I heard someone promoting a new book the other day, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupifies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future ( (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone ‘Under’ 30). I have not as of yet picked up a copy but I would be prone to agree with what the author Mark Bauerlein was saying, but with a caveat.
As a fan of science fiction, I can recall any number of futuristic stories over the last decades that have attempted to see visions of our future. Specific to this subject, I can remember many that have seen ‘learning’ in our future as a simple matter of plugging our brains into a machine and downloading information incredibly fast as opposed to older methods of learning. Now imagine this for a second – if you download pre-programmed information directly into your brain, you get whatever was pre-programmed with no variations of opinion, interpretation, discovery, perspective, etc.
Well guess what – we have machines now that rapidly put information into your brain, they just don’t connect directly to it yet! First televion and now computer and the internet. Science fiction tried to portray rapid learning as a good thing, so where’s the problem? I already alluded to one problem, the other is simply; we are all missing the point.
“We” have allowed these machines not only to become a means by which other people can insert pre-programmed information subject to their own interpretations, conclusions, perspectives, etc. but we have also not all fully comprehended that ‘these’ are the pre-cursors of such learning machines. We see them as folly for the most part or at least treat them as such in our daily lives and the lives of our children.
We remain contented to use the television or the internet as babysitters for our children rather than paying attention to what is on them and how they are used – and USING them as a fast, efficient and effective way to properly teach our children the right ideas and ideals!
Yes, there are some folks out there trying to do just that. We had TVs in our classrooms growing up and eventually computers as well. But if learning only exists in the classroom, the classroom has the full dominion over knowledge (and interpretation, and opinion, and perspective).
Consider these modern conveniences as the promise of yesterday. Don’t look down on the sound-byte mentality, take advantage of it. I would suggest sources like historical programs (although I would use a strong filter on ‘History Channel’ sources as they seem to be an increasingly loud voice of ‘global warming’ bias), Discovery channel still seems to be great, get some audio books from Librivox or Amazon for that MP3 player, try some computer games from Sid Meier instead of that Grand Theft Auto IV – great examples are out there that can teach, while entertaining, in a creative way.