To be sure, there is a place to deal with the educators and quasi-philosophers of our age, but this is not that place. And so I will stay out of the deep social and philosophical weeds. My intention here is to provide our parents with some vocabulary and understanding so as to properly communicate the education they’ve chosen for their family. But all this is not the main point of this piece. The main topic of this piece is technology and its presence in mathematics and science.
There is a craze sweeping Baton Rouge schools, and it’s been here for the past few decades. It’s not much older than that. It is a craze to fill our schools with more artificial intelligence and less human intelligence. In brief, today schools in Baton Rouge teach less of what truly creates human intelligence. If we teach any at all, Baton Rouge schools teach much less logic, rhetoric, classical literature, poetry, recitation, handwriting, natural philosophy (old science), deduction and theory (old math), art, architecture, and political philosophy. And amidst this lack of human intelligence, we are crowding our schools with artificial intelligence. Many of our schools create deals with Apple for one-to-one computers. We put in Smartboards. We put in vending machines. We put classes online. We allow, or perhaps even require, cell phones and computers in every class. We teach computer programming and blog writing. We cut our music education to add monstrous science labs. In Baton Rouge we surround our students with the machines of man more than we surround them with the wisdom of God. The fruit of these decisions will play out in time. Of course, in saying all this I am no technophobic, and I am not advocating for an escape from technology. What I am advocating for is a great education, and this is why Sequitur does what it does. I believe five things to be deeply true concerning technology’s relationship to mathematics and science:
- Technology is good, but an over-reliance on it can take away from creating true mathematical and scientific intelligence.
- Human intelligence must be matured as masterfully as possible before it couples itself too tightly to artificial intelligence.
- The greatest math and science minds in history were minds, filled with human intelligence, and not artificial intelligence, and so a great education ought to wed itself much more to human intelligence than artificial intelligence.
- Technology is ever-changing, and so to base an education on it is too costly, both in its financial cost and its human and personal cost.
- “Technology should not dictate our values or our methods. Rather, we must use technology out of our convictions and values.” (John Dyer) And education is about imparting this convictions, values, and methods deeply and securely into our students.
One fear I hear from parents is, “Well, when my child goes to college, won’t he be far behind in their use of online grading systems, online classes, or using technology?” And I say “Yes! But education is always about choosing what ignorance you want for your child. Would you rather them be behind in their understanding of Moodle or their understanding of Milton, would you rather them be behind in their knowledge of classical rhetoric or in their knowledge of social media. (In your answer keep in mind something will overtake Moodle within the decade.) Would you rather them struggle their freshman year for a few weeks to learn Moodle or struggle their whole college career to hold mature dialogue with their professors and write a clear and cogent argumentative essay?” I fully agree that these dichotomies of choice are not always present, but we can all agree that a school must spend its time and resources in one direction and not another, and that direction will fundamentally create one kind of student and not another. The past fifty years of classical Christian education in the United States has produced enough graduates to show us that we ought to run far from those schools which fill our classrooms with more artificial intelligence than human intelligence, for those who have the former can learn the latter, but those who have the latter will struggle mightily to get the former.
I recently read an article where the vast majority of Silicon Valley executives do not send their children to high-tech schools. Why? Because, as industry leaders, they see the dangers of technology, the problems caused by an over-reliance on technology, and they don’t want that for their child in the most vulnerable moments of their formation. We, who know far less about technology, shouldn’t either, especially for math and science.
Questions for parents to ask in conversations with friends:
- What do you think are the dangers or drawbacks to so much technology in our schools?
- What will be lost in education because of the over-reliance on technology?
- Has your administration properly considered and put out a statement on the benefits and dangers of technology for your child’s education at their school?
Book for parents to consider reading:
From Garden to City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology by John Dyer