Rabbit Trail: Sometime in the distant future…

In his recent installment, Wave of the Future, More Screens in the Classroom?, Joshua Gibbs envisions a future where employers weed out prospective employees based on a test which measures their screen dependency. Theoretically, they do it the same way testing currently detects recreational drug use.  Am I the only one who finds that terminology, recreational drug use, sadly humorous? Such damaging things described as recreational. But I digress.

Using a fictional dialogue between a teenage part-time job seeker and the grocery store manager he petitions for employment, Gibbs lays out a scene. The confused job applicant wonders how this “old” dude could be so clueless about the wonders and advantages of technology.

Food Country Manager: Sorry, but based on the way your tests came back, I cannot offer you a job.

Kid: Why not? I couldn’t have failed the drug test.

FCM: Your drug test was fine, but your light scan came back hot.

Kid: My light scan?

FCM: The retina scan they did after you peed in the cup.

Kid: Yeah, what was that about?

FCM: A light scan measures screen exposure. Yours came back at a 73 and Food Country has a policy of not hiring anyone with a light scan reading over a 35.

Kid: What’s a 73? 73 what?

FCM: A 73 suggests that you view screens between 7 and 8 hours a day. That kind of screen dependency makes you a significant liability as an employee.

Kid: (confused) So, I “view screens”? What does that mean? Everyone views screens.

FCM: We’ve found that employees with significant screen dependencies simply get far less work done than employees with lower light scans. Four years ago, before Food Country instituted light scan tests for potential employees, analysts estimated the company lost between 240 and 280 million dollars a year in labor value to employees viewing screens on the clock. Of course, the higher your light scan number, the more likely you are to look at your phone on the clock.

This kicks off a hearty dialogue between them in which the store manager updates the clueless teen that people -and parents- in the know have largely abandoned technology in the same way the majority of the public abandoned cigarettes a generation ago. In fact, that only the poor and uneducated view technology as something to embrace:

Kid: Where am I supposed to work?

FCM: I don’t know. Try to get a screen-related job. Although even that could be tough. Nobody fears the power of screen addiction quite like the purveyors of screen addiction. Did you never hear all those stories from the early 20s about how the CEOs of tech companies wouldn’t let their kids have phones?

Kid: What?

FCM: Tim Cook, Bill Gates, all the billionaires at Facebook… none of them let their kids use social media.

Kid: I doubt that’s true. Why wouldn’t big tech CEOs let their kids have phones? You’ve got to stay connected.

FCM: The same reason why drug dealers don’t do drugs. They see what happens to people who do.

Kid: How long has the general public known that big tech CEOs don’t let their kids have phones?

FCM: The last twenty years.

Kid: Why didn’t that stop people from giving their kids phones?

FCM: Back in the day, having a tech-savvy kid was a point of pride. It was often viewed as a sign of maturity. It was thought very urbane and modern.

Kid: Why?

FCM: Because it was new and because it was just a little uncommon.

Kid: Is it not still considered urbane?

FCM: (laughing) Heavens, no. You don’t read parenting blogs, do you? Why would you? Today, handing a child a tablet or a phone is considered no less vulgar than giving a child a cigarette— that is, among the same kind of people who thought it fashionable thirty years ago.

Kid: So, it’s just a matter of fashion? Perhaps giving kids screens will become a fad again. Maybe in being addicted to screens, I’m actually ahead of my time.

FCM: Perhaps, although giving a child a cigarette has been considered abuse for quite some time now. I don’t think that’s going away. So far as wealth and privilege are concerned, the trend is so strongly away from tech, I don’t know that tech will ever recover a luxury image. High tech has become a symbol of slavery and oppression over the last twenty years— this is the way adults with money see the matter, anyway. High tech is a sign you’re being monitored, conditioned, manipulated, like some kind of little child or animal. Cash has made a huge comeback. The number of discount stores has decreased, but the number of stores aimed at the upper middle class has skyrocketed. After a long drought, cash is making a comeback. Real libraries— the kind with books— are reopening in affluent neighborhoods. But you’re seventeen and don’t have any money, so you don’t see any of this happening.

Kid: This is starting to sound like classism.

FCM: (shrugging) Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. How are they defining “classism” this week?

Kid: It’s when one class of people keeps another class down. It sounds to me like people who can afford screenless lives are oppressing people who can’t afford screenless lives.

FCM: You can’t afford a screenless life? Given that your screen addiction just cost you a lousy job, it seems more like you can’t afford anything except a screenless life.

I’m not convinced the future looks the way Gibbs is painting it here. Frankly, there are too many people who have too much to lose should the current mass technological dependency wanes.

Secondly, from what I have read, there are powerful forces at work trying to push us toward a cashless society. I’m doing my part to resist, being something of a cash girl myself, but still. I do however, foresee greater and greater numbers of people making an earnest attempt to circumvent the all-seeing, all-tracking capabilities being employed by the likes of Google, Amazon, and Facebook. The “right” to privacy as a nonexistent reality will eventually be too much for people to take. Or at least it will be when the recognition of thoroughly we’ve all been compromised becomes common knowledge.

Will a day come when only expensive private schools employ physically present teachers? When public schools will be little more than shells of their former selves, reserved to meet the minimum legal education requirements for the children unfortunate enough to born into families who can employ no other options? It all sounds rather dystopian to me, but I appreciated the opportunity Gibbs offers to contemplate what our future might look like if we continue on our current trajectory.

Currently, our family’s livelihood and standard of living has been funded completely through the expansion of the use of technology. And yet, we have reservations about most social media platforms and are routinely taking stock of the role of technology in our lives. We are far from perfect in this regard, but it is something we take time to consider and tweak. We haven’t yet abandoned it wholesale, in case that isn’t glaringly obvious.

I find the predictions about education particularly intriguing. It is the reason why the article inspired this post, in fact.

So tell me, what do you all think? Are we looking at a technological futre where teachers are obsolete and students obtain all their education, such as it is, via screens? And what about the possibility of determining a job applicants suitability for employment based on an analysis of their screen time usage? Personally, I think the former question is more likely answered in the affirmative than the latter, but if we live ling enough, we’ll see.

 

17 thoughts on “Rabbit Trail: Sometime in the distant future…

  1. hearthie says:

    “Will a day come when only expensive private schools employ physically present teachers?” Yes.

    The rest of the piece is highly unlikely. I do all my work on a screen. Can the imaginary test tell the difference between my PC screen and my phone? It’s not like we’re going to keep accounts on paper again. Not to mention that screenzombies buy things more easily. We like consumers ’round here.

    But the rest? Where class status tells include screenlessness? Oh yes. But not for me and thee – we’re not high enough up in the food chain.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elspeth says:

    “Will a day come when only expensive private schools employ physically present teachers?” Yes.

    Thank heavens school -of the traditional sort- has never been our thing!

    But the rest? Where class status tells include screenlessness? Oh yes. But not for me and thee – we’re not high enough up in the food chain.

    I don’t know, Hearth. Outside of employment, I can see where an invasive Internet hostile to people of our religious and cultural persuasion forces us offline in ways related to the things we do online right now. I can easily envision it, making us nearly screenless by default.

    Like

  3. hearthie says:

    This also. But it won’t be a “you are hired because you’re screenless”. The Normies will eat a lot of screens. One might make a Brave New World reference here… Actually, one could just recommend a re-read, there’s too much cross over. -hands you your plastic and glass bit of Soma- Doesn’t do to deprive the masses of their drug…….

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  4. Krysta says:

    I’ve read a couple articles suggesting that the new class divide will be between the affluent, screenless and the poor, screen-dependent. This sadly makes a lot of sense to me because it seems obvious that a lot of learning is best done hands-on and with a competent instructor who can guide you, answer questions, etc. Yet the drive in schools has been towards more technology, not less, with some excitedly promoting classrooms where, instead of being taught by a person, each student sits at a computer and learns through the screen. It’s supposedly better because “individualized”; each student has their own math problems, say, based on their skill level. But I’m not convinced that can replace a real, live teacher who can explain things in various ways, figure out what’s stumping a child based on their years’ of experiencing teaching certain concepts, etc. But the screens will become cheaper while paying actual people to do a job will be more expensive. So I can definitely envision a world where the affluent have less screen time.

    There’s also the matter of education for the parents. More affluent parents tend to be more connected with the types of resources that promote “good” parenting. Maybe because they more time to seek them out and take advantage of them. Maybe because they can pay for it. Some parents may not be aware of the research suggesting too much screen time is detrimental. Some may be aware, but unable to do much about it. It’s the difference between being able to pay for a nanny with a master’s degree who can teach your kid a second language and putting in a DVD again because you need to cook supper without the child repeatedly heading towards the stove. You may know you “shouldn’t” pop in the DVD, but you have to do what you have to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Elspeth says:

    I’ve read a couple articles suggesting that the new class divide will be between the affluent, screenless and the poor, screen-dependent.

    Doesn’t it sound dystopian almost?

    But I’m not convinced that can replace a real, live teacher who can explain things in various ways, figure out what’s stumping a child based on their years’ of experiencing teaching certain concepts, etc. But the screens will become cheaper while paying actual people to do a job will be more expensive. So I can definitely envision a world where the affluent have less screen time.

    I can’t envision it myself, but the wheels do seem to be in motion for education to be overhauled in a way that leaves only the affluent (or the very intelligent, determined, and resourceful) to provide a good education for their children.

    We have been fortunate in our particular state and regional area to have found wonderful teachers and excellent supplemental resources on our kids educational journey.

    The particular site that I pulled this original post from (Circe Institute) trains teachers and parents in the ways of classical education. The program that our homeschooled kids are enrolled in draws heavily from their resources, which means that our kids are getting high-level instruction from enthusiastic instructors, and at an affordable tuition rate for our family.

    All that to say that middle-class families are going to have to be willing to spend a bit of time, treasure, and energy to see that our kids get the best education we can afford. It may not be at the level of the 1%, but it doesn’t need to be bottom-barrel.

    As for poorer families, it saddens me that kids with lots of potential might be placed into environments where it is stifled or snuffed out.

    Some may be aware, but unable to do much about it. It’s the difference between being able to pay for a nanny with a master’s degree who can teach your kid a second language and putting in a DVD again because you need to cook supper without the child repeatedly heading towards the stove. You may know you “shouldn’t” pop in the DVD, but you have to do what you have to do.

    A lot of parents feel overwhelmed. I admit I used PBS a lot when my kids were little. It was the only way to get the dishes washed or the toilets scrubbed, 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. bikebubba says:

    Somehow images of President Obama dancing around with his selfie stick are coming to mind….so count me somewhat skeptical to assume that elites are really going to go low screen.

    Seriously, while I don’t think it’s possible to figure out screen time with a retinal scan, employers are cracking down on phones. My two CNA daughters note they’re not allowed to have their phones while working, though it’d be a cheap way of replacing the walkie-talkies they use. I’m also starting to walk around after 9pm and tell them “off the phone unless it’s an emergency.” Not totally successful in this, but I do want them to know and appreciate that sleep goes when the blue screen is too near.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Elspeth says:

    Somehow images of President Obama dancing around with his selfie stick are coming to mind….so count me somewhat skeptical to assume that elites are really going to go low screen.

    I had a similar thought, albeit without any particular personality attached to it. I do, however, believe that at some point smartphone usage will be considered part gauche and part damaging to kids in ways unimaginable even now to anyone other than Cal Newport followers. At that point, affluent parents will not only take them away from their kids but reduce their own usage to the point that you won’t see them being used in public by anyone other than the poor and/or tacky, LOL.

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  8. smkoseki says:

    So tell me, what do you all think? Are we looking at a technological futre where teachers are obsolete and students obtain all their education, such as it is, via screens?

    No fluke. Time is too valuable, and education too valuable, to waste time learning from a physical person. That would be like building one’s own car or making our own gasoline, crazy. One can self-educate via a screen far for efficiently, in addition to avoiding the propaganda & low-IQ reality of the mainstream.

    I would say the entire concept of “education” is in the formal sense is pretty much over, we just lack the language to discuss it and the left side of the curve is stuck in the past.

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  9. bikebubba says:

    Regarding the notion of education via screen, that only works when someone is internally motivated and will actually process things–as countless universities have learned as they put lower level math courses online. As bad as lecture/recitation was, screen is worse. Especially at the elementary/secondary level, you’ve got to have someone there who can look at the child and try to figure him out to say “you need to learn your multiplication tables, or else all of science, engineering, accounting, and mathematics is going to be next to impossible for you.”

    The exact phrasing is going to differ by person, but you’ve got to have someone who can “see” the thought “when am I ever going to need to know 7×9?” and address that.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Elspeth says:

    @ Bike:

    I agree completely and would argue that education is too important NOT to be transferred interpersonally.

    More than that, this move away from interpersonal connections at a time when family formation and family bonds are growing weaker with each passing decade is a setup for a very ugly social dynamic down the road.

    @ SMK:

    I have a problem with the notion that people created in God’s image deserve to be left behind because they happen to have lower levels of innate cognitive ability.

    Even low-IQ people are valuable and are capable of making valuable contributions to society. But that can’t happen if we (collective “we”) take the position that they are not worth properly educating.

    I am of the mindset that while we are all first and foremost responsible for those in our charge, we are to some degree our brother’s keeper, so an “every man for himself” attitude stands in stark opposition to the Christian ethos.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. bikebubba says:

    Another point of reference; as a math TA in college, I could always tell whose elementary school teachers hated and avoided math by the number of arithmetic errors in their precalculus and calculus tests. It was uncanny. And for that matter, I think this has something to do with how a lot of churches try do do things the same way–from the pulpit, or worse yet a video screen, minimal interaction, and they wonder why people don’t catch on. Some things just can’t be done remotely.

