and the feel of those old pages under my fingers and I was transported back to a simpler past.  A time when the world was a place I discovered every day, right alongside the most important people in my life


  1. Wow! I loved it, Pam. Made me think back to my own childhood and mischief that didn't involve a computer or any electronic games of any kind. I still have a fondness for those World Books, too. I also can't part with my huge Webster's Dictionary, even though the computer has one.

  2. I loved that time of the past, but I'm loving the present and potential of future too. The kids that are naturally inquisitive like that will reach out to those who can offer insight still, and they'll reach farther and wider than ever before because of the technology available now. It's all good, just different. Unfortunately none of mine were naturally inquisitive about much, so even before internet was common in our house I had to push mine. They *were* inclined to be outside playing with real life in nature, though, rather than video games, so I'm glad about that.

  3. Nice, Pam. I'm just happy that none of your boys tried to find the answer to their question by jumping off the Empire State Building.

  4. I remember reading those encyclopedias with my brother. Good times.