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Tag: optimism

Dividing Lines

New Year Sunrise

Today is the start of a new year, at least according to the traditional western calendar.

As I’ve ranted previously in this space, January 1 is an odd place to celebrate this dividing line. But, while there are several other demarkation points that would make more sense (April? Maybe September), my irrational thoughts won’t change things, so let’s move on.

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Observing the Future

Betteridge’s law of headlines states that “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”.

Take for example, a recent article on the Ars Technica website: “Is your smartphone making you dumb?”.

And despite the provocative question, the authors of the study being referenced don’t actually arrive at that conclusion.

“the results are purely correlational,” emphasize Golonka and Wilson. There’s no way to tell whether an over-reliance on smartphones decreases analytical thinking or whether lower analytical thinking ability results in a heavier reliance on smartphones, they explain.

Of course, this is one instance in a long line of “research” and “analysis” provocatively asking if Google, the internet, social networking, or technology in general is impacting human intellectual development in some way. For good or bad. Maybe both.

Did societal observers have the same questions in the aftermath the printing press, telegraph, telephone, radio or any other major change in the way people communicated information? I suspect they did. Did humans get dumber? Smarter? Weirder?

I’m pretty sure the honest answer to the question of what the use of smartphones/instant search/social networking/<insert your tech fear here is doing to our brains is “we don’t know”. All of these digital tools some say we are addicted to (another of those headline concerns) are very, very recent developments in human history. It takes more than a decade or two to sort through all the data.

Which is all the more reason to do our own research. Be introspective about ourselves and observant of others. Pay attention and we’ll watch the future of the human species develop.

I’m pretty optimistic about it.

Hard Choices

Today is Election Day in the US, and on the ballot we essentially have two choices.

Members of one group who are obstructionist and fearful of any change, except for that which longs for return to a past that never really existed.

Members of the other group who talk a good game when it comes to change but who aren’t even willing to associate with the few positive advances they have brought about.

And then we have the media covering the election process, most of whom have absolutely no interest in educating their audience, instead spending their limited resources on two things: promoting fights between the two groups and scoreboarding the results.

So, I will do my civic duty and cast my ballot later today. Everyone in this country should do the same.

As always, I hope the people who are elected to office will intelligently address the many complex problems we have in this community/state/nation and work to find meaningful solutions to fix them.

It’s just so damn hard to be that optimistic.

Future Happens

From Seth Godin:

The thing is, the future happens. Every single day, like it or not. Sure, tomorrow is risky, frightening and in some way represents one step closer to the end. But it also brings with it the possibility of better and the chance to do something that matters.

Doesn’t that explain exactly why many (most?) of us chose to be teachers?

Transition to a Participatory Government

Ok, the election is over. Now what?

Well, I would hope that all those millions of people who participated in getting Obama elected (and even those who worked for McCain) would now go on to get involved in the process of governing this country.

As with the campaign to elect the president, Congress, and thousands of local officials, participation in a democracy can take many different forms and certainly not everyone can allocate huge amounts of time.

However, everyone should make themselves aware of what the new administration is planning and tell the president and their representatives exactly what they think about those plans.

One of the things I’m hopeful about is that they will be far more transparent and open to ideas that come from outside the inner circle.

A step in the right direction is the Obama transition team’s Change.gov web site, where they not only have posted the agenda on which the candidate ran but also invite visitors to offer their ideas.

While I should probably have a wider range of interests, I’m paying particular attention to the plans and goals in the areas of education, science, and technology.

So far, I rather like their philosophy and proposals for science and technology.

Not so much for education, which indicates that the new president will likely continue to offer programs that reinforce the traditional model of US education.

Unfortunately including “Reform No Child Left Behind”.

With an optimism (possibly naive) that they will actually be read and considered, I’ll be shoveling some of my thoughts on the subject through that Submit Your Ideas button.

I can only hope that many more people will do the same. And continue to do so.

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