Attention Span: Our National Education Crisis, Part Two
II. Attention Span and Freedom
Of course, attention span by itself is not enough to guarantee education or freedom, but a person lacking attention span must either develop it or he will not become educated, and a nation without attention span must either gain it or lose its freedoms.
If I were speaking of making money, the point would be obvious. If you don’t go to work and stay a few hours, your paycheck will be small.
In fact, figure out what your paycheck would be if you tried to cram your whole work week into one day, and you’ll have a pretty good indication of how much that same amount of study is really worth.
Or, figure out how much money you’d make if you spent four years putting in an hour or two a day between fun activities—you certainly wouldn’t make enough to live on.
If you put in that same kind of study, you won’t have much of an education to show for it either. The diploma on the wall may look the same, but it will be empty of meaning.
Without attention span—specific, dedicated time spent at work or managing one’s resources—income and wealth will dry up. The same is true of education, where the currency is study instead of labor, and the commodities are virtue, wisdom and freedom.
But how does a person or nation without attention span develop it, increase it, or improve it? There is only one way: discipline yourself to put in the time.
Slow down and put in the time reading, writing, discussing, listening, pondering, thinking, praying.
Spend hours and hours in the classics, and you will acquire a superb education. A nation of superbly educated individuals will maintain its freedom.
In Lincoln’s day the culture of learning was based around books. Today, as Neil Postman points out in his excellent book Amusing Ourselves to Death, the culture of learning is based on television and internet technology.
All of our forms of public discourse are based less and less on books and more and more on electronic media.
Most of the major decisions of society are made in five places—families, churches, schools, businesses and governments—and four of the five are moving consistently away from books toward electronic media.
Politics is now almost exclusively an electronic event, more and more people attend church in front of their television set, businesses survive through electronic marketing, and schools are “computerizing” as quickly as possible—the wave of the future, we are told, is virtual education, virtual politics, e-business and electronic evangelizing.
Even the family is increasingly virtual—parents and children communicate with fax and email, and family time is increasingly spent in front of the television set, except for those off in their own rooms surfing the net.
Now don’t get me wrong: I like the latest hit movie or website as much as anyone, and I believe that television and internet technology are of great benefit to society—they significantly empower business and greatly enhance entertainment.
But they have also displaced books as the source of cultural learning, and this is a very discouraging development because of the impact of society’s morals; but that is not my chief point here.
My point is that it is bad to replace books with television and internet because of the consequences to education and freedom.
Specifically, the medium of the electronic screen teaches at least five deadly fallacies about education, and consequently freedom:
Fallacy Number 1: Learning should be fun.
To be continued……