Big Chuck: Are analog clocks heading to dodo time?

"Big Chuck" D'Imperio

Here’s a doozie for you.

Two studies recently revealed the “troubling trend” away from analog clocks.

One, taken in Oklahoma City, found that four out of five students could not read a clock or watch face.

A more recent study in Great Britain reports that “British schools will be removing analog clocks from their testing areas because teenagers at their schools cannot tell time. They are being replaced with digital clocks, which the students are more familiar with.”

See, I told you. A doozie.

Old geezers will remember learning to tell time in second and third grades. When I was in elementary school in the 1950s, we made our own clocks. The teacher would supervise us as we took construction paper and cut out a big round oval. Then we correctly numbered the clock times in sequence around the edge. The teacher then put a clasp in the center to hold the brightly colored clock hands we made, and we were done. Then came the testing. “OK, Chuckie. Show me 15 minutes after three o’clock, please.” I would sweat through my shirt as I moved the big paper hands into place and then hold it up for approval. “Very good,” she would assure me. Hey, telling time was actually fun!

I am assuming that in some school rooms somewhere a teacher is holding up a large digital clock and asking a student to read it. “OK, Bonnie. What time is it?” she says as she holds up a clock that literally says “3:15.” Little Bonnie answers with a smile, “Um, 3:15, Miss Smith?” “Yes, Bonnie. Very good.”

Wow.

But, think about it. Today everything our young kids need as far as time is concerned is digital. The TV, the clock by their bed, their Apple Watch, the microwave oven, the DVR, the phones, the radio station and clock in the car, the video games they play. The gas prices at the pump. The time at the revolving NBT clock in downtown Oneonta. Digital clocks take all the thought out of telling time. I mean, if you can read numbers from one to 10, bingo, you can tell time.

In the 1960s, wall clocks became home design icons. Big, decorative pieces with elaborate artwork, and metal swirls coming out of them. Space age wall clocks that had colorful spokes protruding from the face. Like an asteroid. Or maybe a Sputnik?

At my home, my parents had a kitchen clock with no numbers. True. Just small pieces of colorful metal where the hours should be. You would have to make an educated guess when looking at that clock. Why would my father ever have bought a clock with no numbers on it? And with eight children in the house no less?

In reality, I give no credence to the two surveys noted at the beginning of this column. I simply refuse to believe that today’s young people cannot read a clock. They may not want to read a clock, but I trust they can do it. In fact, my colleague at the radio station, Leslie Ann, and myself conducted our own survey of local schools and teachers. On the heels of talking about these surveys on the air we asked a simple social media question to our listeners (including teachers): “Do today’s classrooms still have analog clocks in them?”

The response was swift and sure. My wife, who teaches English at Schenevus Central School, sent back a photo of the round analog clock in her own classroom. Leslie Ann’s husband, Mark Parmeter, who is an Oneonta school librarian, did the same. And two dozen other teachers (and many students) assured us that analog clocks can be found in almost every room of every school in our listening area.

Funnily enough though, several teachers who said that they do have those classic big, round analog clocks in their classrooms, also went on record as saying, “although we still have kids who can’t read them.”

Try and picture this memory. There was no scene so dreaded as back in high school, on a serious test day, with the classroom all hunched over their desks slogging their way through an all-important test in complete silence. Well, almost complete. This vignette was accompanied by the sound of the room’s big IBM clock echoing in our ears. Clicking away the minutes and hours until we would be finished.

Can’t you just hear the clock’s second hand? Boom. Boom. Boom.

I thought you could.

I’ll catch you in two … 

"Big Chuck" D'Imperio's morning radio show can be heard weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Otsego County, WDLA-AM 1270 in Delaware County and WCHN-AM 970 in Chenango County. He welcomes emails at wdosbigchuck@aol.com. All of his columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns.