This year, as I taught summer school, something scary presented itself to me. I was required by my administrators to keep a sign-out log with names and times for kids who left the room, usually to go to the bathroom. A dozen times this summer the following scenario played itself out:
A kid would approach my desk and ask to go to the bathroom. I’d direct them to sign out on the log. They’d write their name, then ask me what time it was. Now, there was a standard office wall clock literally right in front of us. I’d answer by showing it to them and they, in turn, would then stare at it for a while, scrutinizing it in deep meditative thought. After a moment, they’d all repeat the exact same motion: they’d pull a cell phone out of their pockets, flip it open and glance at it, then finish filling in the time on the sign out log.
The first few times this happened, I just chalked it up to their fondness for their cell phones–this was just an excuse to look at their beloved precious one more time. However, as the summer went on, a far more ominous reality dawned on me.
This generation has had not only electronics, but sensitive and accurate digital readouts, not only conveniently available but literally omnipresent, their entire lives. For any one under a certain age, a brightly lit readout of the time has been only a turn of the head away, and maybe not even that far, 24/7, 365. Analog clocks are not only obsolete to them, but alien.
We’re used to rotary phones and television antennas and (*sigh*) books being outdated antiquities now, but…clocks?
I’m sure the skill is still taught to young children, but is it, perhaps, so neglected in the real world that it has already been completely forgotten by the time they reach me in high school, no more relevant than the metric system or square dancing or the words to “This Land Is Your Land?”
Are teenagers today actually unable to tell time?