Overheard in University Park. In 2010.

I haven’t had such a retro moment since, well, March 25th. But this morning in the coffee line I heard a child ask his mom something about King Henry. She replied, “I’m not sure, after school let’s get the encyclopedia down.”

Sister, if you’ve got large reference books on your shelf, it’s time to get your Google on and remove the mauve and seafoam green wallpaper too. I’m just sayin’.

26 thoughts on “Overheard in University Park. In 2010.

  • May 12, 2010 at 10:19 am
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    As a librarian this post kind of offends me. Children should learn that there are ways to find information other than unreliable Google searches. The internet can be a useful tool, but a person should not be looked down upon for having an encyclopedia in their home.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 10:22 am
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    There are online encyclopedias. The same as the “real” ones, just less trees are killed. Seriously, reference books are great, but as soon as they’re published, they start becoming obsolete.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 10:28 am
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    Not only do I have a World Book encyclopedia, but it is the one I grew up with dated about ’68. You want to see some interesting citations, unencumbered with political correction, look at an old encyclopedia.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 10:54 am
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    I disagree with Merritt and Kevin on a couple of different levels. First, Merritt, I think you are probably thinking of the 30-volume set of Encyclopedia Britannica. There are smaller versions. As far as using an online search engine, sure, there is value there, but also several problems. I don’t have to worry about parental controls with hardcopy. I don’t have to worry about teaching copy/paste and ad pop-ups and other computer-related issues.

    We’ve got one, big fat encyclopedia that the kids use. Yes, it will some day be obsolete, but by then, the kids will be old enough and mature enough to use a search engine.

    Besides, nothing better than sitting with your kids on a couch, criss-cross-apple-sauce, flipping pages and reading together … to learn about King Henry. Use pencil and paper instead of copy/paste.

    Then again, it all depends on what sort of relationship you want with your child when they get older. I’m just sayin’.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 11:20 am
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    Some of the happiest moments of my Park Cities Parenting Life was looking things up in our Encyclopedia with my kids, and finding unexpected treasures of information and the discussions that followed. Yes, my kid is still in the school system. Yes, my three who have graduated have attended and are attending great colleges. They are doing quite well in college and graduate school.

    Additionally, they know the difference between wikipedia (unreviewed) and reviewed (Encyclopedias) information, and have the fundamentals of Informational literacy, and educational goal of the school system. (AKA, for those MIS Parents…don’t trust everything you get on the web mommy lesson plan).

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  • May 12, 2010 at 11:36 am
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    @bdad- Did you seriously just indicate that thumbing through reference materials with my kids will impact my relationship with them as adults?

    I get the quality time aspect but I can have that sitting upright in a chair next to them at the desktop.

    Besides, I don’t need technology or a dead tree to help me answer questions about King Henry, I watch The Tudors:)

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  • May 12, 2010 at 11:40 am
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    @J- I’m not “looking down upon.” I’m just sayin’ it’s very likely that people who consult encyclopedias also have the Laura Ashley shell print on their wall or a nearby chair. With the coordinating ticking stripe. It’s a scientific fact.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 11:49 am
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    Sometimes I like to get out my old washboard to give my breeches a good scrubbing. I told little Gertrude and Gordon that if they got good marks in “History of the Negro People” I would let them break open the thermometer and play with some mercury. I’ve always encouraged an interest in Science.

    Yes, let’s live impractically for the sake of nostalgia. As an aside, I apologize for the overuse of bygone laundry analogies this week.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 12:02 pm
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    Phew, I can hardly see my Iphone, let me fan away the cloud of smug wafting off @J, @bdad and @madmmc’s posts. I’m surprised they’re typing away on those evil, child ruining machines.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 12:06 pm
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    @Merritt, let’s consider the picture you painted in your original post: Mom gets a book down, sits with Johnny, and has a great parent/child discussion. Or, parent says to Johnny: “go google it”. Which of these two scenarios will likely result in a better parent/child relationship as they grow older?

    And even if you are sitting next to them at the desktop, in my opinion, you just can’t get quite the bonding that you will get with a book. You’ll spend too much time clicking on wrong things, opening blank Word files to paste info into, and making sure they don’t click on inappropriate links.

    My comment might have been a bit tough, but yes, I stand by it. Books-with-kids vs. computers-with-kids. I’ll take books any time.

    Actually, @madmmc said what I was trying to say, but in a much better way.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 12:20 pm
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    But which King Henry? There were numerous Henrys in British history. Not just Henry VIII. My favorite is Henry II. The one Peter O’Toole immortalized in two different films.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 12:34 pm
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    Encyclopedias aren’t the best place for recent historical research. I get that. My globe in elementary school was current for about 5 minutes thanks to Eastern Europe. But since when can Google change history from several hundred years ago?

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  • May 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm
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    What better use for older encyclopedias then to be used as……older encyclopedias. Nothing better to teach my kids about civil rights then to show them what was being said in 1968, 69 and 70 when the main arguments were being discussed and talked about. I love going thru the 1972 science supplement of the World Book to show my kids how scientist were afraid that all the dust in the air was preventing the sun from getting to the earth’s surface. At that time they were saying AND TEACHING IN CLASS that by the turn of the century we would be in an ice age.

    I have old Nat’l Geos, Popular Mechanics encyclopedias (The art of roofing has not changed in years) and Popular Science mags going back 40 years. Our older books are very valuable as well as useful as teaching tools. Don’t scoff, embrace.

    @matt an article from an older encyclopedia entitled “History of the Negro People” is just as important as current textbooks written today. Examining our viewpoints about a subject 50 years ago (when it was written) and comparing them to today’s is instructive. I remember reading a mid-30s Ladies Home Journal article that one of my relatives had saved. It talked about how much better the lives of homemakers had improved since Mr. Hitler came to power. Nothing on the net has the same impact as holding the actual printed page in your hand.

    As far as mercury is concerned they wouldn’t know what real mercury is because they only know it as part of the white powder in the florescent light bulbs in every socket of their mom’s house. And how breaking one means the hazmat team is called. That might be a good study from my encyclopedia. I’ll bet they get a more accurate picture of Thomas Edison and the incandescent bulb from my old World Book then anything online.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 12:47 pm
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    So it seems we’ve come to agreement that Merritt is correct (you know i never doubted you, MP) re: encyclopedias being about as relevant/useful/timely as a carrier pigeon, BUT due to some fireside-chat-notion of parenting you prefer that your child learn from a dated source so that you might…put your arm around him/her? Are you wearing a cardigan and smoking a pipe while this is going on? Get over yourselves, we all know that isn’t happening. It wasn’t happening in the 50’s either. We all know Ward beat June and dropped n-bombs when the Beav went to bed.

    My parents were plenty hands on. There was playing catch in the yard and cookies after school. We definitely busted out some E-Britanica to make an alligator diorama…but then Encarta happened. It was way better. So I used that.. but they still helped me build the three-panel poster and/or make the potato power the light bulb. There are ways to bond without forcing junior to run to the general store to use the “ditto machine”.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 1:00 pm
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    Does anyone know where I can visit a good card catalog? I’m getting misty-eyed with nostalgia.

    Oooh do you think SMU still has their DOS based lookup on the IBMs with the black and white screens??? Where is the wayback machine when you need one?

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  • May 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm
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    @Kmom, I apologize if my comment appeared smug to you, not my intention. I was merely trying to point out that their are other sources other than Google, online and in print, that can be useful. God forbid a family still has books in their house. I usually appreciate Merritt’s humor, but it’s been a long week already and maybe I just missed this one.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm
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    Wait, this thread is about books not wallpaper?

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  • May 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm
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    I forgot to put a tape in my VCR to record “Lost” last night. Can anyone help a girl out?

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  • May 12, 2010 at 3:49 pm
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    OK, folks, why are we beating this poor mom up? Yes, hardback encyclopedias are outdated. However, wikipedia or the internet as a whole also contains faulty information. I doubt the history of King Henry has changed in the last 50 years so why is the book a bad idea?

    I don’t know how old this kid was, but the mom actually promised this kid to sit down with him and look something up! Perhaps we were practicing our alphabetizing skills by using the encyclopedia? God forbid, what happens if the power goes out, and we have to finish that school project without the internet? Teaching kids to use reference materials is never a bad idea. I helped my kid google something one time (with filters on) and entered an harmless term. I ended up with pictures on the internet a kid shouldn’t see. The internet is a great thing, but it can expose kids to things they may not be ready for.

    No, Merritt, it probably won’t alter your kids existence, but I remember my kids sitting with me reading a book. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. Maybe this is their way of having a little quiet one-on-one time?

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  • May 12, 2010 at 4:16 pm
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    So, come on, who is King Henry? Any relation to King (Lebron) James? King Richard ( Petty)? Elvis, King of Rock ‘n Roll?

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  • May 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm
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    I think that was so sweet of that mom to offer to get the encyclopedia out and help her son look it up. I agree that though its not a make it or break it moment, that is a sweet bonding experience. What a great mom! Most mothers do just say google it or they don’t ever get to it at all. I don’t think sitting at the computer is the same as looking through a book and I think thats awful that you’d make fun of this. Have we really gotten to the point when we are making fun of people for using books?! We’re not too far from Fahrenheit 451…

    Merritt, instead of making fun of this sweet mom, you might want to take a leaf out of her book. (oh wait, I forgot, you hate books! but take a leaf out of her computer just isn’t the same…)

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  • May 12, 2010 at 4:35 pm
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    and by the way I love that wallpaper in the picture! I don’t think thats retro…

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  • May 12, 2010 at 8:00 pm
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    So many comments. Interesting.

    To me, this is a very good example of what I think a lot of people find off-putting about MP’s style. She starts off with a very insightful and very interesting observation–but rather than mine it for human interest or valuable commentary, she sees fit to simply write it up as an insult.

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  • May 12, 2010 at 8:04 pm
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    It’s a pretty big jump to say this post means that
    Merritts calling for a mass book burning. Does my love of my Kindle mean I hate books?

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  • May 12, 2010 at 9:55 pm
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    My goodness, what’s with all the Merritt-bashing over this post?? First, since Merritt is a columnist (not a blogger) for a real (not virtual) newspaper, I think it’s pretty silly to assume that she doesn’t respect/revere the power of the printed word. I understand the nostalgic love for the old Encyclopedia Britannica; the series I grew up with was published in 1954 and had even more politically incorrect stuff in it than James Tucker’s swingin’ 60s version. I have similiar fond memories of passing many happy hours paging through our EB (and the Sears Roebuck catalog, which was as big as the Bible & featured pages of strangely compelling men’s underwear). But I often think back to how challenging it was to write a school paper back in the low-tech days. You had to get someone to take you to the library, look up your subject in the card catalog and pray that the book you needed wasn’t already checked out. Search engines and the internet are marvelous things; the amount of knowledge at my fingertips never fails to amaze me. With the enormous database that is the world-wide web, why would anyone want to use the EB as anything but a lesson on nostalgia? I’m just saying.

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  • May 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm
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    I helped my child with a research paper the other night and LOVED having the internet! You should even see how they do notecards online and put the web address of their sources … I was amazed at how easy it was! But, I have a set of 1940 Encyclopedias that were my grandmothers and my kids and I love to look through them and see how much has changed in the world since then!

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