Young People Don’t Know How to Fix Anything, Scientist Claims


(Danielle George/Courtesy Royal Institution)

Kids today. They don’t tinker or get their hands dirty when something breaks. They just toss it out and buy another disposable trinket to replace it.

That’s the view of a leading engineering professor in England, at least, who warns that people under 40 are a “lost generation” when it comes to learning how everyday items work and how to fix them.

“We’ve got a lost generation that has grown up with factory electronics that just work all of the time,” Danielle George tells the Telegraph(Yes, some folks under 40 aren’t technically millennials, but it is clear which generation George most has in mind.)

“All of these things in our home do seem to work most of the time and because they don’t break we just get used to them. They have almost become like Black Boxes which never die. And when they do we throw them away and buy something new.”

George, a professor of radio frequency engineering at the University of Manchester, delivered a high-profile Royal Institution Christmas lecture to make her point. The lectures have been given during Christmas week since 1825 and past luminaries include Sir David Attenborough and Carl Sagan.

"We take the light bulb for granted because how often do the light bulbs go out?” People used to tinker with cars a lot more than they do now, as we tend now to take them to a garage,” she tells the Independent newspaper.

“But before most people knew how to change oil. Similarly, your telephone very rarely breaks down.”

George hopes her works will spark a revival of what she calls “thinkering” – thoughtful tinkering. She insists building and fixing things is fun and rewarding and can set the groundwork for a career in engineering.

She also acknowledges that not every Millennial is hopeless at doing things for his or herself.

“There is now a big maker community who are thinking hard about what we do with all of these gadgets. They are remaking and repurposing things,” she tells the Telegraph.

Her views have touched a nerve, generating thousands of comments online.

“With the age of video games and smart phones, young people have lost simple curiosity and imagination,” says one commenter.

Another shares George’s view that actual physical work is falling farther and farther into disregard.

“There will be a time when the wealthy among us will be those that are willing to get dirt under their fingernails. AC repair, plumbers, electricians, etc.”

And a commenter named Mark Lindsey is happy to point the finger.

“Blame their lazy stupid parents for not making their little snowflakes change a tire, flip a circuit breaker or change a light bulb. Soccer never taught a kid how to figure out mechanical things,” he says.

What do you think? Are teens and millennials really less DIY savvy than Baby Boomers?