Technology: good or evil?
On a completely different note (or maybe not?), I've been seeing a lot of things lately here and there about instructors and their beef against technology. On the one hand, I agree when they argue they shouldn't be forced to change styles of teaching that have worked for hundreds of years without technology just so students can be more entertained in the classroom and instructors can seem more hip. It's ridiculous, often, the things we expect instructors to do that have absolutely nothing to do with their subject material. On the other hand, I'm growing tired of this perception of technology as an inherent evil. iPods and facebook do not MAKE students unresponsive and inattentive and lazy. Kids aren't encouraged in the right ways both at home and in schools (and it doesn't help when admin continually forces instructors to cater to whiny, bratty students and parents who think their children are the next Messiah), so they don't bother to do schoolwork. That's the problem, not technology.
Actually, I was reading a very interesting book today, by Marianne McDonald, Ancient Sun, Modern Light: Greek Drama on the Modern Stage. I only just started it, but so far, I think this is a wonderful book, and I'm very excited by her ideas and her style (and I think everyone should read it).
However, this paragraph in the preface did make me balk:
"Theater is one of the last repositories of thought. Television with its sitcoms, soaps and video games is one of the more insidious drugs infiltrating the world. We see also that even war can be represented as an elaborate video game; we concentrate on the 'hits' rather than losses or human deaths. We are losing the ability to think and reason, enslaved instead by the image that demands no response on our part besides the simple act of perception. We should restore danger to television and encourage the performance of plays that demand a response on our part. We must also encourage the performance of plays in theaters and make them more financially accessible to all people. Local productions should be a part of every grade school, high school, or university. The heritage of classics should not be given only to the elite, but allowed to enter the dialect of a wide public that represents the diversity of our country." (p. 12)
I agree with a large part of this, except that I again don't think that television is an "insidious drug." Frankly, I know plenty of people go and see plays with as much (lack of) care as they watch television--only it costs them more and takes more effort, so they dress up and consider it a night out. A lot of people aren't actually engaged enough to walk away and provide an ounce of analytical thought about what they've just paid money to see, any more than they can tell you about a television show. Just because their hands are engaged in clapping and they're forced to remain silent during the show (and honestly, the set-up is not so different from a classroom in many ways, except that the dark theatre can only encourage sleeping!), it doesn't mean their minds are engaged in thinking. On the flip side, television, while more convenient to lazy people, can be just as stimulating as a play. I know plenty of people who can analyze a television show or movie just as well as we expect people to analyze books in school. And maybe it's my own sci-fi bias, but I know a lot of sci-fi shows that encourage intelligent discussion and mental interaction (witness many scientists who claim inspiration from Star Trek). And how many people are discussing Rome and its historical accuracies and interpretations?? Hell, I've even seen a book of essays on Firefly (not to mention the numerous books on the philosophy of certain television shows--everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Simpsons. And while there is a lot of truly bad fanfiction out there, there is also a lot of truly inspired fanfiction too. At its worse, yes, television can rot brains, but at its best, it can be a great source of intellectual and creative stimulation.
The same thing could be said of live theatre and even of books. I think the important thing is that we are taught how to think for ourselves by others who do so. This knowledge can be spread through any medium.
And a minor quibble, but I'm also not entirely sure that our over-exposure of violence in modern culture is necessarily worse than the ancient Greeks hiding violence on stage. Is that any less truthful?
And my apologies to Marianne McDonald for making her a scapegoat for my television rant. It's obviously a very popular belief, and it really only struck out at me today because of other recent complaints and the fact that I actually agree with most of the rest of what she says.