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How Kids Have Changed

Updated on February 27, 2013
A Blackberry Bold 9700.
A Blackberry Bold 9700.

2 x 2 = 22

2 x 2 = 22 was the answer given by an adult in a GED class in the mid-1990s, having not multiplied very often and having no knowledge of mulitiplication tables. Tables for the 2s through 12s are good to know.

Increasingly, middle and high school students are trained not to learn multiplication tables, but to rely on calculators. My immediate response is always to think of the power source dying. Stores and restaurants can't do business when the power dies and perhaps neither will our brains, soon. At the same time, graduate statistics professors instructed us not to memorize long formulas if we could look them up in a manual; however, they taught us how to derive the formula logically if we should be without a source for finding those formulas. That makes sense. 

With a dead calculator, high school students can hopefully begin adding quickly, using some sort of writing materials. They are also sure to remember some multiplication from seeing results in a calculator window often enough. There is hope.

This brings me to the topic of how the culture of kids that receive education in America has changed in the last 20 years: 1990 - 2010. Children and youth of today live in a world in which the US Shuttle Program has always operated. We've always talked of flying to Mars. In 1992, the federal government funded an operational SETI project through NASA to search Search for Extraterrestrial Life. Non-profits carry on the search today.

What else is different?

Beloit College Mindset List

Targeting the frame of reference for young people attending college from 2010 - 2014, Beloit College in Wisconsin has prepared a list of cultural descriptions as they have done for youth since 1998.

A few items from this 75-element list of mindset components were listed in local newspapers across the country in August 2010 and this publication led me to look at the entire list. College professors and instructors are cautioned not to use references that occurred before the class of 2014 was born, especially low-tech references that will bring blank stares from the gallery

Several of the items on this mindset list are incredible. While many are about pop culture types of data, several started me thinking... 

Cursive writing. The Thank You Letter is becoming rare as well, but is important for gifts as well as post-job-interview follow-up.
Cursive writing. The Thank You Letter is becoming rare as well, but is important for gifts as well as post-job-interview follow-up.


Anyone in the college graduating class of 2014, or younger, has lived a lifetime in the digital realm.

  • Most youth do not know how to write in cursive. They keyboard, text, and print when needed.
  • Many college students seem to have a smart-card ID/bus pass, slimline laptop (or netbook), an iPhone (or Blackberry), an iPad, and a Kindle reader that contains their textbooks. All of this gear can be carried in a slim packet, eliminating even the backpack.
  • Since not all resources are posted on the Internet, students learn to research hardbound books and periodicals and find it time-consuming and frustrating. Some students pay others to do such research, if it is required in their term papers. In fact, some students putchase entire term papers from term paper companies.
  • Sudents can take any classes online. The Internet has existed all of their lives.


Global Economy

Beloit College researching finds that the term global economy is coming into the United States faster and more thoroughly than many expect. A full 25% of college graduates in 2014 will be the child of at least one immigrant to the USA. In the 1960s - 1980s, the languages Russian, German, and French were useful in science and technology. Today, they are useful in business more than in science, but Chinese has become very important, along with Japanese. Russians and Americans have lived together in space on the International Space Station scine these 2014 grads were born. Many other nations have developed space programs in this time.

US Army 51869 Criminal Investigaton Division lab, 2009. CID Command Public Affairs.
US Army 51869 Criminal Investigaton Division lab, 2009. CID Command Public Affairs.

Science and Crime

The 2014 graduates and the youngsters following behind have always known a world of DNA evidence as seen on television's Law and Order (1990 - 2010, and counting) and its spinoffs, and the newer CSI and NCIS and related spinoffs that promote criminology and forensics careers. They also draw attention to the human genome studies ongoing at the Smithsonian Institution, IBM, and National Geographic in a partnership to trace overall human migration (see human migration) back to the beginning. 

Entertainment: Film Ratings

Students born since 1992 have watched movies under the rating system designed in 1990 by the Motion Picture Association of America.

  • G: General Audiences — All ages admitted
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested — Some material may not be suitable for children
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned — Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
  • R: Restricted — Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
  • NC-17: No children under 17 admitted, changed in 1995 to No One 17 and Under Admitted.

Recent Changes

  • A new element in the rating system was incorporated in 2007, that being the consideration of smoking scene in film ratings. I am unsure how that operates, but apparently Disney no longer displays smoking in their G, PG, and PG-13 movies.
  • The number of harsh sexual profanities in the PG-13 rating category seems to be blurring. Generally, it's been limited to 4, but I've found twice that in some, contained in the background songs as well as dialogue.
  • The other film phenomenon I am noticing is that PG-13 movies are featuring increasing amounts of violence overall and gunfire specifically, but without any blood, even with victims of automatic weapons and in violent war scenes.

The effect of all this on kids younger than college age today will be interesting to see.

Ratings have been placed on television shows and video games as well as movies and the grads of 2014 have had XBOX since they were 9 or 10 years old. Video games are a big part of the kid culture these days - and of adult lifestyles as well.


