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Post How Have Families Changed Since 1980? An Exercise
Created by John Eipper on 01/12/21 3:29 PM

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How Have Families Changed Since 1980? An Exercise (Brian Blodgett, USA, 01/12/21 3:29 pm)

Hi John, in my classes that have just started, I gave the students (all working adults) the following prompt:  Imagine you are trying to explain the present-day American family to a person who has been stuck in the year 1980. You are attempting to bring him/her up to date on how the family has changed. Please provide at least three of the most profound ways that the family has shifted and the reasons for the shift. 

The majority of the students, in graduate and undergraduate classes, mentioned the eroding of America values, work habits, respect for others, etc. as main changes. Very few had many positive comments, either about social media or technology. Most stated that technology was at the root cause of the eroding of our country. While there were some good things that technology brought to us, the fact that while we bridged the gap of long distance communication, there is now a disconnect in face-to-face contact to the individuals in the same room. 

Hard work over time gets you places was replaced with the need for instant gratification and the "everybody gets a trophy" children's sports world. 

Families are much more mobile now and move away from their homes much easier than in the past, but this often means that they move further away and visit family far less often. Gone are the playing outdoors from dawn to dusk, as fears of predators (of the human variety) stop parents from wanting their kids to roam the neighborhoods unwatched. 

Women gained significant rights over the years, and families now have two wage-earners in a home, yet they struggle more today than they did in the past. 

Family time is no longer around the table playing board games or cards, playing catch, or going exploring.  Instead, family members live lives that are so different from each other that many parents are lost in the worlds of their children, unable to play the video games they master or steal their children's eyes off social media's Tik-Tok, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. 

Phones, once fastened to our walls, are now seemingly fastened to our hands and always in front of our eyes, even during the middle of the night when we reach for them to see if anything new is going on as we wake up. 

Imagination and role-playing disappears as we immerse ourselves into single and multi-player games where we follow the rules of the game and travel on a given path. 

Family recipes passed down through generations are replaced by new and exciting recipes we find online. 

Holding a paper map as we drive to unknown areas and "exploring" is replaced by finding the quickest route with no traffic delays and a tendency to follow the directions no matter what. 

Eating around a table together has been replaced with eating around the island or with trays near the television or tablet. 

Learning how to do something by trial and error has been replaced with watching YouTube for directions. Oh, and back to social media itself. 

We now care more about what previously "unknown" people, living who knows where and with very specific agendas, think than what our own families or neighbors think or value--after all, they do not have the same number of followers.

JE comments:  Brian, this is an excellent activity.  I was originally going to title your post "A Classroom Exercise," but the Death of the (real) Classroom is one of the seismic shifts we've seen since 1980--or even, well, since 2019.  Remember my call for CLASS back in April?  (http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=137625&objectTypeId=101223&topicId=111 )  My prediction was off by months, possibly forever.

Nostalgia focuses on the positives while overlooking the negatives of the Old Days.  Forty years ago (1980) we also had a weak economy, high interest rates, more crime, and expensive long-distance calls.  Every era sees itself as decadent.  The 1970s spent so much energy celebrating the '50s (Happy Days, Grease, et al.), precisely because the '50s were seen as simpler, better, and more respectful times.

I do miss paper maps, though.  Especially when driving around a new city, you never acquire a sense of the layout from the prompts on your phone.  Sometimes it's good to get lost.


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