In July I posted on facebook something similar to this simple little vignette.
Went into Culvers today. One of the under 16-year-old employees, a polite boy, took my order. He made full eye contact and spoke clearly.
I said, “I will have the fish sandwich.”
He replied, “I did not know we had a fish sandwich.”
I answered, reading from the board, “The Atlantic Cod Sandwich Meal.”
“Oh,” he answered. “Is that what cod is?”
Then he took my order.
Now, first ask yourself what conclusions or interpretations of that little vignette you want to make. Don’t make them, but think of what you might say. Silly me. I thought I was describing a fun little moment.
I have only 48 friends on facebook, about a third of whom do not ever communicate with me. Another third made a comment, which fell into four groups.
Most common was to say how impolite teenagers are today. Did you notice I said he was polite, made eye contact, and spoke clearly?
Another set of comments was about how stupid teenagers are today.
A third group commented on how teenagers are bad at learning. It seems to me his comment “Is that what cod is?” makes it clear he was willing to learn. But I could be wrong.
The third group lectured me on unhealthful eating habits, although they said unhealthy and not unhealthful.
The last group said that schools and teachers today are terrible.
So because one 14- or 15-year-old boy does not know what cod is forms grounds for attacking teenagers, teachers, and schools. Everything about the boy suggested an intelligent and inquisitive person, a subject on which I feel I can make a swift judgment. But I could be wrong. Two of the commenters were favorite students of mine in the early 1970s. I wondered to them that with the loss of the cod fisheries how common the word cod is in teenagers private lives, or how often teenagers in Mankato eat fish. They thought about that and agreed that perhaps the word cod has fallen from the daily or school lexicon. I have often wondered how people decide schools are a place to fill kids heads with tidbits of information.
I suppose I should have stated that I was noticing cultural change, enjoying the moment.
I am tempted to draw a few sweeping generalities about their responses. I leave that to you.