Ideas on education, the English language, and the teaching profession.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

News of the Day: No one cares


The Chicago Tribune shall be going bankrupt soon, leaving the famous city without a paper. Apparently, the paper was not making any business despite trying to appeal to average simpleton. They enlarged pictures, reduced text, tapped into appealing narratives of a certain politician from the area; but alas, they did not increase their readership and merely insulted the intelligence of their subscribers. Pundits have wrung their hands trying to find the guilty culprit, and they finally found their perfect scapegoat: everyone.

Since the arrival of the internet, everyone in the world has stopped caring about the journals. They have instead developed the habit of retreating to their boxes at home. Those that bother to read the news, usually the older crowd still stuck in the habit of checking on the world from time to time, read their selected articles online. Ironically, this selectivity normally leads to least relevant news receiving the most exposure while very important news passes by without a sound.

Naturally, most people have stopped reading the headlines altogether unless it affects them directly. Always keeping a finger on the pulse of the cultural bloodstream, a certain periodical released its yearly list of important personages a few years ago with a twist. In years past, the lists have included world leaders, famous scientists, important artists, and others that left an imprint in the world consciousness. This year, the magazine featured a computer with a reflective surface on the cover. The perplexed reader who looked at the magazine would see the idea emerge in the reflection. Yes, that year, the important person of the year was Everyone.

Unfortunately, the magazine made an accurate choice that could validly apply every year after that issue. Everyone is special, though not in a way that makes neighbors eager to know one another. Everyone now wants to know themselves better and forget about their neighbors. Unknowingly quoting the words of Whitman, the world of the today wakes up with the verse, "I celebrate Myself!" More people everyday now center on themselves. They devote web pages, filled with odes and hymns, to themselves. They make videos of themselves. They watch shows that feature people like themselves. They buy themselves every imaginable product specifically tailored to their increasingly vapid personalities. As they delve further into shameless vanity (shame has evaporated along with those that read the news), their ears stop hearing and their eyes stop seeing.

They illustrate the modern paradox: as the world becomes more connected the souls of the world become more disconnected. Information of all forms is unimaginably accessible, but no one wants to learn. Caught in so many webs of networks, communities, and thousands of different communication devices, people feel more isolated and detached from the world than ever. People desperately want to know themselves, but they employ every diversion they can to avoid it. Human nature completes another lap around the cycle of history and comes back to the words of an ancient mind, "Vanities of vanities. All life is vanity."

Contrary to modern dogma, the problems of today (always material, only superficially moral) will not be solved if people looked at themselves in the mirror. People need to stop looking at the mirror and look at the world around them like people have before they felt like celebrating themselves. Perhaps this approach could breathe some life into the cultural dialog that has suffered from a boorish insularity. The sycophantic pundits that pandered to this mentality are now finding out that they were simply digging their own graves.

2 comments:

Ed student said...

On the other hand, the internet makes your blog and other similar sites possible, whereas otherwise Education students would only have their John Dewey books, or, even better, Paul Fiere in order to learn about teaching. Question: who are your writing influences? I think you have an interesting, acerbic, style.

Scott Walker said...

I actually like the internet. I just don't like that it's used more as a means to avoid the world instead of embracing it and truly knowing it. Technology should be a window, but I feel like it's a mirror for most people. It's a situation akin to Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Just watch and see how the pieces all fall into place like he anticipated in his book. The mundane minimal conversations (aptly termed, "small talk"), the mindless materialism, violent neglected youths, and childlike adults escaping reality with their monster television screens. I suppose this decline fuels more acerbic tones of from me than dulcet ones.

I'll avoid the temptation to gratify my ego and claim "influences" though the compliment is appreciated. I just like the classics and hope that their fine words and ideas rub off on me a little bit.

It's funny that you mention Dewey. My class and I are reading To Kill A Mockingbird in which the narrator makes fine work of his "pragmatic" approach to education. I can't say the gimmicks of today that extol Bloom's taxonomy and Gardner's multiple intelligences to be too much better, but maybe that's just me.

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