Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I have a dream.

Today in eighth grade we talked about the character of Abraham Lincoln. In a non-fiction selection called “Peculiarsome Abe” the students read about how everyone thought Abraham Lincoln was odd because he liked to read and learn so much. A great discussion ensued centering around the things they, as teenagers in the twenty-first century, do to fill their time. Unsurprisingly, these things centered on television, video games, and computer games. To be fair, many of them mentioned that they enjoy playing outside or with their friends as well, but in the reality of winter, they aren’t able to play outside or with their friends all the time…thus resorting to the technological conveniences mentioned above.

This, as stated before, isn’t a surprise. But it is still disturbing. After the class had tallied hours of TV watched in a week (average of ~15) one student asked me how much I watched. I told them I didn’t really get television, just fuzzy reception. I qualified that with the ability I have to get television off the internet, but that even with that I still usually watched less than 5 hours a week. One student, an unlikely one, responded “You are lucky.”
“Really? Why?”
“Because it’s not even available. It’d probably be better if we didn’t have it as an option.”

I’ll be the first to say that technology is amazing. I love a well-crafted movie or some down time watching a clever sit-com. Cell phones are remarkably convenient. The internet makes being a nerd infinitely exciting (as does ITunesU) and communication so easy. All that acknowledged, my dream would be to ditch all of it for a while…take all my students into the wilderness (in a properly chaperoned fashion) where they went without cell phone, television and internet for a month—even just two weeks would do. There we would read books and play board games and wander the wilderness. There we would take turns preparing meals, have thoughtful conversations by firelight and go on walks in the morning sunlight (or rain).

I know this is idealistic. I know that the students would be at each other’s throats in a week’s time or less. But at least when it was all said and done they would know that they could in fact exist without texting every hour, updating their facebook every evening and keeping up with their multiple television series.

If there is one thing I love about being poor it is the simplicity that comes with it. There isn’t television ready to be consumed any more than there are packaged snacks. There is the necessary, the planned, the prepared…nothing more.

Someday my life won’t be this simple, and I will relish large purchases of gum, cheese and lime flavored tortilla chips. I may pay for unlimited texting and television someday as well. I hope my students experience this simplicity someday with appreciation instead of frustration. Until I find that cabin-in-the-woods curriculum, I’ll continue to try and indoctrinate them with my agenda-filled discussions, hoping that someday they will pause a moment longer before consuming their favorite technological convenience, or maybe opt against consuming it at all.

1 comment:

  1. hey, sign me up for that excursion! (not in this weather, though)

    ya know, nathan and i may take to the woods one of these years and raise our band of marx's in solitude. with books, balls, sticks, stones, clay, dolls, rope, knives, as the only amusements available to our children. and their imaginations, each other, and us. :)