Monday, July 6, 2009

What Canadian Youth Know

Stumbled across this editorial about Canada's youth and what they know. The graph that caught my eye follows:
Teenagers have received a bad rap for their political knowledge when actually they probably know more than their parents. Bonin and other youth have access to the Internet and in addition with expansion of airlines, are able to travel to other cultures. Nowadays, youth are able to go beyond only dreaming of far away places and can actually access information immediately online (italics added).
Mostly, young people don't so much know stuff as they are now better equipped to find stuff out. In other words, ask them a political question and the response might be: "I don't know, but I know how to find out."

Whether that's a form of knowledge is a matter of some debate and academic inquiry. Is knowing how to find out a piece of information the same as actually knowing it? I don't think so, not at least in that piece of information's utility. In other words, merely knowing how to find a piece of information does me little good in processing the news, of gleaning some useful information from what I read or hear on TV. Whether Google is changing the way we think, that's a topic covered quite nicely in an Atlantic piece some months ago (that it's making us stupid) and again recently (it's making us smarter). But all in all, knowing how to looking something up (online or otherwise) helps us little in making sense of the world as a story flits across the screen.

It's a topic I'd love to examine further, if my hunch is right that young people indeed take this approach. I'm just not quite sure how to attack the research question.

1 comment:

Nick said...

You also have source credibility issues too. I think Wikipedia is pretty sad compared to the NY Times, but some younger people may not agree, which is sad too.