“To truly harness technology, students must be both distanced from and immersed in it. Teachers must use their authority to turn classrooms into a space where students can step back and reflect on all the information they have imbibed. At the same time students must have a robust enough training in digital technologies to know both their potential and limitations. Only in this way will they gain the intellectual confidence and technical skills necessary to produce useful knowledge amid information excess. A brave new world need not be a nightmare; it may actually be a better world.”
In Amusing Ourselves to Death, a prophetic work on the impact of television on culture, the late media scholar Neil Postman compared two dystopias. One was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four, a world of strict thought control and surveillance where dissent was drowned under screams of torture. The other was Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World, a culture of permanent distraction, immobilized by entertainment and diminished by superficiality. One society was watched by Big Brother; the other entertained by it.
Postman found Orwell’s vision irrelevant to western democracies. Modern society, he said, was less a prison than a burlesque. Like Huxley’s nightmare vision, culture was being impoverished by distraction and trivia, and thought devalued. The problem wasn’t so much entertainment as the habit of mind…
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