Sitting in a Desk and Becoming Human


http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/article/13


A friend sent me this to an article and asked for my response. 

.   Here is what I said:  
There are some things that individuals are not capable of administering or controlling well on their own,  hence the need for policy and laws - unfortunately administered by the "demon" we call Government.  Notwithstanding the corruption, waste and bureaucracy inherent in our systems of Government (gee, whose fault is that us/humans), it has been recognized by the most patriotic of supporters (including our esteemed super rights) as the best thing since apple pie.  

We have speed limits, gun laws(?), food inspections etc. etc. to protect us from ourselves.  Public education is is one of those Socialistic government programs that in a very basic but quintessential way provides us with the opportunity to be educated and to educate.  
 Education is not a mystery.  It is not a piece of technology hardware or software.  It is human beings whose brains are no different than they were thousands of years ago. The essence of education is to stimulate those brains housed in human bodies so that they can assimilate and use the information that exists outside of them in a way that benefits them individually and as part of larger communities of human beings.  Human beings sit their butts in desks just as they have for hundreds of years.  Those desks can be redesigned to be more comfortable and efficient; the school building can be redesigned to be more comfortable and efficient; books can be redesigned to be more transportable and accessible......but brains and human interaction cannot be removed and replaced with something more efficient.  Sitting kids in front of computers to learn removes the component most essential in humanity - human interaction and communication.  It is more than words and word messages.  (See Walker Percy's. A Message In A Bottle)

Public education is an opportunity for children to learn to become humans - ALL children and in school communities that emulate society as a whole.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  Out of every one of those school communities emerge very different human beings - not widgets.  That, to me, is the most amazing and most valuable thing about it.   
The more people have to apply their own facilities (brains) to assimilate or to even just survive, the better they are equipped to function in the real world.  Some children learn to do this in spite of us and some do not learn this well in spite of us.  That's life.   
Removing children from the opportunity to become human beings is dangerous for society and sad for the children.  Isolating children in cubicles with computers or in schools with others of similar intelligence or socio-economic level or religious beliefs or political ideology or gender.......all limit their abilities to emerge as independent thinking individuals.  Sadly that is exactly what some parents want and scarily it is what the reform movement promotes. 

I heard a piece on NPR yesterday. A professor from MIT wrote a book about loneliness and the specter of technology, cell phones and Facebook.  Being "connected" constantly in a way that doesn't allow us to learn and develop our selves and therefore we cannot be alone without being "lonely."  Fascinating. I can't find the link right now but will keep trying.  

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