I was listening to Skepticality the other day and I heard something that always annoys me, because I hear it so often. Basically a scientist was lamenting about “young people” don’t get things because they’re “moving at an MTV pace” and “if it isn’t flashing on You Tube they don’t listen at all”. He looks “at the younger generation…and it’s hard to get them to focus on something that lasts more than 60 seconds.”
Well, that just boils my potato.
Yes, gee, why wouldn’t they listen to condescending garbage like that, Dr. Donald Prothero? I wonder. Could it be, could it, that young people are completely willing to listen but it’s just that they don’t like pompous statements like that to preface the information?
Okay, let’s say for the sake of argument that what he is saying is true and “youngins” do get all of their information from 60-seconds-or-less You Tube clips…where are all his science videos that match that description? If that’s what the “older” generation thinks they’re listening to, then why don’t they do that more?
Well, actually many scientists DO do that. You can find many videos from the JREF, the Skeptic’s Society, Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer, etc. on You Tube. Also, there are many entertaining science podcasts (such as the one Dr. Prothero was ON, which was about an hour long by the way!) that young people listen to. In fact it’s my understanding that a lot of the main audience for the astronomy podcast I listen to (gasp!) is high school students.
Those would be the shows put on by those scientists who DON’T sit around complaining about how unwilling to learn they all are.
So are youth the problem? I don’t agree. First of all, I think that traditional forms of media still work for those who want to find it and for those who produce it well. For those who don’t, there are alternatives that some scientists are willing to acknowledge and participate in. People of any age respond to entertaining, concise, non-pretentious, possibly comedic/satirical, factual media no matter what form it takes.
The bottom line is, if people change how they get information, it is the scientist’s job to accommodate and disseminate appropriately. It is NOT the scientist’s job to throw up his/her hands and complain about how “young people” are a bunch of ADHD-laden MTV kids who like to watch their fingers fing all day long, thereby alienating him/herself from the masses along with science itself. This attitude does nothing to better the relationship between the scientist and newly-developing scientific minds and only furthers the stereotype that we are all a bunch of stuffy, lab-coat-wearing know-it-alls. Want to teach young people about science and attract them to the field? Then TEACH them! Oh and by the way, don’t treat them like idiots in the process. Thanks.