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  12. Elspeth says:

    Some things just can’t be done remotely.

    Co-sign, and add that the evidence of the failure we can expect as we continue to assume otherwise is mounting all the time. But what do we do? Double down.

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  13. smkoseki says:

    E: I have a problem with the notion that people created in God’s image deserve to be left behind because they happen to have lower levels of innate cognitive ability.

    Me too. I never said anything like that. Next your are going to say I’m “leaving people behind” if I don’t try to force everyone to duck basketballs or speak Chinese.

    Even low-IQ people are valuable and are capable of making valuable contributions to society.

    This is an obvious truism. And again, I never said otherwise.

    But that can’t happen if we (collective “we”) take the position that they are not worth properly educating.

    I think you and I would disagree with what is “properly educating”. It sounds like you defend the status quo. I am aggressively against it. Why? Because the world has completely changed, and industrial school never worked well anyway, even for monolithic cultures which the US is not anymore.

    I am of the mindset that while we are all first and foremost responsible for those in our charge, we are to some degree our brother’s keeper, so an “every man for himself” attitude stands in stark opposition to the Christian ethos.

    Yep. This is again a truism for any traditional Christian. And a corollary is that it is highly immoral to be dragging others into a place they either don’t want to go or cannot get to. I’m into freedom for all, left and right side of the curve both.

    My position: The world has completely changed since computers and the internet; it’s as massive of a change as the industrial revolution. Screens are here to stay. And humans were never meant to be educated to the same level like public schools pretend to do – it’s a waste of time and cruel to boot, for both sides of the curve. Everyone is just pretending and lying about education to make themselves feel better. Self-education will allow everyone to find their own level, when they need it, at about 1/100 the cost, with a lot less cruelty to kids who God never created for academics or who were created for something more. I’m the guy who respects all as God made them. Others who drag kids through 12 years of wasted school (both left and right sides)? Not so much.

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  14. Elspeth says:

    I think you and I would disagree with what is “properly educating”. It sounds like you defend the status quo. I am aggressively against it. Why? Because the world has completely changed, and industrial school never worked well anyway, even for monolithic cultures which the US is not anymore.

    Actually, we probably agree much more than you think on this note. We are of the same mind as it relates to compulsory government schooling. I also agree that the broad scope and depth of courses into which all students are pigeon-holed or feel compelled to aspire to is ridiculous. I don’t defend the status quo one iota, I just don’t believe that people can be easily replaced by screens.

    My husband and I are both relatively high IQ people. Not geniuses by any stretch of the imagination, but higher than average. He makes his living in the tech sector. And neither one of us routinely uses math any higher than geometry and pre-algebra level in our daily lives. Almost NONE in our occupational lives.

    I do believe that there is something for all students to glean from great works of literature which illuminate truth, and everyone needs basic science and mathematical knowledge.

    I’d rather see students taught more finance and statistics than Algebra II, Trig, or Calculus. Conceptual chemistry and physics (not to mention anatomy physiology and health) are far more valuable than the math based chemistry and physics pushed at students in some attempt to make them “college ready”.

    In other words, you might be surprised at my thoughts on education and how it’s executed versus how I think it might be better executed. I assume that when we are discussing a particular topic, we’re coming at it from the commonly understood angle. pardon me for that. I should have known better when dialoguing with you.

    That said, none of the things I outlined above are best handled via computer. Only industrial/traditionally arranged schooling works well -if at all- via computer.

    The world has completely changed since computers and the internet; it’s as massive of a change as the industrial revolution. Screens are here to stay. And humans were never meant to be educated to the same level like public schools pretend to do – it’s a waste of time and cruel to boot, for both sides of the curve. Everyone is just pretending and lying about education to make themselves feel better. Self-education will allow everyone to find their own level, when they need it, at about 1/100 the cost, with a lot less cruelty to kids who God never created for academics or who were created for something more.

    I agree with this. I am not advocating a screenless world. Not only would it not be an improvement upon the status quo, but that horse has left the barn.

    I don’t think the kind of self-educating to which you are referring is to be reasonably expected in any child under the age of 14. Until that point, their education has to be planned and directed.

    My husband never went to college, something which makes me extraordinarily proud of him given what he has accomplished. People are often stunned to hear that he doesn’t have a degree. However, he did what you advocate here: Found his strength, hustled, worked hard, figured out to get the education he needed in the areas in which he needed it, built a stellar reputation, and excelled. He started on that path early (age 18) and it paid off. In reality, he has the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in education (maybe even a master’s), but his credentials are not as prestigious, LOL..

    All this to say that your follow-up comment is much more clarifying of your position than your initial comment. I get what you’re saying now. Thanks!

    Like

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