Kids plugged into the Internet. ALL DAY LONG. (Hello, schools)

In the past few years, I’ve seen computers take over my child’s life.

And when I say “take over,” I’m talking about a hostile take over. Not as a useful tool, but as a pervasive presence. As a germ that has insinuated itself into my child’s glorious imaginative world, her adult-level reading skills, and her ability to think independently. In Grade 7, my child’s reading level is affected, she speaks in internet-speak, and she is obsessed with memes and popular culture. Her strong spirit is also full of anguish that she finds herself addicted to the internet.

Who did this? you ask.

SCHOOL.

My child reports that kids at school are using computers ALL DAY LONG in the classroom. The internet is required for all kinds of assignments, so there is no unplugging almost at all.

She can’t unplug even when she gets home, because there is a large quantity of homework, and all of it relies on – you guessed it – the internet.

This is happening in the US, the UK (see this article: “Children are tech addicts – and schools are the pushers”), and elsewhere.

Dear schools, teachers, Education practitioners:

Are students using computers ALL DAY LONG in your classrooms? Because that’s what this parent sees. Especially in grade 7, my child reports that kids are on the internet, goofing off, REGULARLY. ALL DAY LONG.

I cannot understand how a child’s intellectual and holistic development can occur if their minds are constantly consuming junk, porn, computer games, memes, popular music all day long. My own child’s absorption in the internet is harmless except that it’s pervasive.

I have received the occasional complaint from teachers that my child has been referring to the laptop – which is always in her possession at school – when she is not supposed to. I have asked teachers, repeatedly, if the laptops can’t be removed from children’s possession at certain times of the school day.

I am told that this is impossible.

I find this impossible to believe.

Even as an adult, the only way I can function is by removing my devices from my possession during certain times of the day. How is it that, with children’s malleable minds, we are throwing them to the wolves of the internet ALL DAY LONG? For my part, I use internet and social media blockers to boost my productivity. But teens and tweens can’t use them; because these are their sources for school research ALL DAY LONG.

I have wrestled with this perpetual presence of the internet in my child’s life.

Do you know what beats me every time? Not her stubbornness. Not my own lack of supervision.

Homework. In Grade 7, it is almost ENTIRELY based on the internet.

I wonder, when I -as an academic trained in Education – see this, as to what curricular and pedagogical knowledge and skills my daughter’s teachers are putting into practice.

At age eleven, my daughter was evaluated as reading at adult levels. Her grades in literacy have dropped.

She knows this. She wants to escape. But there is no support. There are no escape routes. At school, the laptops are constantly in their possession. At home, homework – on laptops – is constantly a presence.

I have heard no conversations at her school about how to control the harmful and deadening, numbing presence of the internet in kids’ lives. I have reached out to ask teachers if they will reign in their required use of laptops, and this suggestion has been rejected.

Do we have to kick homework – especially the cut and paste busy work – in order to kick the internet addiction? I am currently leaning that way. Because I am not seeing signs that schools practice any of the recommendations for preventing screen addiction.

Is it because these schools are “cash cows” for Silicon Valley, while the children of Silicon Valley elites attend low-tech schools?

“Pretty much every elite school I encounter is low-tech or no-tech (especially no edutainment) except limited, very high-end stuff. Instead they’re low staff-pupil ratio and pay teachers well, which public schools don’t—especially with such low rates of taxes paid by corporations.” – Zeynep Tufekci

I suspect this is the case.

That through an addiction to technology, we are training a new generation of unimaginative conformist low-wage workers unable to think for themselves.

Teachers, school, and homework have thrown our children to the wolf of the internet.

If schools do not fight this invasion and takeover, we will have to fight the schools.

Advertisements

A really fun book on contemporary philosophical questions

I like this book. But the title is misleading – it is not a book that is only about Marx. It’s a reflection on contemporary questions. The questions will draw you in, ranging as they do among:

  • My car has just been stolen! But can I hold the thieves responsible?
  • Should I watch what I say on Twitter?
  • Should your children benefit from your success?
  • Should I bother to vote?
  • Who should look after the baby?

And so on. These questions are explored, with historical reflections, and philosophical insights drawing upon a variety of theorists (including Marx).

I’d happily teach a problem-solving PHIL 101 using this, except the title might spook some folks. (It wouldn’t spook me, of course).

Alienation in Academia

Mulling over a vague feeling of disempowerment, boredom, and apathy, we discover again that Marx has some answers for us. By us I mean people who work for a living. Because of what I do, I speak more specifically of academia.

I often think of academics who work in spaces where faculty governance is not properly practiced, where embarking upon exciting new mid-career endeavors becomes a veritable minefield. One struggles to find meaning anew in the workplace, but these liberties are not available to all equally.

Autocratic administrators are loth to share control of faculty work. When faculty are delivered most decisions from on high, resentment and apathy grow. When faculty decision making entails only “Check yes or no,” they have little reason to be invested in the growth and creativity involved in academic work.

When faculty do not engage in collective decision making, resentment due to differential treatment also occur. After all, administrators like some faculty more than others, and they also fear some more than others. They may spend more time with some faculty more than others, and listen to some more than to others. Their decisions are informed and shaped by their subjective views.

Even routine matters become an activity devoid of personal meaning, as administrators hand down decisions with little discussion. In this climate of precarity, especially for junior and contingent faculty, any discussion of decisions can be fraught with danger.

Academic workers become alienated from each other, since the only route to getting the course, the sabbatical, the approval, or the funding you need is through the administrator – who divides and rules.

In such organizations, as apathy grows, collective investment decrease, and faculty lose the ability to work together, power becomes even more concentrated in administrators’ hands.

When it is difficult for faculty to design work that is responsive to pedagogical strategies, scholarly growth, long-term professional plans, or family and personal needs, they become alienated from their own academic labor.

An autocratic administrator is the death of an academic institution. He destroys the faculty’s desire to work by cutting off their creative and collective decision-making, gathering all power and all vitality in her/his own hands.