Creative Commons

2007-12-06 14:26:45

The Internet Made Us Dumb

A long time ago in a galaxy so much like our own that it is our own, children actually learned. "Learned what?" you might ask. Anything... anything at all. In the classroom the teachers taught and the children (who wanted to earn good grades) paid attention. If they didn't pay attention, they would do poorly on their exams, end of story. There was [almost] nowhere else to learn this information. Sure, the children could beg their parents to take them to their local library, if there was one, and see if they could find, among the thousands of books, a book which contained the information that they missed in class. But what child would choose the library over playtime? None that I know. So for all intents and purposes, life in school was dictated by one simple rule; pay attention or fail.
What did this unwritten rule accomplish? I think this can be best viewed rather than described. Picture, in your head, two "generations" of people. There is the generation that graduated high school somewhere on or before 2002 and there is the generation that graduated after 2002, or that hasn't graduated yet. Now that you have some boundaries, think of their ability to learn something new. Did the light bulb appear over your head yet? Our parents, and those of us who have recently graduated college, have a distinct ability to learn. But this isn't limited to classroom learning. These people can learn on their own, by researching a problem, conducting their own tests, basic scientific theory stuff (even though the rarely acknowledge their activities as scientific). This generation, which I will call the "workers," is entirely self sufficient. If there is something they don't currently know, but they need to know, you can count on them learning it relatively quickly. This is mostly because, as a child, they were forced to learn this skill. Not just by teachers, but by their natural instinct to succeed and make something of themselves.
Fast forward to today's generation who have just, or haven't yet, graduated. Do you notice a difference? When faced with a roadblock, these people do something totally different. They don't solve the problem. Most of the time, they don't even try. The maker, so to speak, of this roadblock is usually met with a thousand (I exaggerate) questions, one of which is, "What is the answer?" Now let's get one thing straight. Asking questions is not a bad thing. Usually, it's the best thing to do. But none of your questions should be, "What is the answer?" Not if you want to actually learn, anyway. This generation, I will call the "silver-spooners." I think it's fairly self explanatory. This generation doesn't want to do work. They expect everything to be given to them when they ask for it.
Why is this? What could possibly make someone expect to be given everything they ask for? Keeping this article on the topic of learning, let's look at the Internet. For the "workers," the Internet either didn't exist while they were in school or it was so new that no one really knew how to harness its power, thus resulting is a lack of accessible information. But for the "silver-spooners," the Internet started to mature. There was more and more information that was accessible to anyone. There were more and more answers at their fingertips. Instead of using the scientific theory, as the "workers" did, the "silver-spooners" could browse to their favorite search engine and find whatever they needed to know instantly. There was no thinking involved, no [real] research, no testing, no hypothisizing. There was no work. What did they learn from their 10 second adventure into cyberspace? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Well, they did learn one thing. They never have to actually work again.
Turning the table, I am not, in any way, saying that the Internet is bad and that we should not use it. That's not the case at all. When used correctly, the Internet is the best resource available to us. But you must use it wisely, and this is not being properly conveyed to the current generation. Is it the fault of the elementry and secondary school teachers? Partially, but not totally. As a child, when you find a way to get your work done quicker but a teacher tells you that you shouldn't use that way all of the time, what would you do? You would use that way all of the time. That's the mindset of a child. At that age, you can't picture the future as an adult can. You can't convince yourself that, in 10 years, you will need to understand this topic, so you better learn it now. Children just don't have foresight. It's not their fault. They just haven't learned it yet.
Again... why? Why haven't they learned the skill of foresight? The "workers" learned that skill very early. The Internet is why. The "workers" had no choice but to learn it. The "silver-spooners" have a choice, a choice between easy and hard. And without the gift of foresight to realize that choosing "hard" is the best way to go, they choose "easy" every time.
This is a very difficult problem to solve, one that we, as a society, have never been faced with before (at least to this extent). We live in a world where everything is automated, everything is streamlined, everything has been thought out for us. At first glance of a "worker," it is hyper-clear that today's world is in desperate need of inventors to fix its many problems. However, at first glance of a "silver-spooner", it appears that today's world doesn't need inventors. Everything is done. All of the answers are readily available. They don't have any foresight, so they can't see the problems that will happen 5 or 10 years in the future.
Something needs to change. Our schools are not cultivating a group of inventors. Our schools are not even cultivating a group of leaders. Our schools are cultivating a group of followers.
The birth of the Internet was no fault of our country's, or any country's, educational system. It is, however, now the educational system's problem; a problem they must fix. It is only a matter of time until the "workers" are placed in their graves and all that's left are people hold out their hands expecting something to be placed in them. If something doesn't change soon, this world will deteriorate beyond anything we can currently imagine. It's not our, the "workers'," future. It's our children's future. And I don't know any human being who would wish such a life on their children.
I, as a single human being, do not have a solution, but one person can't make this change on their own. Such a change will take every person in power, every teacher, every mentor, and every person with an influence on the younger generations to work together and determine a way to teach our children how to learn. It's their only chance.



2007-12-06 20:59:09

anon. says...
Amazing what you find out when the shoe is on the other foot!!

Post a comment!