LJWorld.com weblogs Lauren Keith

I am an ageist.


http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Nov/09/Baby.jpg Photo by hyperscholar, creative commons

I keep a running mental list of the strange, time-consuming ways that my professors access Google. While everyone else in class is happily chatting and ignoring him, I watch my confused professor go to the Start menu … find Firefox … open Firefox. Loading, please wait.

My blood starts to boil as he announces to the class that he is going to do a Google search, which sounds like a thinly veiled cry for help. After blankly staring at the computer screen for a few more minutes, he finally finds that elusive Google buried in his list of bookmarks, and 15 minutes later, class can finally begin. I shudder to think how many times this scenario repeats itself on the KU campus, across the country or even in my own life.

Unfortunately, this has turned me into a discriminator. I am an ageist.

Ageism is usually the negative stereotyping against people based solely on their age. Wikipedia frighteningly categorizes it with other elements of discrimination, such as race wars, genocide and slavery, which is light-years away from me (a 21 year old) fearing the technological abilities of pentagenarians.

But ageism has very real repercussions, especially in journalism school. I think I’m on the cusp of some generation, a group of soon-to-be graduates who are expected to know how to use Photoshop, HTML and Twitter but many of whom slip through the cracks because they can’t write well or punctuate.

As KU’s School of Journalism is looking to change its curriculum to buddy up with the onslaught of social media, I have to wonder who will be learning from this help session, the students or the professors?

Journalism shouldn’t ignore technology, but if we stray too far from our core of teaching good writing, we could fail an entire generation of students.

Facebook, Twitter or Google Maps won't stop newspapers from dying. But good writing might.

— Lauren Keith


Mel Briscoe 8 years, 3 months ago

okay, so which age range do you have a prejudice against? all you said in your article is that you are an ageist and you gave the definition. you never said how old you are, how old your professor is or, like i said, the basic age range of folks who find it hard to google and get on your last nerve is?

please elaborate.

Lauren Keith 8 years, 3 months ago


I included a piece of that information when I said "pentagenarians" (people age 50-60). And I just updated to include that I'm 21. Thanks for the comment.

Mel Briscoe 8 years, 3 months ago

okay, thanks for clarifying.

all i can say is, i am gen X: just turned 42 years old a couple of weeks ago. my younger cousin, who is in his late 20s and therefore is gen Y, doesn't want an email address, a facebook page or anything else of the sort because he doesn't understand that sort of thing. mind you, his house is chock-full of technology (XBox 360, everyone has cell phones, their PC has internet-- for what i'm not really sure) but this dude started acting really weird, obstinate and defiantly resistant when i suggested that he get a facebook page-- after all, it is FREE).

okay, flip the script, my cousin's and my great-aunt (our grandmother's sister) is about to turn 80, has an email address, plays online poker and is NOT opposed to getting a facebook page... i told her i'd try to make it over to her house and would set one up for her.

not that facebook (or any of the social networking sites) is the epitome of technology but i think you get what i mean... i see that kind of stuff in different age groups and i do agree that it is rather annoying. my boyfriend is highly irritated by such things as well, as he's mentioned it rather frequently. lol

i will say, thought, that the boomers are catching up... i see quite a few of them at the library, logging on, ordering things online and watching youtube. maybe i should tell one of those hip oldsters to contact your professor... oh, and i'll tell them to call-- don't email. lol ;)

Ronda Miller 8 years, 3 months ago

I need to be driven very slowly to a retirement center. Please make it in a warm climate and don't forget my reading glasses.

Lauren, Damn straight you're an ageist. We all are until we experience prejudice first hand. You think we don't see you rolling your eyes as we ask a "stupid" question about cell phones, computer, television hookups, iPhones, black and blue berries! You think we don't remember how patient we were teaching you how to tie your shoes and wipe your bottom when your life depended on us? How we helped you memorize spelling words and reminded you not to cross the street. How many times we bit our tongues to keep from rushing you when we could have done it better and faster!

I suggest you march your young self in and apologize to that professor. He is doing the best he can with what he's got. Maybe! :) And you might get a better grade if you stay after class and teach him how to use his computer.

All kidding aside, there are quite a few highly tech people who can run circles around people of any age when it comes to anything - you name it! I don't know this from personal experience, but I have heard it exists out there, somewhere.

RoeDapple 8 years, 3 months ago

I type about 14 to 16 words per minute (seriously!)

Ask some of the above, I google at light speed!

