Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Change Is as Old as Time

Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Change Is as Old as Time

Article excerpt

Not too long ago, I was the guest speaker at a luncheon. The conversation was lively and at one point turned to the topic of the way that kids communicate today. More than one person remarked that their grandchildren always seem to have electronic devices in their hands, texting away at the dinner table or wherever they happen to be. There was general agreement from my lunch companions that the world has changed - and probably not for the better - when teenagers behave in such a way.

I am the father of three tech-sawy children, and so I do agree with some of the sentiments expressed by my luncheon hosts. But the historian in me feels compelled to offer a less-than-profound rejoinder: there is nothing new under the sun. Although the pace of change in our society now seems to increase exponentially, there is a strong thread of continuity in both the change that we all see around us and in our reaction to it.

I am sure that if we could go back in time and observe our early ancestors, we would hear Mesopotamian mothers and fathers in the fourth millennium B.C. complaining that their children refuse to stay at home and would rather roll around on these new-fangled wheels to visit their friends. Certainly the late nineteenth century saw strong negative reactions to the dizzying technological change of the day. In 1890, Mark Twain famously wrote: "It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us . …

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