There is an editorial in the Wall Street Journal (11 May 2012) called “Make It a Summer Without iStuff.”
It is written by David Gelernter, Professor of Computer Science at the prestigious Yale University and I was much dismayed to read it.
With all due respect, Gelernter makes the case–and a poor one at that–for keeping kids away from technology.
He calls technology devices and the Internet, “the perfect anti-concentration weapon…turning a child’s life into a comedy of interruptions.”
Gelernter states pejoratively that the “whole point of modern iToys…is not doing anything except turning into a click vegetable.”
Moreover, Gelernter goes too far treating technology and the Internet as a waste of time, toys, and even as dangerous vices–“like liquor, fast cars, and sleeping pills“–that must be kept away from children.
Further, Gelernter indiscriminately calls en masse “children with computers…little digital Henry VIIIs,” throwing temper tantrums when their problems cannot be solved by technology.
While I agree with Gelernter that at the extreme, technology can be used to as a escape from real, everyday life–such as for people who make their primary interaction with others through social networking or for those who sit virtually round-the-clock playing video games.
And when technology is treated as a surrogate for real life experiences and problem solving, rather than a robust tool for us to live fuller lives, then it becomes an enabler for a much diminished, faux life and possibly even a pure addiction.
However, Gelernter misses the best that technology has to offer our children–in terms of working smarter in everything we do.
No longer is education a matter of memorizing textbooks and spitting back facts on exams in a purely academic fashion, but now being smart is knowing where to find answers quickly–how to search, access, and analyze information and apply it to real world problems.
Information technology and communications are enablers for us do more with less–and kids growing up as computer natives provide the best chance for all of us to innovate and stay competitive globally.
Rather then helping our nation bridge the digital divide and increase access to the latest technologies and advance our children’s familiarity with all things science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Gelernter wants to throw us back in time to the per-digital age.
With the ever rapid pace with which technology is evolving, Gelernter’s abolishing technology for children needlessly sets them back in their technology prowess and acumen, while others around the world are pressing aggressively ahead.
Gelernter may want his kids to be computer illiterate, but I want mine to be computer proficient.
iStuff are not toys, they are not inherently dangerous vices, and they are not a waste of our children’s time, they are their future–if we only teach and encourage them to use the technology well, balanced, and for the good.
(Source Photo: here with attribution to “Extra Ketchup,” Michael Surran)