(A Baby Boomer who savors the moments he can...)

labmonkey 8 years, 3 months ago

I would be happy if people came into the 21st century and use debit cards at the grocery store. I hate being in line and see the old lady or even obstinate soccer mom pull out their checkbook and slowly write a check. Use a damn debit card and write the total on your ledger if you don't have or are too stupid to use online banking!!!

Mel Briscoe 8 years, 3 months ago

ronda, BEAUTIFUL post! you are so eloquent, humorous and at the same time, oddly poignant. i can only aspire to be the writer that you are. :)

Mel Briscoe 8 years, 3 months ago

monk, i used to be one of those debit card afficianados but, alas, i no longer am... i admitedly don't keep track of my debit transactions (i always relied on online banking instead of writing it in a ledger-- big mistake!). i now use cash or write checks. i am a pretty fast writer tho-- so i don't think i was one of those "soccer moms" who you got stuck behind in line. ;P

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 3 months ago

Well, I am sixty-four and know quite well how to use a computer. For the love of pete, it took him fifteen minutes to get into google? Someone this dumb should not be a professor. I have folders on my bookmarks so I can find anything I want. This man is not aware of the address bar where you can type in google.com?' If he is teaching from google I would not have a lot of respect for him as a professor. He probably has tenure so, like the Supreme Court Justices, he is there for life. Do some research on professors at KU and try not to get in the class of someone like this if it can be avoided.

Ronda Miller 8 years, 3 months ago

I suspect the author of this blog has a different 'time frame' then he may have. What is fifteen minutes to her is actually one minute in his world. Everything, and I mean everything takes on new meaning as you age. Hopefully respect for the elderly and the intelligence they use to 'decidedly' move slowly will be one that most young people learn.

What is the reason to rush through life? Seriously, so we can die faster! Slow down and enjoy the wait, talk to whomever is beside you in line. And trust that their way may not be your way, but it may be the best for them. Chances are the person using the check isn't up to their eyebrows in debt........

And now everyone knows what an old bag/hag I am. I'd cry but then you would all think I was related to Marion. ;)

Mel, I hope you signed up to write a novel this month! If so let me know how it is going for you. I am on target....well, err...sorta.

mom_of_three 8 years, 3 months ago

I used to write checks all the time, but now rely on the debit card. But I used to make out everything on the check but the amount as I was standing in line. Those who wait until they get to the checkout stand and watch all the items go through before they even write the check are the ones I would like to shake silly. Course the ones who wait to scan their card after all the items are through kind of drive me nuts also, especially if they have trouble with credit vs debit.

Mel Briscoe 8 years, 3 months ago

momX3, i agree... atleast have your hand on your checkbook and pen so that you can start scribbling as soon as that last item is rung up! as for debit cards, they are a big no no for me, as i previously stated. i'm glad you are more responsible when it comes to those little plastic things. and credit cards... what are those? i haven't had one of those for several years now.

Mel Briscoe 8 years, 3 months ago

ronda, yes i did sign up for the novel writing contest and thus far am having a blast! i have a good dent knocked into that 50K word goal, girl... i'm gonna get there! even if i have to type over and over again "all work and no play..."


Boston_Charley 8 years, 3 months ago

Not sure I completely understand the point of this entry. 1) A 50-ish professor is annoyingly slow while using a computer 2) Ageism leads to technologically proficient, yet linguistically compromised, journalism students.
4) The writer isn't pleased with the direction the journalism school is taking. These follow from each other how? The writer sounds like a cranky old fart. Cranky old fartness has no age limits.

Kirk Larson 8 years, 3 months ago

The best thing about ageist young people: Knowing they are going to get old and there's a crop of arrogant even younger kids coming up right behind them.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 3 months ago

It sounds to me like the professor didn't have any idea what he was going to do when he stepped into the classroom. He could have given the class a list of things to google and they could have done that anywhere on their laptops. I am sixty-four, did I say that before? Well, I get pissed at "old people" who take forever at the checkout, or who creep ahead of me in line when I am trying to get it done and out so I can catch my bus. I also don't see any reason why those riding carts cannot go faster. It does get irritating going so slow.

rse1979 8 years, 3 months ago

What you got against 3's, Boston_Charley? 3-ist!

Frederic Gutknecht IV 8 years, 3 months ago

Lauren, I'm afraid you may have eaten too many Soylent Green wafers. I think you have developed Mad Pentagenarian Disease!~) Don't worry. It's all the rage!

