Category Archives: Youth

It was a bruising semester, probably the most difficult I’ve ever experienced. Some students disappeared for weeks. Others made no discernible effort to prepare for classes, and sat in the back of the room listlessly scrolling their phones. One came to every meeting and spent most of the time complaining loudly to anyone who would listen that the course requirements were ridiculous, even unjust. He also told me he googled the assigned novels rather than read them. (And still, incredibly, he was shocked to receive less than full credit for the work he submitted.)

Many arrived late. Some refused to buy the required books. Virtually none were inclined to remember much of anything from one class to the next. As weeks passed, the collective antipathy became palpable. A passive-aggressive resentment at being asked to read lapsed into putty-eyed indifference punctuated by sporadic flickers of contempt. We have become something like galley slaves on a foundering ship, I thought at one point, taking on water yet too dispirited to swim.

Every other faculty member I spoke with agreed that Spring was intolerable. One suggested that even by the standards of the post-iPhone era– that watershed moment when the internet’s ubiquity was perfected, thus gutting the attention spans of the world– this semester was a bust. I know teachers who have given up on asking their students to complete long form texts. The most they can handle, a colleague remarked, are excerpts, possibly poems, though reading comprehension levels seem to have declined to such a degree that any effort to move beyond the most literal, superficial level of meaning poses a challenge. His curriculum consists primarily of visual art now.

I’ve always had students in my courses who didn’t like the material and frankly didn’t like me. That’s just how it goes. But I can honestly say I’ve never before witnessed an alienation this implacable. It seems that an entire cohort of students is on the brink. Their intellectual stamina has been vaporized by endless shock waves of digital stimulus. They have been carefully instructed in regimes of pop psychological self-care yet are confronted by imploding conditions no institution appears able or even willing to arrest. They have been locked into habits of mind dictated by algorithms the only purpose of which is to accumulate likes and cash. Shackled to their benches, their chains are a source of cold comfort.

Gamin (303)

gamin, n. and adj.
Brit.   /ˈɡamɪn/,    /ɡaˈmã/,  U.S.   /ˈɡæmən/
Frequency (in current use):
Origin: A borrowing from French. Etymon: French gamin.
Etymology: < French gamin (1805; 1803 in the more general meaning ‘young boy’; 1765 denoting a glassmaker’s assistant), further etymology uncertain.
A suggestion that the French word is a borrowing (with remodelling after words in -in -ine suffix4) < German regional (Alemannic) Gammel uproar, row (or a related word in the same family) is very uncertain.

N.E.D. (1898) gives only the pronunciation (gamæṅ) /ɡamæ̃/.
A. n.

  A neglected boy who has been left to run about the streets; a street urchin, a guttersnipe; (more generally) a streetwise or impudent child. Also in extended use.
Originally in French and French-speaking contexts.
1832   Leicester Chron. 16 June   The coach..was being drawn by a mob of gamins along the quay.
1840   Thackeray Paris Sketch Bk. I. 12   There are the little gamins mocking him.
1864   F. W. Robinson Mattie x. 25   One Kent Street gamin out on business and dodging the policeman behind a Patent Safety.
1873   C. M. Yonge Pillars of House (1880) I. vi. 134   ‘Our little gamin has the most of the Good Samaritan in him,’ said Mr. Audley.
1907   ‘N. Blanchan’ Birds Every Child should Know viii. 108   How wonderfully that saucy little gamin, the English sparrow, has adjusted himself to this new land!
1927   Amer. Mercury July 291/1   The diapered young saint..approached a crowd of gamins playing in the gutter.
1977   N. Shepherd Living Mountain viii. 57   A voice by my side asked: ‘Is this the way to Ben MacDhui?’ and looking down I saw what at first glance I took to be a street gamin of eleven.
2006   New Yorker 25 Sept. 106/1,   I would have grown up in unquestioned Orthodoxy, tough little cocksure fisticuffian gamin.
B. adj.

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