Category Archives: Technology

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“I’d like to say I was smart enough to finish six grades in five years, but I think perhaps the teacher was just glad to get rid of me.” — Alan Shepard

TEACHERS ARE PEOPLE

Let’s talk teachers today.

A report on WFIU local news this morning mentioned the Richland-Bean Blossom School Corporation program to replace text books with iPads. The RBBSC is buying a thousand of the devices for use by students over the next three years.

Now, this seems to be a fairly good idea. It’s good for the environment. It’s good for the kids’ backs. It’s good because kids are growing up in a world wherein books are goofy things that old people waste their time with while iPads are what every cool person has.

This Used To Be Yellowwood State Forest

So far, so good.

The report, though, mentioned that teachers now will be just a click away. Should a kid need to know, for instance, how many pages the essay on the Civil War that’s due tomorrow morning has to be, all she has to do is email the teacher and she’ll have her answer within moments.

Sounds good, no?

No.

It stinks for the teachers.

No matter how dedicated a teacher is, no matter how much she loves her job and her students (although god knows why), she needs some time away from them all.

Mother Teresa Would Belt These Kids

And, trust me, the minute kids realize the teacher is a touch of the send button away, they’ll be harassing the poor soul from morning until night.

See, this thing reeks of the current workplace zeitgeist that holds that as an employee of the corporation, you are now owned lock, stock and barrel by it. Every desk jockey in this holy land is now tethered to American Widgets, Inc. 24 hours a day via SmartPhone and Droid and all the rest.

You Are Ours

Anyone who isn’t at the constant beck and call of management and coworkers is not getting ahead. Not only that, those recalcitrant fools risk being axed forthwith.

When pagers became widespread in the 70s and cell phones started coming on the scene in the 90s, advertisements for them often featured the likes of heart surgeons extolling the virtues of whatever device was being peddled. The idea was, If it weren’t for this cell phone, my patient would have died horribly and with great suffering.

Now the pager and cell phone peddlers knew they couldn’t survive solely by marketing their toys to heart surgeons but they were banking on the rest of us watching their commercials and thinking, Man, I want to be super-cool and indispensable just like that doctor.

Next thing you knew, office supply salespeople and fast food restaurant managers were wearing pagers and, later, cell phones in clip cases on their belts.

This Person Never Wants To Have Sex Again

The sane among us considered them geeks but as the years slipped by, more and more of us became geeks. And by extension, fewer of us remained sane.

Now, of course, anybody who doesn’t have a cell phone with texting and Internet capabilities is, for all intents and purposes, a nut.

Call me a nut.

I subscribe to the Louis CK philosophy of gadgets: Just because a technology has been invented doesn’t mean you have to use it.

But the sacred corporation has embraced these technologies with all the fervor of born agains. There’s no better way to keep tabs on your wage slaves. You like your $65,000 a year gig? You’ll give yourself over to us like a high school dropout in love for the first time.

Nobody asked me, but if the Richland-Bean Blossom School Corporation wanted my vote, I’d say leave the poor teachers alone for a few hours a day, wouldja?

LET’S GO OUT

Click.

TEACHERS ARE HUMAN

Now let’s look at the other side of the teachers’ coin.

This pic has been circulating in the Facebook universe lately:

In case you’re having a hard time reading the note, it begins: “I am a teacher. You are able to read, write, do arithmetic and much more because of people like me.”

It’s part of that whole I-Am-the-99% thing wherein the downtrodden of this holy land speak plainly and plaintively about how greed capitalism is crushing them. And generally I agree with every word they write.

But this one bugged me.

Yes, I’m all for teachers. And yes, the right wing, god-fearing, anti-intellectual gang that runs things these days would like nothing better than to break teachers unions, slash funding for schools to the bone, and mandate that the story of Noah be taught in science class.

Alright Children, Time For Your Biology Lesson

I buy the argument that a society that doesn’t value education — as ours largely does not — is marching toward its well-deserved grave.

Still, the hubris in the above screed rankles.

We humans take to reading and writing innately. The argument has been made, most notably by renowned linguist Steven Pinker, that the capability to produce and reproduce language is hard-wired in us, much like the ability to spin a web is written into the genetic code of the spider.

I’ll give you a bit of anecdotal evidence. I was sick throughout most of my kindergarten year. I had some weird low-grade fever deal that kept me home from school most days.

Anyway, I taught myself to read as I sat home. I flipped through the World Book Encyclopedia constantly, especially the parts that had to do with World War II, airplanes, trains, and maps. I’d see the little squiggles beneath the photos and ask my mother what they meant. She’d be grating breadcrumbs or making spaghetti sauce and she’d reply, “That says ‘tank’,” or “Illinois.”

Aw, Cool!

And I’d repeat the word or words. Mainly, though, I gleaned words and sentences through repetition, seeing them again and again in different places. I started to understand what “the” meant, or “men,” or, for that matter, “World Book Encyclopedia.”

This is how humans learn.

Teachers have their place as guides through the thicket of rational thought. Ideally, they help us learn to think critically. They steer us toward effective ways to study. At best, they inspire us to keep those childlike senses of wonder and curiosity we’re all born with.

But teachers are human. Some are good at what they do. Some are not. Too many of my teachers were far more interested in teaching my classmates and me the lessons of conformity and obedience.

The only things I learned from them was how to reject those lessons.

I see no reason to believe teachers have changed all that much since I was a school brat.

%d bloggers like this: