Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure


It worries me that you can search in seconds for any bit of trivia, or indeed profundity.

It reminds me of “The Time Machine” by H. G. Wells, when the time traveller finds all the books disintegrating in the future.

Does it matter that your average teenager does not know where their holiday destination is on the map, they just know the plane goes there? I mean, they could always google it, if they wanted to know.

Is there benefit in knowing things, or is it enough to know we could know things if we wanted/needed to?

Maybe I should google that.

I’d probably arrive here…


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21 thoughts on “Facts

  1. Your last line was brilliantly sarcastic. We have a globe which when the kids were younger we used to use it a lot for geography lessons in fantasy land. I wouldn’t trade our globe for anything in the world.

  2. Scotstig on said:

    It worries me that people think that “Braveheart” is historical fact.

  3. Rickster on said:

    I read an article a few months back by some psychologists saying how the internet has changed our brains. We no longer remember facts and details, what we now remember is where on the internet the information is, or how to find the facts and details on the internet.

  4. theotheri on said:

    Yes, the internet changes the way we think. It was part of what McLuhan was trying to say in his book “The Medium is the Message.” Yes, it changes what and how we remember. And yes, that has its downsides. But in the end, the internet gives us access to far greater information than even the most prodigious memory could store. I imagine the older generation in those pre-literate societies where geneologies were saved solely through oral history wringing their hands in despair at the degeneration of memory when books were published.

    As for not knowing where on the map the plane I am on is going, I think it is up to us grown-ups to communicate to the younger generation why it might be exciting to know where Australia is. Or the Azores or Syria or Kabul. Why does it matter where these places are? What difference does it make?

    I do think there is a serious risk if we spend all our thinking time on the computer. It can shorten our attention span as well as truncate our memories. It can reduce our ability to maintain a serious stream of thought. But it doesn’t have to.

    And though I regret not having access to the internet (or even much television) when I was growing up, I will admit that I’m awfully glad I learned to love books.

    • I’ve sent off for the medium/message book. I find the idea interesting. And social media is certainly democratising and a leveller of authority.

      • I’d be interested to know your assessment of The Medium is the Message. I read it close to 30 years ago, so the concrete applications of what McLuhan was saying have increased exponentially. So has the research studying the effects of various media. But I think the basic premise remains valid.

  5. That’s why we go to school!

  6. There is another book called Failure to Connect about children’s minds being messed up by having to learn computers. It does not mention the effect on adults, though.
    A curious thing I noticed while homeschooling my children–we seriously limited computer access until high school years, when we allowed working literature assignments on it. Only. They knew very little going into college, but we reasoned the colleges required a beginning computer course, anyway, so why not just teach them to learn and leave the rest for later.
    Once they got into those beginnier computer classes–all five of them–they became the class leader, working with kids who’d had tech classes in school. Why? They knew how to listen and pay attention. They knew how to learn. They knew how to turn in assignments on time. All things the schools were not big on teaching.
    Also, they had many hours of drill in oral history, memorizing many Bible portions and parts of the Constituiton, etc. These things they will never lose during a power outage.
    I think the power outage problem is the big thing, the big reason to keep books around, really. It’s all too ephemeral, these days. Which would you rather retrieve from a puddle–your history book or your kindle with your history book on it?

    • theotheri on said:

      My own guess is that your children were more successful than many of their peers in college not because you restricted their computer use so much as because, as you say, they had learned from you how to learn, how to complete a task, even how to remember.

      My own parents had similar attitudes toward television. In retrospect, I think it was their attitude toward discipline and focus that was far more formative for me.
      Personally, I am not convinced that keeping children away from computers is necessarily in itself particularly helpful. Computers, as you certainly know, have the potential for being highly addictive and children need to learn how to use them constructively. It’s rather like learning about how to use alcohol or to deal maturely with sex. Banning these things absolutely can leave a debilitating gap.

      I do appreciate, as I say, that excessive use of computers can be damaging. But I have seen them used as almost a life-line for autistic children. Computers are like fire — both extremely useful and potentially extremely dangerous.

      I think we do not disagree fundamentally on this question. Though if we do, I would be interested to hear your thoughts. Your experience with your children is quite different from my own.

      • “Banning these things absolutely can leave a debilitating gap.”

        We did not ban computers absolutely. I said: we strictly limited. Then in high school we taught one possible good use–a very large, very expensive typewriter, it was, then, but only after they had already learned to spell and to type.

        Especially for the older two of our children, computers were so infantile and so rapidly changing, that we were positive whatever we taught them would be wasted time because it would be obsolete by the time they reached college. We were right.

