“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Ray Bradbury
Mr. Bradbury envisioned a world in which exercise and busyness had replaced reading and thought. I watch the news and think, “maybe he wasn’t far off.” The difference is, instead of replacing reading with physical activity, we’ve replaced it with technology. In
Fahrenheit 451, the people are constantly moving, going, doing, faster and faster but dealing only in trivialities, never spending a moment on connection or critical thought. Today, people spend an inordinate amount of time with earbuds in their ears, fingers twitching over instant conversations or thumbing the controls of mindless electronic violence. Attention spans and tempers shorten. Fights have become entertainment at our local high schools – disrespect and work avoidance, badges of coolness.
Public education has become a test driven teacher accountability machine, while schools founder and politicians spout diatribes about “teacher responsibility for student achievement.” It seems ironic to me that only a decade or three ago, the student’s achievement was his own responsibility.
We recently watched an old video about, of all things, having dinner as a family. It recommended cordiality, good manners and consideration for others as top priorities in relating to family members. My students watched, almost wistfully, as the family sat down to eat together –
There was no TV to watch, no iPod plugged ears and no one had a cell phone or PS3 in hand.
Is it maudlin or weird that I found the whole scenario attractive? Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire for a return to the decade of poodle skirts and the DAs. We’ve done some great things in the last 60+ years. Technology, civil rights, feminism and alternative energy have all made tidy leaps in the right direction. But we’ve managed to lose a fair amount of innocence along the way too. And that strikes me as incredibly sad.
(plus, many thanks to laughingsquid.com and Google images for the cartoon)