Tutoring through the Latino Student Fund began for the new term last Saturday. My wife and I are paired with the same children that we have been working with for the last five years. For me I started with my tutee when she was seven years old. This means she is now eleven. The longevity associated with helping one individual over this time period is rewarding beyond belief.
Her homework assignment was to summarize a newspaper article and answer the question of whether the author had adequately proved the point she was trying to make. We read a piece by Katie Hafner of the New York Times on the notion that cell phone texting may be harmful to young people. As evidence Ms. Hafner quoted Sherry Turke, Director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ms. Turke had studied texting among teenagers and is by training a psychologist. She explained to the reporter:
“Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be . . . Texting hits directly at both those jobs.”
In the article Ms. Turke offered some additional insights on this topic:
“Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, . . . but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’
As for peace and quiet, she said, ‘if something next to you is vibrating every couple of minutes, it makes it very difficult to be in that state of mind.’”
But it is not only adolescents that are being harmed by the widespread dependence on cell phones. I now see individuals, especially young adults, who find it extremely difficult to communicate face-to-face. It is not unusual to see groups of men and women sitting in a room in close proximity busy on their devices without ever saying a word to each other. Many times, they will only talk to each other through texts or email messages.
I fear communication is not the only thing that is suffering due to this reliance on technology. I believe that we will begin to see nothing less than a decline in our civilization due to this trend. Here’s why.
It is grownups as well as adolescence that depend upon having a peace of mind in order to live their lives to the fullest. Robert Pirsig, in his surprise 1974 bestselling book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, writes about the peace of mind needed to recognize quality in the world around us.
“The way to see what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and to be at one with this goodness as the work proceeds, is to cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that the goodness can shine through” (Pirsig 288).
In the months before the planes hit the World Trade Center in New York City I wrote that I didn’t understand why there were no great transformations in the art world that occurred around the year 2000. I pointed out that in the spheres of painting, or fiction, or music mankind customarily experienced tremendous progress and change coinciding with the turn of a new century. Finally, I think I know what is going on.
In our desire to be connected, to discover the latest news, to research a concept we didn’t know, we have lost the ability to just sit and think.
So in honor of the 3,000 people who lost their lives on this day I going to do my best to stay away from my computer and Smartphone and try something novel for a change. Contemplation.