Generational Differences

At college, for a final in Pat Spang’s philosophy class (19th Century Philosophy, I think), I wrote about red m&ms. The point I made was that with the recent inclusion of red m&ms in packages of candies, the children of the day (1987) would have a different outlook on life than those of us who were older.

Why? Because a nine-year old in 1987 would think that red m&ms were new much like blue stars being added to Lucky Charms cereal. But the rest of society knew that red m&ms were being reintroduced after being off the market for 11 years. The red dye was claimed to be carcinogenic in 1976. It was never proved to be the case and the Mars Company didn’t use that dye, but pulled the candy nonetheless.

Anyhow, we now had two perspectives on the same event—forever a rift in understanding between the generations. I am certain it was not the first nor will it be the last.

I use that as a preface for as a teacher I have noted some differences between my students and the rest of us. This year’s students have introduced a new difference. I have never encountered this before.

Sometimes we speak in vagaries. We’ll say something like I bought a bicycle five or 10 years ago. That sounds like a normal sentence to us.

My students this year would say that sentence this way:

I bought a bicycle 10 or five years ago.

Huh? Why the larger number first? This isn’t a one-time thing. This is all the time with the majority of my students. Where does this come from? How do I correct it?

Trust me, I have emphasized that we always begin with the smaller number first. That has not produced results.

I also don’t remember ever being taught this. What has happened in our society that produced this shift?

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