Who's That Middle School Kid in the Ramones Shirt?!
I saw a kid wearing a Ramones T-shirt at one of the middle schools where I coach. He was well-dressed, not really punky looking. The shirt was brand new. I should also say that I had seen a kid in a Dead Kennedys shirt (also new) at another middle school about a week later. I didn't ask the kids about the bands, etc. but I wondered, who are these kids?! Where would they have heard of the Ramones or the Dead Kennedys? Then I thought about how my music tastes operate on Spotify. For example, I'll listen to Robert Johnson, mid 1930's bluesman, and then the next song will be Hozier's "Take Me to Church." There's no struggle to discover Robert Johnson or Hozier for me. I just browse, and there they are. Click. I'm listening to some obscure Son House acapella piece. Click. I've just discovered the Electric Prunes.
It seems generational markers are rapidly being compressed into a single layer. Think about Star Wars--the kids know just as much or more than their parents. I can discover old movies, learn about obscure things, without much effort. It's just there like everything else. It doesn't seem like our generational cultures are striated in the way that I remember them being when I was a kid. I graduated high school, and started college when the internet was not using GUI to navigate. I had to log into GOPHER to find the few things on the internet that I could--and when I did, it was more of an exercise in using a computer. Tech for tech's sake. I could still find better things faster in the library with a card catalogue.
This is heading someplace, I promise. There was a book that was floated around in secret when I was a kid in high school. It was called The Anarchist's Cookbook. There were all manner of recipes and plans for a person to get into trouble. I once saw it. It was a raggedy paperback book with a black cover. It freaked me out to be in the same room with it. Its physical existence took on a preeminence that I don't know would happen with an online text. Online texts tend to look pretty similar, and when it comes down to it, it's a lot easier to hide a copy of something like The Anarchist's Cookbook if you can just close the tab. Not as intimidating when you have a modicum of power over the thing itself. But get caught with that black book in your possession at school... There would have been some pretty serious repercussions.
So, as I considered this idea of the simultaneous existence of the child/adult world, I also began to think about access issues. All it takes is connecting with the wrong person--also made easier through the web--and the adult world is opened to a kid. And this can be completely anonymous. It brings up some dark considerations, leaving me with more questions than answers. It's easy for tech optimists to be Pollyanna, and for tech pessimists to be Eeyore, but for a person like myself, it leaves me thinking about that kid with the Ramones shirt, or any of our kids really, how I can know if they're safe, and what I can do if they're not.