|I read - Tarek Chemaly|
"Everyone's attention span has shortened", "people, especially the youth, get bored easily", "better to have small snippets here and there than a full article". I am not negating all of this, and having taught at university level since 2005 I do know there is a shift in focus, in patience, as to how things were.
But of course, like all issues - this is a complex one. I often hear other teachers saying "the level of students has dropped" - but the result ends up cyclical - based on the assumption that the level of students has dropped, less effort is being done to follow up on them, put pressure on them, force them to dig up facts, tell them it is no shame not to know things because university is supposed to teach you, and so on.
Oddly, and even with all these changes, I do not think the level dropped - interests have shifted, that is all. Whereas I come from a generation where you had to wait so as for radio to play you favorite song, today's kid (not even teen) goes to youtube, selects whatever he wants and listens to it. Ciara released "Paint It Black" and my nephew, now 11, put part of it as his whatsapp photo. I asked him if he knew that the song was originally by the Rolling Stones (I remember it growing up as the jingle of Tour Of Duty that C33 - Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation's younger sister channel used to broadcast) and backed my claim with a youtube link obviously.
Long story short (or long blog post short), there exists an audience, as long as we start from the point of not underestimating the said audience. What works with my nephew, also works with university students whom I know are incapable of grasping some of the things I say - but still, my retort is "jot it down and look for it on google later".
The other assumption I also learned, is that no "culture" is better than another. By culture I do not mean west Anglo-Saxon vs Arabophonic as it was the norm of clash in the 80s as I was growing up - at the time either you were into Kim Wilde or into Dalida Rahme, no midway. However, the kind of culture I speak of - is basically anything. Whether you know all of late Faten Hamama's movies by heart or think Kubrick is God's gift to humanity, any culture is a good culture. It is not unheard of for the songs of Nancy Ajram to cohabitate with Beyonce's in many-a-mix or for people to know both - the classic Abdel Halim Hafez and the Elissa version (which she released this year) of "Awal Marra".
And yes, it is easy to fall into the "they don't make them like they used to" trap, with every generation claiming their own artistic product (whatever the medium) being "better" (i.e. deeper and intellectually more stimulating) than the generation that came after them. That is not true, for we often forget that our assessment includes our emotional experiences related to the cultural products in question, and most of what is called "fann al habet" (the descending art - or low quality art) of the 80s musical scene in Lebanon are known as the classics these days (of the period in question) in terms of songs or films.
Truth be told, whereas I do not listen to much music due to my hearing disability, I thought Kanye West's Yeezus was fantastic, and that My Only One (from the album) on which he collaborates with Paul McCartney is truly a gem. Fun fact: Many of Kanye's fans had no clue who this "Paul McCartney" is predicting "Kanye is going to give this man a career w/ this song" or "who tf is paul mccartney? this is why i love kanye for shining light on unknown artists".
Which of course, goes back cyclically to my original argument, if someone younger does not know something, you actually teach them about it. I am sure, a couple of generations down the line when someone reintroduces Kanye to a younger audience, there's be reactions of the "who tf this kanye is" kind. Just remember, they do make them like they used to.
And do not dumb people down assuming they will not read.
If you read this far, you just proved my point.