Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nerdy Dolphins

I used to teach 13th Gen, a good book written by two Baby Boomers about Generation X, which came out when Gen X was still in college. One innovation of the book was that the authors, Neil Howe and William Strauss, posted their developing thoughts on the younger generation on an electronic bulletin board, inviting comment. One persistent respondent, then a college student, eventually provided such useful feedback that his comments were included in the published book, under the name "Crasher."

Crasher's first response, though, was highly skeptical. He wrote:

Pardon me for interrupting, but this has to be one of the silliest things I've ever seen on this network. Don't you know that categorizing and defining stuff that you have no clue about is one of the fatal flaws of being a baby boomer? You guys sound like nerdy dolphins talking about hang gliding.
I have found the category of "nerdy dolphins" to be very useful when someone who knows one thing is pronouncing confidently on another - grossly missing some elementary points. I am no doubt guilty of being a nerdy dolphin more often than I know.

I have been immersed in family sociology, which obsesses on the subject of the balancing the obligations, as well as the great pleasures, of work and family. There is a large scholarly community in sociology, family studies, economics, and beyond, studying this subject. Beyond the academics, there is an immense popular literature, much of it based on research, aimed at working parents who are trying to rightly juggle their several competing duties. So I could only react with wonder today when I read a noted scholar of leisure write this:

"Obligation outside that experienced while pursuing a livelihood is terribly understudied (much of it falls under the heading of family and/or domestic life …)”

Nerdy dolphin.

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