July 2, 2017

Slice of PIE: We Have GOOGLE® ! Burn Schools!

Using the Program of the North American Science Fiction Convention in Puerto Rico in July of 2017 to which I will MIGHT go someday if I recognized any of the names on the guest list… to go, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the program. This is event #. The link is provided below…

The Future of Education – Technology has taken us to the point where almost everything we want to learn can be found on the internet or on an app. Can we eliminate the physical buildings in favor of virtual classrooms? If so, how would it work? (bilingual)
Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ – Director of the Vatican Observatory…also a professor for several years
Marie Guthrie (m) – Professor, member of the Heinlein Society
Matthew David Goodwin – Professor and artist
Helen Gbala – Librarian and “giver of the Golden Duck Award” (SF for under 18s)
Sandra Manning – fan, collector, and all-around enthusiast

Except for the Director of the Vatican Observatory, all of these are new names to me. They’re all involved in education and some level, so I expect the gist of what they said was, “Information is not Education”.

The question becomes, as it always has been, “How do you know what to know?”

For some reason, 21st Century Society seems to think that we are somehow the epitome of wisdom – which just means there’s so much MORE to know today than there has ever been in ALL THE History of ALL THE WORLD…that no one can know enough – so let’s just assume that information equals wisdom and say that we know more than any other Society since the founding of Society.

But, that just plain doesn’t make sense!

I HOPE Brother Consolmango’s deeper and longer involvement with an institution that has existed for two millennia and that has vacillated between a harbinger of oppression and a harbinger of hope, spawning everything between Inquisitions to Hospitals, he might have pointed out that every age has experienced an acceleration of information.

Events of social, cultural, and scientific “renaissance” have occurred in many cultures: The Bengali, The Tamil, and the Nepal Bhasa “renaissances”; Al-Nahda; the Medical Renaissance; Haskalah; the Song Dynasty “renaissance”; dreams of a future African Renaissance; and the Brazilian Renaissance.

Cultures change. Ours is not significant in that we’re learning or doing things better or faster or “more” than at any other period of time. In five hundred years, there might be a Lunar Renaissance; or even a Diqiu Renaissance! There has always been a flood of information. We have always educated our younglings the same way.

But does it stand to reason that because “We Have The INTERNET!!!!!” we might as well close the schools and let everyone educate themselves? I mean, all the information is there, right?

Nope. Learners need vetted guides – we’ve seen what happens when individuals who believe they know best trim history, science, music, art, math, and sociology down to what is “appropriate” for the masses to know. Eventual revolution.

I have seen exactly what happens MOST often when young adults are given the freedom to educate themselves. The school I work in gives kids many options for education – an alternative high school, college classes in the school, advanced courses in the International Baccalaureate program, combinations of online class with in class work, and finally, online school. The last has only succeeded once or twice in my personal, six-year history as a school counselor. When I asked on student why they were not successful, they replied, “Well…the Netflix icon was right next to the school icon on my desktop screen.”

We’re at the front of a revolution now…I believe anyway; though, that it may not be the revolution some people in the SciFi world like to think it will be. My thought is that we will return to paper books primarily because “resources” like Wikipedia are editable by anyone who wants to edit them. I have had more than my fair share as a teacher of students who cut and paste quotes (not labeled as such, of course) in which some wag has replaced every word that starts with “f”…with a single, different word that starts with “f”. Wiki can be changed by anyone with a computer and a key – and an axe to grind or a political agenda. And they DO.

Paper books, while they CAN be edited and reprinted, leave a…paper trail. In a short story I wrote, “Invoking Fire”, a young adult inherits an autistic cousin, a snarky mentee, and a backpack with rare printed editions of books. One is Stephen King’s book CARRIE. The beginning is politically VERY incorrect. So in the ebook version he’s read, it’s been corrected. His great uncle, who kept a huge library of paper books – which also became the pyre on which he eventually burned – is part of a secret organization that is building and stocking a library in the Erg of Bilma. He has left the boy seven books by which he can buy passage from place to place and eventually deliver the only extant copy of an original Gutenberg Bible still left in print.

The boy begins his journey in this first chapter…

At any rate, there you go. My thoughts on the future of education. How about yours?

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