The Place of Technology

A little over a month ago, my back went out on me. For four days I lay in bed with a continual supply of ice and Advil, virtually unable to move. Finally, after no improvement, I went to my doctor, a kinesiologist. He told me that I did something to my disk while swimming the butterfly and that I should never do that again. He also told me to get myself a back brace and to wear it most of the time for a while and then whenever I’m doing anything approaching heavy lifting or bending (like, say, getting off the couch after watching a football game).

 Since then I’ve worn the back brace most of the time, though for the last couple days I’ve tried not to. The not so funny thing is, now about five weeks later, my disk has recovered for the most part, but my back is weaker.

When I was in 8th grade and Ronald Reagan was failing in his Quixotic bid for the Republican nomination, my knee was bothering me so I went to my family doctor. He had no idea what was wrong with it so he made up some ideas as he went along. They didn’t help, so when I was 17 I had my knee scoped. All they could tell me was that my left leg was weaker than my right. About five years ago, in spite of weight lifting, walking, running, etc. I started wearing a knee brace.

The not so funny thing is that my left leg has gotten even weaker.

The not so funny thing about all technology is simply this: if we replace a human faculty with technology, the human faculty is diminished.

This is by no means a sweeping indictment of technology. The stick was a great improvement over the thumb and the plough was a magnificent improvement over the stick. Reviews on the tractor are a little more mixed.

But this is meant to be a call to sobriety in our haste to replace the human being with the machine, especially in education. Education is the cultivation of our human faculties, like words and reasoning. Socrates went so far as to object to writing because he argued that our memory would be impaired if we placed it outside of our minds. He was, of course, right. Educators should not see learning how to read as the be all and end all of education.

Consider the calculator. When seventh graders get their hands on these things, they forget how to calculate themselves.

And now the computer has arrived in every classroom on earth and we are going to save the world! Yeah, right.

Here’s my position: In education, no technology should ever be used that is not necessary and when it is used, the human faculty that is being replaced must be consciously and deliberately cultivated in some other way.

If you are seeking to cultivate wisdom in children, you will have to cultivate the faculties used to gain wisdom. These faculties reside in the soul and they use the powers of the body. Do not break the link between the body and the world around it.

Always remember: when you replace a human faculty with technology, that human faculty is diminished.

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