Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Smart phones overhyped when it comes to their actual use in academic settings

I just observed a very interesting presentation at a liberal arts college near my home. The College Republicans club (all six of its members) had invited Bay Buchanan to come speak, and she spoke about some of the ways in which second wave feminism has failed women. She gave credit to second wave feminism for opening many doors in education and careers to women, but she said that it had hurt women by encouraging them to be "the same as men" as far as reproductive behavior, specifically via noncommittal sexual "hookups" and abortion.

(Buchanan is firmly pro-life. Her positions on the issue were a combination new to me. While she favors a complete ban on abortion--no exceptions for rape, incest, etc.--and punishment of those doctors who do abortions, she said that she is against any legal penalty for women who have abortions because the women are already second victims of abortion in that they will one day wake up and realize that they killed their own children and will suffer the rest of their lives with the knowledge of that irreparable mistake.)

Many students lined up at the microphone to ask questions, mostly unsurprisingly antagonistic towards Buchanan's ideas. The event went overtime, and there were still over 40 college students in the room with a few still waiting for their turn at the microphone. When the issue turned to abortion again, Buchanan mentioned the existence of organizations that help provide pregnant women in poverty with financial support and living accommodations to enable them to carry a child to term and give it up for adoption, rather than aborting it. A student behind me called out that those organizations must just be for white people and that she had never heard of such help available for black girls from south Chicago. Buchanan talked about her own experience helping out an unwed mother in the Washington, DC area by having her live with her for six months and repeatedly affirmed the existence of nationwide networks to assist unwed mothers who wanted to give their babies up for adoption; the student repeatedly yelled that she'd never heard of such an organization in Chicago, so there couldn't be one. Their argument went on for far too long.

You know how we are always hearing that today's youth are so digitally connected? That they can find information so quickly using their iPhones and the internet? That the way they process knowledge is so different because of the technology available to them? Well, out of all the students in that room, no one pulled out a phone to see whether there was indeed an organization in Chicago that assists unwed mothers financially in order to allow them to choose adoption over abortion. I did see one male student looking at pictures on his phone, but otherwise cellphones were out of sight and the students in the room generally seemed incapable of doing anything about this lengthy--though easily resolvable--disagreement despite the late hour and repeated yelling by an apparently agitated student.

How hard would it have been for a student in the audience to do an internet search on "adoption help chicago" or something similar? The campus has wireless internet access for the students. When I got home (no smart phone for me, due to budget reasons), I did three Google searches and found The Adoption Center of Illinois at Family Resource Center in less than four minutes; it appears to be exactly the kind of organization about the existence of which Buchanan and the student were fighting. Did no one in that whole room besides me think to do a Google search to answer the question so the discussion could move on? (I assume from the college's demographics that most students had smart phones or internet capable devices of some kind. It's not a cheap school.) I fear new technology is being wasted on college students, at least with respect to knowledge acquisition and analysis, for they do not seem to realize when and how to use the technology at their fingertips to search out relevant facts.

The next time I read about how today's students are so smart because of the technology they have available to them, I'm probably going to make a very impolite noise.

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