Boston_Charley 8 years, 3 months ago

rse1979-- woops, guess ageism made me a bad proofreader. Or else I've just gotten way too old to count!

Mel Briscoe 8 years, 3 months ago

maybe he was just an old fart like charley suggested, mult.

kmat 8 years, 3 months ago

Lauren just seems to be an immature 21 year old. I remember my parents telling me how I'd grow up one day and realize that they weren't stupid. Fortunately for me, I figured it out before I was 21. Looks like Lauren hasn't reached that point yet and still thinks only young kids have any brains. Don't worry Lauren, one day you'll be older and brats like yourself will be disrespectful to you because they think you're old and slow.

Did your parents teach you any respect for your elders?

jayhawklawrence 8 years, 3 months ago

I have just turned to the age where I can finally start getting discounts at restaurants. I have always loved writing but I also love technology. One of my passions since the mid 80's has been computers and software. I have studied and written programs in many programming languages and currently am learning to program Android phones, all for fun.

After 9/11 I was unemployed and decided to go back to school for a year full time. Many of my classes were writing or computer programming classes. One class was a computer hardware class and I had a lab and a partner who worked as a tech for a Lawrence company. He was about 25 with an attitude and in one class I watched him tear apart our computer with that attitude that says, "stay out of my way old man."

Well, I knew we had to put it back together. I watched knowing that he was going to have problems and after allowing to sit there behind a pile of parts with a frustrated and lost look I asked if he might give the "old man" a try.

15 minutes later, the PC was back together.

Never judge a book by its cover, or the amount of grey in an old man's hair.

It's funny that this young person is probably still fixing computers for a living. No one would hire me for that job. I'm too old.

Lauren Keith 8 years, 3 months ago


Thanks for your feedback. I don't doubt that there are many "old" people who are great at using technology. That's the trouble you get in with any -ism — it's a generalization.

I'm still trying to figure out my place and my generation's place in pointing out to older people how to use Twitter, Google, etc. I don't want to come off rude, and frankly, I know that some students enjoy keeping silent about how to work the computer or projection system — it could mean that class will be canceled if it's not figured out!

I have great respect for my elders, and I know that I can learn a lot from anyone, young or old. But I don't need to learn how to use Twitter in journalism school or how to do research using Google. Teach me something I haven't figured out myself.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 3 months ago

lauren I think you wrote a good blog and have nothing to apolosize for. People don't automatically get smarter or wiser as they get older. Sometimes they just get vain, creaky and obnoxious. I think people should be respected because of who they are not because of their age. Children deserve respect also.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 3 months ago

Slow down everybody. How much time does it actually take to write a check? Who is in such a big hurry that they can't wait that long. We should all slow down and smell the roses. My grandson is a whizz on the computer, but I can still add up numbers in my head faster. He's allowed to use a calculator in school. I never was. Theres a lot to be said for slowing down a little.

jayhawklawrence 8 years, 3 months ago

I was probably 13 when I discovered that I knew everything.

My daughter started a little earlier.

We are in the phase where I am learning right and wrong from a teenager and seeing myself all over again.

Life is good.

BigPrune 8 years, 3 months ago

Banks want people to use debit cards because they make more money, not just from the merchant but also fee income from people who rely on debit / internet banking. Of course those are never up to date if you try to balance your checkbook online and banks count on people overdrafting their account - especially college students. I know, I used to be a banker - no lie. If you notice some of their advertisements - they try to stigmatize people who don't swipe their card.

The smart thing is to pay cash or write a check and try to have patience. Does anyone have any patience anymore? I keep wondering if I should throw my cell phone away. Remember how life was without the cell phone?

As for professor taking too much time, perhaps the young lady writing this blog needs to learn patience as well. Google is a great tool, but the key with google is the words you use when you initiate searches. Heck, just last week, I found someone online after over 20 years of no contact. Nobody else could find them - using google. Took me 5 minutes and there were 5 others looking.

Mel Briscoe 8 years, 3 months ago

^^ prune, what you speak is the truth. when my son who just entered college got his first account w/ bank of america i told him to super duper careful when he uses his debit card, to keep his receipts and always be aware his account balance because BOA will penalize the bejeezus out of you if you overdraw w/ that debit card. and, after speaking to several people who had BOA accounts, i realized that this was one of the main ways they make their money. and of course, most of their advertising is centered around the use of their debit cards.

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