        We also did not let our children play with alcohol or sex. We taught them, yes, but they were not allowed to play with these things. Nor fire.

        Even botulism, now days, has found what some may call a constructive use, but we prevented our children exposure to that, too.

        I don’t know. I think it’s apples and oranges. We used their learning years for learning, as you said, my point, exactly. A kindergartener at a keyboard is a waste of learning time and energy. Eye-hand coordination instruction during the early years is missing in too many grown kids. By the time they really need to know computers, what they spent precious kindergarten time on will be outmoded, time wasted.

        Read the book I mentioned, Failure to Connect, written by a learning psychologist, Dr. Jane M. Healy, also quoting many, many other professionals, begging parents to stop it. If Jefferson and Einstein had been raised on PCs, would we now have the Declaration of Independence and the Theory of Relativity? Not likely.

        And make a hard copy of everything important, for when they bomb all the electric plants.

      • theotheri on said:

        Thank you for your answer to my comment. I am familiar with Jane Healy’s work, and though I have some differences with her, do not disagree with her basic position — computers are not a miracle substitute for the kind of learning children most children need the most of.

        But the point I was trying to make in my original comment and still stick to is that involved parents who care about their children and are sincerely trying to give them the best start in life they can — even if they are technically wrong about some parenting issues — are far more important than the presence or absence of a computer. Or a television. If in any way I appeared to be critical of your approach, it was a matter of poor communication on my part. I am admiring of it. If more children had caring, involved parents who did not sit them down in front of a tv or computer screen and then walk away, I’m sure children would be happier, healthier, and well-adjusted. And probably smarter.

        And of course, there always is the problem of a major and long-term power outage. And I agree — it’s terrifyingly possible.

  7. This is great you two! My children are 8, 6 and 4 and certainly the learning skills discussion is highly relevant. (The sex, drugs and rock’n’roll is still psychologically far off, thankfully). I find parenting very hard, and although I was about to say I do my best, I know I cut corners and don’t play enough chess with the eldest, do enough imaginative play with the younger two.
    I do provide snacks, meals and try to engender a love of reading, if that counts! And I am big on them having meaningful relationships with their extended family and community.
    My son is irritatied with my computer use…

    • Hey, Sans!
      I try to limit computer use to family down time, like when they are at work or abed. The most important thing I ever heard or learned about parenting is this:
      We try and try to apply the right things, remove the wrong things, like a prescription for medicine from a doctor, but YOU, MOM, ARE THE MEDICINE. Whatever you come up with is what they need, if it comes from you. Chess, play, food, reading–it all counts. Computers, nah. That you are doing without them, and if they participate, they are doing without you. Sad. Picnics, plays, walks in the rain, fingerpainting, it does not matter, as long as it’s you. 🙂

  8. theotheri on said:

    Oh Sans, you are encouraging the two of us!

    For what it’s worth, here are a few more thoughts on computers and children today. Originally for most of us (not counting the code-breakers during WWII), computers were indeed little more than more efficient typewriters. They didn’t really change the medium. That happened with the internet.

    And that’s where I think children need parental guidance and control today. For one thing, children need real live interaction with real life people, both with other children and with adults. That’s how we learn to read and send all the subtle messages available through actual physical presence – in facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc. But just as importantly in the world today, we need to learn that messages sent through cyber-space are stripped of all those signals. Children need to learn not to trust cyber-friends absolutely. Cyber-friends can be wonderful. But they can be far more deceptive. All my mother and father had to teach me was not to get into a car with a stranger. Children today have to learn at a much earlier age how to be savvy about a lot more.

    And keeping them away from the internet or letting them get on with it by themselves will, I think, too often throw them to the wolves. They need discussions at home as well as at school about how to protect themselves, the questions to ask, how to deal with cyber-bullies, how to develop cyber-relationships without giving away too much of themselves too fast, to know what pornography is (well, not for the five year olds, but you know what I mean.) Children will figure out for themselves fast enough how to access information, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure they also learn how to question its accuracy, and to come to understand why plagiarism in all its new forms is still wrong.

    I’m the age of a grandparent, not a parent anymore. But from where I’m sitting, it looks like parents is a lot more challenging than it was.

    But I think we’re all agreed: it’s the being there, it’s the caring that matters most. It’s not always getting it right. And it’s certainly not always meeting with the approval of the children who aren’t old enough yet to know how much they don’t know!

    Love to know what you think from where you’re standing.

  9. Pingback: Well Thumbed « Wee Scoops

  10. I’ve sent off for the “Failure to Connect” and have read “the Medium is the Message” now. Thanks to you both for the ideas.

    I will post on children and computers tomorrow 🙂

    Thanks for making me think!

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