Monday, January 5, 2015

The Changing Nature of Being Educated

I've been reading "The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood" by James Gleick, and in it, he has a quote that I had to dig a little deeper on. Here is a slightly longer version of something Gleick quoted:
For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in [this technology] will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom,....
So, who was this Luddite railing against technology? Though this could easily be my mother or father, it was actually Socrates in Plato's Phaedrus. He was warning of the perils of written language, just as others would eventually complain about the printing press and then radio, film, TV, and every other transformative information technology.

In this day and age, what does it mean to be educated, and how has that definition changed over time? In Plato's time, you could be considered educated even if you were illiterate. In the 1970's you needed to know how to read, but could still be considered well-educated if you had no clue about how to use a computer. What about now? More importantly, what about 10, 20, or 30 years from now?

Note: I am not trying to wade out into the depths of the battles about whether technology is making kids worse students. New York Times has Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say, which does wade out into those scary waters. I just think the changing nature of what it means to be educated is an interesting thing to keep an eye on.

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