Monday, August 27, 2018

Technology Addiction: The High-Stakes Battle Over Our Children's Developing Minds

I'm going to come right out and say it.

No topic is scarier to me right now in education than the question of Technology.

This is a topic that worries me in our classrooms as well as in our homes.

It makes me cringe watching public schools blithely promote the value of a 1:1 ratio of computer to child... with ABSOLUTELY NO BASIS in fact that this either helps children learn better or that it is healthy for them!

Schools are promising that they are preparing our children for the future with no evidence at all that they are doing that, given that we don't know the future and all we can see right now is detrimental effects of technology on the developing brain.

Who is footing the bill for all of this technology?

When something is free, why it is free? What is the catch? Someone somewhere is making money. TANSTAAFL, as Heinlein would say.

And for schools who are paying for this stuff out of their pockets, what is being cut to pay for all the tablets, all the smartboards, all the laptops? Recess? Art? Music? Building repairs? Teacher salaries and professional development opportunities?

I believe that lots of unscrupulous business people are making gobs of money selling their products to a bunch of school administrators and politicians who aren't reading the fine print.

And it's not just scary for children. It's scary what it is doing to adults.

I'm not exaggerating when I use the term Addiction. Have you already read 48 Hour Screen Time Experiment: What Happens When Kids Have No Limits? And what was at the top of the list for all four of their children? Minecraft. A game I already knew was the most addictive of them all, simply by listening to the students that I teach.

Did you know that Google used to have a tech ethicist on their staff? This was a paid position that they found necessary given the products that they are developing.

And did you know that he left his job after they weren't implementing enough of his suggestions?

I started drafting this post last November, working on a list of articles and resources. Here is what I have so far; let me know if you have additional suggestions.

The Waldorf Today Newsletter sent out a wonderful article this evening along with permission to copy and share, so I'll post that next as well. It is called "Strangers in Our Homes: TV and Our Children's Minds" by Susan Johnson, M.D.

I wholeheartedly believe Steiner when he explains just how serious it is that we surround children with healthy influences.

Between birth and 7 the number one thing they learn is who the adults in their lives are. Not what they say, not what they do, but who they are.

Between 7 and 14 children develop best when exposed to healthy authority, someone whose moral system they look up to and whom they unconsciously want to emulate. Again, it's who you are on the inside that they are really learning in school, not the content in the textbooks.

Therefore, the number one top priority in Waldorf parenting and Waldorf education is to make yourself a person worthy of this reverence, worthy of this imitation, worthy of this unquestioning absorption.

As a Waldorf parent or teacher, you take on this task whole-heartedly. You try to make yourself into someone who, if another person were to model themselves wholly and completely on the influences they got from you, they would turn out OK.

In The Essentials of Education, Steiner gives us quote after quote that speak to this point.

    Let's consider the preschool child.... Between birth and the change of teeth (which is a very important point in the child's development) there is a period of time when the child is, for all practical purposes, entirely a sensory organ; this is not generally emphasized enough.
    [page 7]

    Thus, we see that a fundamental issue in teaching and educatoin is the question of who the teacher is.
    [page 15]

What happens if who that teacher is... is a computer?

Since we know that children absorb all that is put into them, I believe that if they are being raised by machines and not by people, they will not develop some part of their humanity. It will be left untouched and so it cannot develop.

What would the world look like if our next generation of children doesn't completely reach their potential humanity????

It may be extreme, but think about this. How can they? They are not being taught how to be human. You learn how to be human from other fully-developed humans. Not from screens. And not from other humans who are themselves lost, who are addicted to their devices and to the internet.

What are we putting into our children? What is staying in them and continuing to work in them, influencing the developing organism?

In The Essentials of Education, Steiner says

    Consequently, we must never allow ourselves to feel or think anything around children that should not be allowed to ripple on within the child. The rule of thumb for all relationships in early education must be this: Whether in perception, feeling, or thought, whatever we do around children must be done in such a way that it may be allowed to continue vibrating in their souls.
    [page 28]

    Much of a chld's spiritual and psychic nature is ignored by the education we give children. It is necessary that through the medium of flexible and artistic forms, we give children perceptions, ideas, and feelings in pictoral form that can metamorphose and grow with the soul, because the soul itself is growing. But before this can happen, thre must be a living relationship between child and teacher, not the dead relationship that arises from lifeless educational concepts.
    [pages 31-32]

Children absorb everything. This is a BIG DEAL.

In Waldorf homes, children have handmade toys of wood and wool and silk for several reasons, but one of them is that the toymaker's love and spirit and energy continues to resonate in the toy and children can feel that. They are tuned into and nurtured by that. In Lecture 1 of Richard Wagner in the Light of Anthroposophy, Steiner says

    Modern achievements are in part produced by machines, whereas during the civilisation of the Middle Ages everything was still an expression of the soul. The house, the village, the city, and everything it contained, was full of significance and men rejoiced in it. What do our storehouses, warehouses and cities mean to us to-day? In the medieval period the house was the expression of an artistic idea; the whole street-picture, with the market and the church in the middle, was the expression of the soul.

This was in 1905! How much farther are we now in losing ourselves to the machines? A device has no warmth, no spirit, no soul.

Even if you argue that devices are something children need to be able to navigate, and that they aren't harmful, I still have one more concern: If we are kept from being fully present in the moment because we are struggling with addiction, are we able to give ourselves to our children?

One final quote from The Essentials of Education, which is available online for free and can be downloaded as a PDF here:

    It really comes down to this: week after week and month after month, the germinating human being must be promoted to activity that suits the developing forces of the organism.... In everything that must be presented to children between the change of teeeth and puberty we have to discover ways of reading what is needed through the demands of human nature itself. When it is a matter of gradually leading children into a real relationship to their own being and the world, it is most important that the teachers themselves have a real relationship to the world.
    [page 55, emphasis added]

As homeschoolers, we are the teachers and so now we have to put this question to ourselves. Is all of your technology keeping you from being truly with the world? Are you honest with yourself about how much time your devices are stealing from you? Remember that they are designed to be addictive. Do you, the adult, feel like you have too much screen-time too?

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

No comments: