Thursday, October 7, 2010

Twitter Book Club: Neil Postman (1996) The End of Education - Chapter 3

In this chapter, Postman discusses two gods that fail to provide sufficient meaning to the purpose of school: the god of Technology and the god of Multiculturalism. In his definition of the latter he makes a clear distinction between multiculturalism and cultural pluralism. He has no qualms with cultural pluralism and speaks highly of it as a way of enriching the cultural narrative but finds that multiculturalism seeks to invert the Euro-centric narrative that has been d0minant in this country since its inception. I find his critique of multiculturalism to be very Freirian in nature. Basically, he sets Multiculturalism up as being equally oppressive as Euro-centrism much in the same way Freire describes reactionary leaders as not shedding their internal oppressors but seeking to become them. I really appreciate how Postman approaches this but I did not find any passages that I could quote in a Tweet that did not depend greatly on the context of the surrounding text. But I did find a few on the god of Technology:

"What does it mean to say someone is bored with the real world, especially one so young? Can a journey into (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

These questions were ones that I struggled with in 1997, a year after Postman wrote this, that led me to drop out of a computer science program in college and take up art education as my major (see the first chapter of my master's capstone on Virtual Worlds if you want to know how I came to this decision) . I was not familiar with Postman at the time and certainly had not been exposed to his books so I am finding it very interesting reading someone who was writing about what I was feeling around the time I made this decision. In my life, and in my career, I keep swaying back and forth on this issue of the role of technology. I know my life has been better because of the existence of certain technologies but I also know that it has suffered in other areas. Technology is no panacea. It seems whenever I start to feel myself getting sucked in by it I repel. I have written about this before on my blog, in fact, it has become sort of a running side story or theme here:

Actually, after going back through my archives, it is a bit scary how often this theme recurs.

"like all important technologies of the past, [computers] are Faustian bargains, giving and taking away, (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Schools are not now and have never been chiefly about getting information to children." Postmanless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"what we need to know about computers, television, and other important technologies--is not how to use them but how they use us." Postmanless than a minute ago via Twittelator

I need to write a technology integrationist manifesto one of these days. I have been serving school districts in this capacity now for four years and I almost always encounter the same misconception. Here is an early draft:

Technology Integrationist Manifesto:

My job is not to sell you on this tool or that. My job is not to promote anything. I do not work for Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Adobe, SMART, Promethian, Scholastic, etc. I have no vested interest in promoting their products and nowhere in my job description does it say that I ought to. My job is to help people working in schools to understand that about technology they need to make sound educative decisions regarding both its use and the impact it has on students, teachers, administrators, classrooms, schools, school systems, teaching, and learning. It is not OK to integrate technology just for technology sake or just because a school has spent a lot of money on it. If that becomes the purpose then I have already failed in my role.

It is my belief that technology is an important component of the learning environment. It shapes who we are and what is possible for us to do. It is important for our children to learn how to utilize it to their advantage but it is also important for them to learn to know when it is using them. It is not OK to ignore it or use the fear of its negative effects to justify not using it or keeping up with it, that reason is not sufficient. Technology is not something that was created after you were born, it is not something with a plug, and it is not devices operated by the manipulation of electrons; it is the knowledge and ability to manipulate that which is external to the self utilizing the knowledge and invention of yourself and others. Technology includes not only computers and mobile devices but also language, tools, customs, and rituals. It is through technology that man shapes and interprets his environment, an environment ever changing through the advancement of new technologies that allow us to see, hear, feel, create, and know differently.

1 comment:

Mrs. Tenkely said...

Fantastic Manifesto for a tech integration specialist. Well stated.