Tuesday, May 11, 2010

One more to go

I am retiring at the end of the next academic year and none too soon. Even though there is no requirement age at UT its time for me to go. I don't like this generation - and yes I told them that and why. The reason has nothing to do with their bad taste in clothes , music, or propensity to mutilate their bodies with assorted piercings and ink. That is nothing new. I can get quotes from Aristotle to John Stuart Mill to my father and it would sound like they all are talking about today's youth. No it is because of something else. I believe that each generation has about the same percentage of people who are really smart, those who are competent, and those who are mediocre. What makes this generation the absolute worse is that they have at their disposal virtually unlimited cheap information and they do not use it. When I was young, I could not ask my parents "why?" We had an encyclopedia britannica and I had to look up the answer and then go discuss it with my parents. When I was a young assistant professor, I had a carel in the library and in it were tons of books. I would read one, then go into the stacks to get another and the process was seemingly endless. It would take months to research a paper. I then had to get the data put on IBM cards, eventually get the output, write it, get it typed in the typing pool and then circulate for comments and then the process would begin again on the revision. I was lucky to get a publication every other year. Now the basic research can be done in a week and a draft can be out in a month. If I had today's technology when I was 25 there would be no reason why I shouldn't have won a nobel prize by now. In my class I gave an assignment on today's yield curve compared with last week's and last month's. The answer I got was right out of the text book and was wrong. That is because the yield curve's steepness made explanations regarding upward sloping curves problematic. I then told the class that the answer could be found on the internet. The next group of answers were also wrong since most of the students went to Wikipedia or stopped at the first hit instead of doing an in-depth search. So the reason I don't like this generation is because it is the first one where the merely competent and the mediocre have the opportunity to be as informed as the smart ones but aren't because they are intellectually lazy and uncurious. What a waste. I can't wait to retire.

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