Tuesday, August 28, 2012

is there an american dream 2.0?

i have been wondering about this lately-what is the american dream of 2012? and beyond? how much more does it involve compared to the american dream of the 1900's? how many toys does it take to feel like you have "made it?"

let me back up. the school system in the city where i live is issuing each child a computer or tablet to help with homework. because kids learn (and do everything else, probably) on the internet. this is starting from kindergarten. children as young as 5 are being issued iPads to use in class as teaching aids. after a certain age, they are permitted to take them home. because every 10 year old needs a laptop to learn?

what are we doing? this is how tax dollars should be spent? what are we doing teaching our kids that the only way to learn is through a screen. you know what kindergartners need? blocks. field trips. naps. coloring books. teachers with job security and small class sizes. back in the dark ages, when i was in elementary school, we did have computer classes. which i am in favor of, by the way. schools should absolutely have computer labs and students should be taught proper typing skills and other computer skills. but let's face it. kids are extremely quick at picking up how to use technology. and the way it evolves, they will probably be doing it their whole lives, frequently. but in school? is it actually easier to learn on a computer rather than with a pen and paper? what about all those physical learners, who actually need to do things to figure them out? kids who learn by doodling while taking notes-which has been proven to be an effective tool for remembering facts.  how are kids going to be able to use all aspects of their brain if they are never unplugged?

i am not the most creative person in the world, but i have found i do my best thinking outdoors. away from distractions. away from buttons and screens and sound effects and games that you love because of how quickly they make the time pass. is that encouraged in school? rarely. if ever. doing outreach work, i have seen kids who never go outside for more than a few minutes having so much fun just playing outside. with each other. and i hate seeing those moments ruined by smart phones. by the ease with which technology steals our attention, and our hours. how often do we encourage ourselves and, more importantly, kids, to turn everything off and do something? and how does having a computer shoved in your face make you more likely to feel that's important?

part of the idea behind this is it levels the playing field between kids who have computers at home and those who don't. supposedly they will only be educational tools, with key social websites and games blocked. good luck finding a group of kids who can't work around that software. while research and other forms of school work (textbook reduction is a plus for sure) can be made easier with the use of computers, this just doesn't seem like more than a flashy fix to problems that have deeper implications. once again, computer labs and libraries seem to be the obvious solution. kids are much less likely to abuse their computer time in an institutionalized setting-not their living rooms.

but this is what's so appealing about this solution-everyone having technology at their fingertips, all the time. it's not a phone we all want, it's a smart phone. it's not dial-up, it's wireless. it's not cable, it's on-demand and TiVo. we don't just want it all, we want it all now. which means that if we lose any of that instant gratification factor, will we be able to cope? and what about the next generation, who has never lived without all the bells, whistles, and distractions that make our lives easier?

do we know how to work without these miracle machines?
what do we, as americans, really want?
how can we expect a generation who has been touching screens and staring at bright lights their whole lives to really think outside the box and find creative solutions if they never get away from search engines and how-tos?
would americans rather have gigantic houses with plenty of yard but spotty cable/internet or tiny apartments with small windows and neighbors on all sides?
do we want our families to grow up strong and happy or technologically savvy with big tvs?
is there a merging of the 2? how does the average american measure success-the school system where each student has a computer vs. the one where the teachers are creating lesson plans and using tangible examples?

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