A student sent me this e-mail recently:
Dr. McGrath,Sorry about the multiple emails. I’m not sure if we went over this or not but I was wondering what your thoughts were on about how far back we should go when deciding which articles to use? I have all mine set, but one is from the nineties and I didn’t know if that was too old or not. If you can just let me know whenever you get the chance that’d be great. Thanks!
The student is expressing concern about something emphasized in information literacy – the “C” in the “CRAP Test” which indicates currency.
It reminds me of the scene in the movie “Frantic” when Harrison Ford’s character is asked what kind of music he likes, and he says “old music.” He is then asked whether he likes what is on the radio, as that is a few years old.
I don’t blame the student for this. What is meant by “old” or “recent” depends on the subject and the frame of reference. World War II is both recent history and a long time ago.
Scholarship moves slowly, and in searching for information, one should not go back more than around 50 years to get a sense of the current state of the field, but neither is looking at the latest monograph proposing something new the best approach if that is what you are interested in. A recent textbook will probably be the best place to look for the current consensus.
Be that as it may, having studied in the 1990s, I found the question of whether scholarship from the 90s is “too old” made me feel old.
Students today are too young for us to be able to presume that they’ve seen The Matrix. But a lot of them have seen Friends. And many of us are too old to realize just how young most of our students are, are and how many things that we take for granted they do not – and vice versa.
What do you consider old scholarship, music, movies, history? What do you consider recent? And what different perspective someone else had made you feel old?