“We live in a society that we have everything basically handed to us…”

Interesting sentence structure. Had he written “where” instead of “that”—in other words, had he written an adverb clause rather than an adjective clause—the comfort level would have risen to “normal,” even with that intrusive “basically” that seems to qualify just about every youthful utterance.

But that’s not what’s interesting about this sentence. What’s interesting is the sentence that follows, the sentence that explains the first, the sentence that sheds light on the kind of society we actually DO live in, and the understanding far too many students have of what we mean by “research,” or possibly what students think language instructors intend when they assign translation exercises:

“We live in a society that we have everything basically handed to us. If someone tells you that you need to translate a document or an article for one of your classes, most people don’t think twice, they open a page at the Internet and in a few seconds everything is there ready for them to copy.”

Don’t bother to worry about the run-on sentence that results from an incorrect use of the comma, and don’t bother to worry about the switch from “we” and “us,” to “you,” to “people” and “them.” Worry,really worry, about what our students are doing with their brains while their eyes look and their mouse selects and pastes.

Even infants don’t content themselves with just the things that are handed to them. Should we be infantilizing the rising generation—or worse, allowing them to completely cede control of their lives to “a page at the Internet”?


About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

6 responses to ““We live in a society that we have everything basically handed to us…”

  • kitchenmudge

    Typo Monster says “Yum!”
    “…what language instructors intent…”

    Online translations, crude as they are, are really, really helpful when there’s just a word or two that you can’t remember. Much faster than a dictionary. Having said that, yes, I wonder whether the student would understand just HOW crude such translations are.

  • RAB

    You caught the typo before I could correct it….but I’m correcting it now~Thanks!

    I too have used online translations when in haste, and when I wasn’t trying to learn something. On the other hand, some of my fondest memories are those evenings back in high school when my best friend and I tied up the family phone as we worked through our Latin homework together. Genuinely exciting!

  • philosophermouseofthehedge

    A real concern here. Research is showing effects of computers on brains. There was also concern about attention span development when kids watch Sesame Street with all the rapid shifts of topics. It will be interesting.

    • RAB

      Absolutely, phil. I do worry about this a lot. I am blaming computers partly at least for the upturn in ADD. In fact, I think I’m developing it thanks to the Internet….not actually kidding!

  • yearstricken

    I wonder if your student should have written “most people don’t think once” instead of “think twice.”

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