A New Vision for the Future of Education Instead of Rearview Mirror Myopia

24Nov11

A present day classroom

No different than a Victorian classroom

For the Future, a New Vision Instead of Same Old Myopia
By John J. Hunt / Rio Rancho resident on Thu, Nov 24, 2011

This is the centenary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth. He died in 1980, but his legacy has yet to be fully realized.

In his 1967 book “The Medium Is the Massage,” he issued a warning to the present about what was coming, what changes were being ushered in by the new electronic technology.
However – “Why Bother With Marshall McLuhan?” as Alan Jacobs titles his essay on McLuhan in The New Atlantis. Then he goes on to answer his own question: Even though “he outlived his fame,” as Jacobs observes, he also states that “To read McLuhan is to gain at least an inkling of what it might be like to look around the next corner of history.”
We should all be anxious to peer around that corner.
Years before the World Wide Web came into being, Marshall McLuhan was forecasting what now seems prescient: electric circuitry “has reconstituted dialogue on a global scale. Its message is Total Change.”
Witness the Arab Spring or the Occupy Wall Street movements. McLuhan was trying to challenge society into being prepared for these changes.
When he wrote about the emergence of “electric technology”- predating iPods and smart phones – he expressed the great wave of change that this electronic age would usher in: “Everything is changing – you, your family, your neighborhood, your education, your job, your government, your relation to ‘the others,’ and they’re changing dramatically.”
The ramifications of this new electronic media are clearly in front of us, but we are still looking to the past to solve the problems that the new media have presented. In the 44 years since “Massage” was published, the chart of our declining ratings in the educational field has dropped off the page. (Need I list the dismal statistics?)
The main reason is not dumb or lazy students (although those always exist); it is not the lack of parents’ involvement, nor a dearth of qualified teachers.
The linear print culture is at war with the “hot” electronic culture.
Honest educators know what their students do, and they know what effects the electric media have on them; good teachers try to work within that framework.
The problem is, as McLuhan outlined clearly, is that “The student finds no means of involvement for himself and cannot discover how the educational scheme relates to his mythic world of electronically processed data and experience that his clear and direct responses report.”
It’s obvious that simply throwing money at the broken educational system will not fix it.
Instead, and to call an armistice in the classroom, why not solicit the aid of those who know better than anyone else how to bring the youths into their fold: Microsoft and Apple. Perhaps as a national experiment, California should turn over its public school system to Bill and Melinda Gates and the heirs of Steve Jobs.
Challenge them to create a new standard for educators, to approach education with new incentives, and new goals – and new apps.
Exploring instead of memorizing; and stop attempting to do a job demanded by the new environment with the tools of the old.
John Hunt is a historian and media activist.   http://tinyurl.com/6n9jqjq


A classroom of the future?

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