Before You Were Born

Depending on when you were born, the photograph above will mean more or less to you. Intergenerational communication (like me sharing this picture with you if you are under 25) occurs everyday. It is never quite clear, however, what has actually been shared when people from different generations look at the same image or hear the same story.  That is why I want to talk about intergenerational comments today and how I have seen them at play this fall at UNC-CH.

In my everyday life at UNC-CH, I listen closely to  intergenerational communication. Specifically, I’d like to talk about two comments I have heard recently. The first one is: “This event happened before you were born.” Instructors say this comment a lot when they are about to share some history that still feels like a current event.

This “before you were born” comment is not about ancient history or even the 1970’s. We are talking here about the 1990s. Let’s practice. “George HW Bush had a dog named Millie before you were born.” “Michael Dukakis rode in a tank before you were born.” Basically, anything that occurred between 1985-1995 is fair game for the “before you were born” comment.  Even if one particular student in the back row remembers Millie, he or she was still in pull-ups so the “before you were born” comment still applies.

The second intergenerational comment that can be useful is to talk about something that happened in 1937 such as Amelia Earhart’s disappearance or in 1945 when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan. Pause. Then, look sternly at your class and say “I wasn’t born then either.” If you deliver this line properly, students will laugh. You probably need to be 40 plus for this strategy to work.

Some students may be surprised  you were not born yet  but that is OK.

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