Image by Ken Robinson
Earlier last week, my school had a guest speaker talk with us about childhood and family relationships in the digital age. Catherine Steiner-Adair shared a perspective that while technology has made major positive contributions to society, it is also causing major problems. With the shocking statistic that the average adult checks their smartphones from 60-150 times a day, she explained the strain that technology poses on children and their families. What struck me the most was her saying that children now face a time where they are being interrupted by technology and we are sending them the message that our phones are more important than what they have to say. Not only that- what happened to fostering creativity through boredom? Asking us to remember the times growing up when we would come up with some silly plays or build creations out of ordinary things because we were bored and needed to entertain ourselves. She also asked us to think about WAITING time. Waiting time used to give people time to think, decompress, internalize parts of our day. People now fill every free second with stimulus, checking our phones and leaving little to no time to just think! Finally, she also claims that all of us had the chance to develop our brains through creativity, resourcefulness, and authentic communication- kids today are not getting that chance. They are being entertained and stimulated almost all day through technology, without developing self-soothing or self-entertaining skills. They require immediate feedback and lack the ability to focus on something for a long period of time. She concluded with thanking us teachers, who truly listen to them and create authentic communication and foster a social learning environment because for many, school is the only place it happens for them.
While this wasn’t her focus, she did ask, “Isn’t it interesting that the prevalence of ADHD has risen at almost the same rate as technology usage in the household and school?”
Coincidentally this morning I went on my typical Sunday morning TED Talk binge and came across Ken Robinson, who discusses troubling trends in education. At one point, he basically asked the SAME question. He states, “kids are being medicated [for ADHD] as routinely as getting their tonsils taken out…our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period on the history of the earth.” I had to stop there for a moment because I felt like I was listening to Catherine’s conference all over again. So instead of changing our platform for how we educate children, we are medicating them to confine to the education system created and designed during a completely different time? “We are penalizing them for getting distracted,” Robinson states. “It’s interesting to me that it is not a coincidence totally, that the instances of ADHD has risen in parallel with the growth of standardized testing…these kids are giving quite dangerous drugs, to get them focused and calm them down.” When he puts it like this, I am shocked and scared for children. This feels bigger than I can wrap my head around; what is the solution? There has to be one…because we can’t keep teaching this way. Maybe we should stop trying to fix these kids and fix education. I know it is not something that can be changed overnight, but perhaps I just found a passion for change.