Are Kids Today More Intelligent, or Just Smarter?

On one side, an unstoppable force: A generation who have never known a world without the internet. On the other, an immovable object: A generation of college teachers who graduated in the 1980s.

It is difficult to say who is more afraid.

Is it the students, the first to benefit from a so-called “constructivist” education, with their hyper-connected computer savvy? They arent going to get by on creative solutions anymore. At college, its all about long dry lectures, essays and these creepy dark places called “libraries”. Academic drudgery from no-nonsense professors. Old-school. Literally.

Or is it the teachers? Bracing themselves for a class full of smarty-pants whiz-kids. All hopped up on digital mania. Wired up to the information highway, but cant read. At least not books. Nor write anything more that 140 characters. Illiterates.

For example: in many high-school English classes (now called “Language Arts”), students are no longer reading Macbeth.

(gasps in horror)

Instead, students are given other ways to experience the play. Some of them actually go to see the play in a theater, others listen to it on a podcast. There are also some great graphic novels, not to mention the countless film adaptations some of which are commendable by any standards. As an assignment they draw similar narrative themes from pop-culture and relate them. In the medium of their choice.

Macbeth, from its mother's womb untimely ripped!

To be fair, Shakespeare never intended to have his works read. In his time, they were the epitome of pop culture. Accessible to nobles and the rabble alike. Riddled with the same melodrama and comic relief you would find on any episode of Greys Anatomy. Folly, just really high quality folly.

The good news is, unlike my days in school, kids today are enjoying Shakespeare.

(gasps of bewilderment)

They are actually appreciating what is supposed to be their own culture. They are relating it to their own lives in their own form of literacy. This Shakespeare stuff is not half bad.

Finally a version of the Scottish Play I can sink my teeth into!

This is going to be tough for the old-guard who were brought up on hard desks, chaulk dust and recess. Shakespeare is not to be enjoyed. Enjoyment is derived from its successful digestion. It is to be respected, encrypted and stoically analyzed. To do so is to distinguish yourself from animals.

But with time, the stoics will lose to these epicurean upstarts. Not because they are more cultivated, or more intelligent, or harder working. They will prevail because they are smarter, faster, and better looking.

They are finally starting to enjoy school rather than endure it. Every wave of students will be increasingly motivated to absorb knowledge for its own sake. But what kind of knowledge? Clearly not the one that the old guard would like. Where is the control? The discipline? The goose stepping in unison?

So there you have it, a generation of students who actually understand their own culture on their own terms. They are sadly at war with a generation who use culture as a blunt instrument of torture. But they have youth on their side. And, like everyone before them, they will turn out OK in the end.