Tales of the generation gap

I must have been an old grouch for most of my life.  The benchmarks in my memory of the history of my times is  my complaints about the younger generation and their historical amnesia.

First it was –

“These kids – they think history began with the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas.”

Then it was –

“These kids – they think history began with the Watergate scandals.”

“These kids – they think history began with the election of Ronald Reagan.”

“These kids – they think history began with the impeachment of President Clinton.”

And finally –

“These kids – they think history began with the 9/11 attacks.”

A friend of mine who teaches a college philosophy class told me a good example of this. He had a visiting lecturer who compared Socrates to Lieutenant Colombo. He said Socrates. like the Peter Falk character, asked seemingly naive questions to get at uncomfortable truths.  After the visitor left, my friend asked by a show of hands how many knew who Lieutenant Colombo was. Not one knew.

This is nothing new. Fred W. Friendly, after retiring as head of CBS News, taught a class at the Columbia Journalism School.  He told a student who was wearing a “Make Love, Not War” button that it wasn’t appropriate to wear in class. She replied, “Oh, Mr. Friendly, you’re so old-fashioned that you think ‘making love’ is the same thing as ‘making out.'”

Later Friendly told his friend, Walter Lippmann, about the exchange. Lippmann asked, “What the hell is ‘making out’?”  Friendly thought that was pretty funny, and told his CJS class about it. The reaction was, “Who the hell is Walter Lippmann?”

The story was told by Don Hewitt, who started the CBS 60 Minutes series, and of course the response was, “Who the hell was Fred W. Friendly?”

And maybe there are those who wonder: Who the hell was Don Hewitt?

So this is an age-old story.  I only hope I live long enough to be able to say, “These kids – they think history began with the election of Barack Obama.”

Or maybe even (anything is possible) –

“These kids – they have no memory except of peace and prosperity.”

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