I Wonder…

          July, 2008

I wonder, as someone not trained as an economist, whether there is any connection between the future of the American economy and better schooling—not just better test scores, but a better educated workforce. Clearly the biggest reason for jobs going overseas is lower wages there. So, why would a better-educated workforce draw them back here? How much smarter would Americans have to be to make them worth paying two and three times as much? It is easier for me to see how a smarter workforce might also be a smarter citizen-force. Then I think, maybe a smarter society might help us devise new ways of thinking that could, in turn, create alternate ways of living better while earning less?

I wonder what would happen if we stopped talking as though the future were predetermined: that the 2lst century was something we had to adjust to, rather than reshape. Is this just a different version of the first musing?

I wonder just how adaptable and resilient the human species is. For example, if I am right that there is a serious loss of play in the lives of young children, will it matter in terms of the creativity of the adults of the future? Their resiliency? Their capacity for self-governance? Two possibilities come to mind. One, I am wrong about the role of play. Two, that play cannot be stamped out–new forms of play replace old ones as circumstances change.

I wonder, maybe connected to the above, what the impact of all the new reality shows and videos are on what happens to human minds and hearts. My grandson, Ezra, was telling me the other day more about the nature of the new war videos that allow users to participate as active agents in “war play”—as though it were real. I had just watched Ezra and Daniel (my other grandson) “playing” baseball on a huge screen. I was stunned. It looked (almost) like a real game, but they were controlling it! They were “being” players. It led Ezra and I to speculating about the impact of participating in killing on the big screen. Given that one knew it was not really happening did it really matter or was I being unnecessarily fearful? Or will it reach a point where it becomes harder and harder to tell that it is not “really” happening?

I wish sometimes that I could live long enough to find out some of the answers to these questions. But for the sake of my grandchildren I am certainly wishing that the answers are hopeful ones for our ornery, unpredictable and surprisingly adaptable species.

© 2008 Deborah Meier

One Response

  1. I just came across this column. I do think it become harder and harder to distinguish between screen fiction and reality. The increase in “reality TV” points to this too – we like such shows; one part of us knows there are cameras and a crew recording and to a great extent “directing” the show and the camera work, and yet we believe the reality of the shows. We see live coverage of disasters and war today on the internet. We cannot stop this.

    It’s odd – our human capacity to empathize drives this connection to such information projections. And yet, unthinking consumption of this kind of information will deaden empathy and desensitize us to critical aspects of human life.

    I feel that educators – and communities in general – must look hard at developing empathy and ethical judgment and action in kids from a very young age. We have too much power now with information to ignore the critical skills that will help us use our power wisely. Yet, schools are still not clued in to just how important these skills are – I think of these as literacy skills for the future – values literacy.

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