In her excellent book A Nation of Wimps, Hara Marano tackles many contemporary issues relative to raising and educating children. She notes that despite the fact that technology continues to grow faster than social scientists can interpret its effects – e.g., Ten years ago, 38% of college kids had cell phones. Today it’s well over 90%. (I mean, do you know a college kid without one?) – agreement does exist over the notion that cell phones and technology tend to “weaken the power of place-based institutions to penetrate the minds of the young and to affect their behavior.”
College is supposed to be a dramatic plunge into a new and unfamiliar world. The lessons learned as a result of fighting to the surface are lifelong. It’s hard to plunge into a new world if you stay tethered to your old and familiar one. And that’s a problem with cell phones, computers, Facebook, etc.
Dowd concurs, “…the Internet divides the world more firmly into niches, birds of a feather avidly flocking together. As you leave behind high school to redefine and even reinvent yourself as adult, you need exposure to an array of different ideas, backgrounds and perspectives – not a cordon of clones.”
Marano laments that the cell phone impedes personal and psychological development because it “provides an excuse for first-year students not to have to get out and make new friends and new connections on campus.” As a result, “socialization is restricted to comfortable old networks. You never have to learn how to get along with others or – God forbid – learn from others.”
The randomness of college is both a great teacher and an important quality to preserve. As Dowd concludes, “College is not only where you hit the books. It also should be where you learn not to judge a book by its cover.”
Onward, Malcolm Gauld