I’m teaching a brand new class this term, and I was surprised by its popularity. It’s a first year seminar, in the brand new Digital Culture and Information minor. Lots of shiny new stuff. Including my students.
It’s been a while since I exclusively taught first year students; I often deal with seniors writing honors theses or doing capstone projects, or students in higher level courses. I haven’t had a dedicated class for first years since my last position. So it strikes me, sometimes, how thoughtful first year college students are these days. Perhaps my students are self-selecting (in fact, they definitely are, considering the course content) but they seem so much more reasonable about digital culture than many of my fellow Gen Xers or the Boomer generation. These are students who don’t understand why people would take online disagreements so personally. They are cautious about their online privacy. They doubt the real benefit of social media, but see why it’s necessary. (Hint: it’s often because the olds have made it that way.) They seem to have a story to tell, both collectively and individually, but are struggling to reconcile what they’ve grown up hearing (Internet=bad! Not reliable! Too messy! TROLLS!) with what they feel obligated to participate in. I hope to make them feel more comfortable to tell their stories digitally, on their own terms.
In 5 class meetings, I’ve grown ever hopeful that humanity’s evolution as a digital society is indeed in good hands. It takes a while to personally feel comfortable with ceding cultural control (although many wonder if Gen X had much cultural influence beyond grunge and bad eyebrows) to younger folks, but somewhere around 40, you happily relinquish it. I ask my Gen X colleagues to embrace this changing of the guard. Millennials have inherited a raw deal economically, politically, socially, and dammit, they’re resourceful enough to overcome it.
I can’t wait to see what the Fall Term brings . . .