Freya’s Fieldtrip (or, If You Never Teach, No One Ever Learns)


Dude, there are two social attitudes that I run into online that make me twitch:

1. “I’m ABOVE social norms”

2. “The younger generations KNOW NOTHING and worse, THEY DON’T WANT TO.”

Both are dependent on the n=1 mentality. Because you do (or in the case of number one, don’t do) something, or know someone that does or doesn’t do something, the rest of the world must follow this model.

The problem with number one is that you’re not above norms, you’re functioning under differing norms. Everyone has norms. If you’re human, you exist in society, and if you exist in society, then you have norms. Humans are social creatures that create a series of social expectations. You don’t have to follow dominate norms, but you’re still following a social script.

And now for number 2…this one really bothers me. Nothing makes me see red faster than telling me (in a normally self-righteous and/or grumpy tone) ‘your generation doesn’t care and it’s only us and those older than us who actually care’. Um. Have you spent much time in our actual social space lately? You are aware of things like the urban canning revolution, the way that Ravelry has sparked a knitting Renaissance, and the Make movement exist, right?

We want to learn, and if you have these skills that you’re so worried about, part of the problem is that no one taught us. There was a social revolution during the 1970s that lasted probably well into the early 2000s that convinced us, right or wrong, that we didn’t need those skills. Add in the way that the technology shifted so radically, and you have a situation where skills weren’t transmitted. If you have an item, and don’t share that item, it’s not the fault of the person who doesn’t have the item, for not having the item.

If you don’t like that the generations below you don’t have a skill set, teach them. Show them by doing. If one person doesn’t want to do it, that doesn’t mean that no one wants to do it. Part of the problem, admittedly, is that my generation (I’m old enough to be pre-Internet society but not so old as to not be ingrained in it) communicates differently than probably any other society in history. That’s not a bad thing, but it is a social reality that has to be taken into account. If you mourn our lack of socialization, then you should try to find our space. It’s a harsh social reality, but if you’re not going to try to connect with us, then we’re probably not going to try to connect with you-welcome to one of the nastier aspects of social interactions that makes conflict theorists like me squee.

An exhibit-

I took Freya, my Kromski wheel out to camp this weekend. I set her up outside. Within five minutes I was swarmed with people. All under the age of 10. Touching her, watching her-and letting me teach them how to use her. Maybe they won’t be like me and spend 15 years teaching myself how to drop spin and then finally getting a wheel-but maybe they will. Maybe I planted a seed. Who knows.

What I do know is that I remember two types of people in my childhood: the ones who taught and the ones that didn’t. I remember the way that my grandmother sat me down and taught me how to cook, sew, and knit. I remember the way that my great-uncle (the rocket scientist) sent me Russian novels and the textbooks to try and decipher them (I didn’t, and it took me decades to finally figure out what he was actually saying to me with that gift). I also remember the people who wouldn’t engage with me, the ones that told me no instead of talking me through a process, the ones that shut me down because I was too young.

Kids want to learn. People want to learn. You have to find their language, you have to let them play. You have to let them find the things that they want to do and encourage that desire. You have to tell them that what they want to do, is worth doing.

Don’t be angry that other generations don’t know what you know. Teach them.


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