Usually, this kind of story wouldn’t make it to the pages of Giant Freakin’ Robot, because, well, it’s not even a real story. It’s just a gentleman sharing his astute opinions. But when that gentleman happens to be Trevor Baylis, the 75-year-old Officer of the Order of the British Empire, you tend to not take his words for granted. The man is a stunt diver turned inventor, gaining patents for “Orange Aids,” a series of products which helped disabled people grip and maneuver everyday objects, as well as the modern wind-up radio, which he was inspired to create in response to the African AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s. Did you catch that? A stunt diver! One who could probably build a Giant Freakin’ Robot!
But seriously, Baylis is a well-spoken, top-notch kind of guy. And he smokes a pipe, so I don’t think I need to qualify his expertise any more than I already have. For an interview with the U.K.’s Daily Mail, Baylis spoke out in reference to what he calls the “Google generation,” young people who spend more time with their hands on mice and keyboards over everything else, and how this lack of hands-on activities is killing creativity.
However computers get used later in life, Baylis says children should be brought up using their hands to invent things, decreasing an instant reliance on electronic devices. He goes on to say one of the best things I’ve heard in a while: “They should use computers as and when, but there are so many people playing with their computers nowadays that spend all their time sitting there with a stomach.” As a guy currently sitting in front of a computer with a stomach, I think he’s onto something. “They are dependent on Google searches. A lot of kids will become fairly brain-dead if they become so dependent on the Internet, because they will not be able to do things the old-fashioned way.”
Baylis credits his youth of Meccano toys — Erector sets to Americans — for his lifelong fascination with inventing. He thinks classrooms today should start children out on materials for creating such as these, rather than immediately logging them into the computer world. “If you brought Meccano back into primary or secondary schools then you’d have class one against class two – you’ve got four hours to make the Sydney Harbour Bridge and we’ll see which one is the strongest.”
I’m 30 and I’ve been talking about “today’s kids” for years, and I’m completely on board with this train of thought. If given a choice between my daughter playing with Legos, or playing with a Cookie Monster app on my phone, I want to see what she can build…while I play with the Cookie Monster app. I have nothing against early influences by computers, but not as a sole means of learning. Do you guys think there is any credence to this notion?