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i think children should know how to use graphing and other scientific calculators and technologies, but they should also be required to use manual tools like slide rules, T-squares, abacus and other things just to know the value of them and to encourage their creativity and foster their thinking skills. (even maos and compasses). i have to confess i rarely write with a pen held in my hand anymore, and my handwriting suffers from it. thank you for an informative and thoughful article.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      8 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Change is constant. As you noted, the pace of change has increased. Perhaps the key concept is to teach our children to be "problem solvers," and critical thinkers. Simply because our future leaders are experiencing life as we know it, different, does not indicated "bad," or good." Just is as we did in our generation... to our parents. Too often we hear how "bad" our educational system is. If this is true, why does Japan, Germany, China and etc send their students here? Our knowledge paradigm is changing/expanding exponentially and our future leaders are doing an outstanding job of excelling in the process...

    • profile image

      Bob Kirk 

      8 years ago

      At last someone has had the courage to discuss the failure of our schools to teach simple math. In the third grade I had to stand at my desk and recite each timestable from 2 to 12. Each student had to do the same. After hearing 2 times 2 is four, 2 time 3 is six twenty or more times you knew your timestable.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      If there is a real crisis and they lose their computer, and it can happen, they wouldn't how survive a day.

    • kaltopsyd profile image


      8 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      EVERYTHING in this Hub is so, so true. I rely on a calculator so much (I graduated college in 2009). About movie ratings, it's ridiculous how leniently movies are being rated these days. I'm shocked by the content in G movies. It really irks me. Thanks for such an eye-opening Hub.

    • hitendra123 profile image


      8 years ago from India


      you have posted great hubs on hubpages.I wannna join your fan club.It will be good for both of us to exchange our articles.


    • John B Badd profile image

      John B Badd 

      8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      It is interesting to see how much times have changed. You have made me feel old and for once I am glad of that feeling.

    • bojanglesk8 profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting, thanks.

    • rgarnett profile image

      Rachael Fields 

      8 years ago from KC, MO

      I never realized how much I relied on a calculator. But for the most simple of math, a calculator is my first choice. I don't do it in my head, ever, but if need be, I can do it on paper and on my fingers ;P I admit, I didn't know how to give change back when I worked in a fast food place and their register broke. It was embarrassing, but I know how to do it now! I can't believe that people can't write in cursive. Its very rare that I do write in cursive, but I know how to! That's ridiculous that there are people who don't. I am fascinated by that fact. Well done on the hub, you bring up very well written points.

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 

      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Everything you say is so true. Makes you wonder what another future generation will be like. Will they know how to spell at all? Will we have carpenters who don´t how to count or measure or divide.?????

      Great hub. Thank you.

    • Hummingbird5356 profile image


      8 years ago

      Children still need to learn to do things without the use of computers and calculators. If they cannot do anything without using a machine then it would appear that they are almost illiterate. They are not using their brains. If a generation only depends on machines then a time will come, not very far away, when there will be no more development and it will be only one more step to humanity being controlled. Then we will have arrived at the world that science fiction writers wrote about.

      We cannot deny that computers are here to stay but children should be made to use their brains for school work.

      A good hub which raises interesting material for further discussion.

    • Wendy Krick profile image

      Wendy Krick 

      8 years ago from Maryland

      When I was in high school calculators were frowned upon. Now it is mandatory. Times have changed. Great Hub.

    • LeanMan profile image


      8 years ago from At the Gemba

      When I went to school our maths teacher banned the use of calculators in the class. (I'm not so old that we only had slates and chalk!)

      His view was that using a calculator with no understanding of what the answer should be would often lead to us accepting clearly wrong answers without questioning them.

      I still rarely use a calculator even as an adult.

      I ran my own bar for several years, the younger people that I had working for me had no idea of how to keep track of the cost of any tab!

    • Pro Design Source profile image

      Pro Design Source 

      8 years ago

      Interesting hub. I don't think that all of the advances are necessarily bad. I am happy to report that both of my kids can write in cursive & do math problems without a calculator. I am not happy to report that I was asked to sign a permission slip for a 10 yr old to watch PG-13 movies in school!

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      8 years ago from Tampa Bay

      fascinating. it's amazing what has taken place in the last 20 years. even in the preschool classroom some 3 year olds are already very efficient using computer games. it's like it is completely natural to them. they learn easily and absorb so much at this age, it becomes part of their brain structure. thanks for a great read.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      8 years ago from Northern, California

      I am a strong believer in knowing how to derive the formula or decypher the situation. The dramatic changes in kid culture take on real meat as we move deeper into the tech world. Nicely presented hub. Thanks for the read!


    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I think children should be able to write in cursive despite commuters. We learned to multiply and divide in our heads and I've never lost that ability. I think children should be taught truthful history as well. Computers and calculators aren't always available. I do agree that they need to learn other languages and science is very important. Interesting hub.

    • LillyGrillzit profile image

      Lori J Latimer 

      8 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Thank you for this compelling and up-to-date, informative Hub!


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