When it comes to discussions about tech skills and disparities between generations, it’s often framed as a young version old thing. The old people grew up before tech, so they don’t know how it works and struggle to learn it, whereas the young people are apparently all super tech savvy because they grew up with the internet and smartphones and know how to use them.
It’s the same old story, and the centrepiece of pretty much every article and video on the subject online.
However, while there is a kernel of truth in this, I also feel the theory misses something. That it misses another few groups who may have left ‘out of touch’ when it comes to tech despite supposedly being young enough to have grown up alongside it.
And those are younger millennials and older generation Z members who grew up before tech went ‘mainstream’.
Let me explain.
Basically, nowadays schools teach technology better than they ever did before. Kids are learning how to ‘code’ in school, computer science is taken at least somewhat seriously, and even things like how to find reliable info online or use the internet safely is making its way into the system.
This means that kids today are somewhat knowledgeable about tech when they leave school. They made not be expert programmers ready for Google no, but they know at least something about the field, and have been given experience in it by a curriculum that was at least designed for this century.
Yet that didn’t use to be the case. Oh no, up until at least the mid 00s, schools were so bad at teaching technology that IT was a complete joke.
(At least in the UK. No idea about the US or elsewhere)
This meant that anyone growing up then got a pretty useless education overall. No programming, barely any computer science stuff, nothing about the internet or its uses in general.
Instead, we got ‘Microsoft Office 101’. Or in other words… here’s how to use mailmerge in Microsoft Word, how to do a few things in PowerPoint and Excel, and if lucky… the very basics on how to build a website with some crappy WYSIWYG tool.
Actually wait, I’ll rephrase that. How to build a ‘webpage’ in a Word processor or desktop publishing tool, since a depressing number of schools thought ‘web development’ was ‘save as HTML in Microsoft Word’.
Meanwhile even using a WYSIWYG editor was somehow treated as sixth form (American high school) level IT, and college/university level wasn’t much better. It was like no one had any idea what they doing, and even less took it seriously.
And it functionally screwed over a lot of people as a result. It set up a legion of young people who have no idea how technology works at all, and still see things like software engineering as some sort of unlearnable sorcery.
Oh, and they’re not just kids from many decades ago either. No, these are kids who grew up in the 90s and early 00s, many of whom are only just entering the workforce now (or who have only worked for a few years ago or so). People whose entire future likely depends on understanding technology if they want to stay ahead of automation and its effects on job losses.
Meanwhile their younger competition who do know these things have a major advantage over them in every way. They know at least the fundamentals of having programming works, got a basic grounding of CS in school and in many cases got offered extra curriculur activities and bootcamps to build up their skills even further.
So how are the older people meant to compete here? How are the people who grew up in a school used to teaching typewriter usage 101 meant to function in a society which has moved on to computers and programming?
They’re not. They’re gonna have to learn everything themselves from the ground up, and hope there’s a company willing to take a chance when they’re ready.
It’s a bad situation all round.
And it’s one which makes me think;
How are we supposed to deal with a fast changing society when our education system is slow, inefficient and takes decades to catch up to the times?
How do we move beyond a situation where school teachers and professors are like generals fighting the last war?
What is the solution to stop generations beyond the ‘cut off point’ from falling through the cracks?
We need an answer, and fast.
Thanks for reading!