Students need to learn how to write and mail physical letters by @JohnKaiser13

The other day, I was walking through campus on my way to work out at the gym. As I passed a group (of three) male students talking with one another, I could not help but overhear the following conversation – which blew my mind:

Student 1: I did not realise that you could actually write a letter and send the letter through the mail system to another person…I had to learn how to write the address in the correct place on the envelope. That is the address of the place that you want to send the letter to. I had to learn how to figure out how many stamps to put on the envelope to send the letter.

Wow. Really?

With the technological change of the internet coming into mainstream use along with ‘smart devices’, the ability to perform what was once considered ‘normal tasks’ are now outsourced to these devices. Which is supposed to make our lives easier, but does it? What happens when the power fails? What happens when there are no useful ‘electrons’ emerging from the ‘wall socket’ to charge your phone/device? What then?

Generation Z is the new generation which spans youth to early college years. We (older people like myself and my elders) forget that the new generation probably doesn’t even know about the terrible disaster of 9/11 – the terrible attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I find myself having to remind myself that my clients (students – undergraduates and Master’s students) are likely to have missed the milestone events such as 9/11. What a revelation it is to realise that a portion of the population does not know about the historical day that America was most vulnerable to attack?

With that being said, what other events/historical practices have gone unnoticed is an area of inquiry. I guess that in order to understand if the student or youth know what you are talking about, we just have to ask questions like the following:

  1. Do you know what a record player is? How about a record?
  2. How about a tape upon which music is recorded?
  3. How about a Compact Disc player?
  4. Do you know how to write a cheque?
  5. Do you know what a ‘pager’ is?
  6. Do you know how to use a fax machine?
  7. Do you know how to manually roll up a car window?
  8. Do you know how to write a receipt to a customer?
  9. Do you know how to perform long/short math in your head? Without a calculator?
  10. Do you know how to send money through a wire transfer? How about purchasing a “cashier’s cheque”?
  11. Do you balance a chequebook?
  12. How many phone numbers do you have memorised? Do you memorise phone numbers anymore?
  13. Do you have a “land line” or “rotary phone” at home? Have you ever used one?
  14. Do you know how to use a ‘pay phone’?
  15. Do you know how to use an ‘ATM’?
  16. When was the last time that you went inside the bank to conduct business — i.e. withdrawal/deposit/manage accounts?

Questions like those above will give the reader an idea of the type of person that he/she is dealing with. Unfortunately, each of us probably assumes that younger generations have this historical knowledge – either from experience (direct or indirect) or have been taught at some time in their previous years of life.


The realisation is that each of us needs to be receptive that younger generations are not used to using old technology. Further, there are some methods of conducting business which the youth of today will have absolutely no idea of how to operate or enjoy. Writing a letter is a basic skill that each of us takes for granted — evidently. In the future, these disparities will become greater and possibly present a problem. Although, recently, a post office was planning to shut down in our neighbourhood. Maybe using these skills will be an experience/skill of the past.

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Hello Everyone, My name is Mike and I am an instrument manager in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at California State University at Northridge (USA). I am interested in the dissemination of science knowledge to the public at large. Part of the motivation behind blogging is to demystify the life of a scientist to the public. This includes how scientists view various statistics and facts that are presented in the popular news. Furthermore, to verify the statistics and facts through approximations using publicly available resources on the internet. I believe that elevating the scientific knowledge of the public will result in a more environmentally friendly (sustainable) citizenship on the planet and better science policy on a local governmental level. A more informed public is a healthier public. My twitter handle is @johnkaiser13. I write at the blog site: Please feel free to comment and share concerns and thoughts on future blog topics. I look forward to sharing my blogs with you in the future. Have a great day! Sincerely, J. Mike Kaiser


  1. Hello Writer,

    Thank you for your comment/initiation of a discussion of my article above. I do agree that this topic is an open ended discussion with a varying degree of answers depending on the person responding. Heading into the future, the younger generations will define the type of society in which we live simply by design. That is my immediate answer. Great question in response, I will have to think about the topic further. I need to ‘superimpose’ my nephews over your question – use them as an example. A thought experiment if you will. I will return to the discussion in the near future. Have a great weekend.


    J. Mike Kaiser

  2. You are right, the ability to write still alive (not electronic) letters and papers is still an actual skill. You are right that now the new generation absolutely does not know our old things, they do not understand why we need brands, how the old player works and why such a large box at the old TV. They grew up on Steven Job’s – iPhones and iPods. On the Internet and free Wi-Fi, isn’t it?:) But is it a big problem for this generation and do they need these skills, will they need them in the future? I think this is an open question for discussion and the answers will be different, what do you think?

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