Last week, I went to see “Race to Nowhere“, a documentary about the college-driven lives of our children. There is certainly a segment of the student population struggling with stress levels that are appalling, but that parents and teachers don’t seem to recognize very easily–or perhaps we think they’re a necessary evil. What I found compelling, though, was the discussion that inspired the title. Most upper middle class students feel as though they are in a race, to do well in school, to in order to have impressive transcripts, in order to get into the top colleges, in order to get into the top grad schools, in order to get the best job, in order to…. it never seems to end. One particularly articulate teenager in the film suggests that the emperor has no clothes, calling it a race to nowhere. It begs the question of all of us: what do we want for our children? What does a good education mean? What are its guarantees? These are questions we all, teachers, parents, and students, need to wrestle with so that our decisions, our reactions, and our plans are purposeful and meaningful.
Here is a VERY comprehensive article on technology and how it’s changing our lives, or more specifically, our brains. This article from the London Review of Books focuses on distraction, memory, and creativity, but is not concerned with children per say. As we protect and stimulate our children’s brains, all evidence points to caution when it comes to the effects of technology on creativity. Counter to what you might think, Jim Holt does indicate a number of areas where technology is making us sharper (eg. MRI’s of experienced Google users versus inexperienced Google users shows positive structural changes in the brain for making connections between concepts). Of course, when we’re in the thick of change, it’s difficult to gauge how it’s changing us, but we are being remiss if we do not at least reflect on it now and then.