I guess there was a time when my forefathers would run into problems, and they had to solve these issues themselves. Like, let’s say my great, great, great grandfather’s fence became damaged in a cataclysmic storm and his cows were at risk of being eaten by predatory wolves with an affinity for grass-fed organic beef. What did he do?
He probably fixed the fence.
What would, moi, his great, great, great grandson do?
I’d call a fence fixer. And without shame, too.
I simply don’t have the time or the wherewithal to go fix my own fence. (Plus, I shop at Whole Foods for grass-fed organic beef.)
Indeed, my great, great, great grandfather might be rolling over in his grave at the notion that his kinfolk won’t grab some tools and solve the problem himself. But I don’t see it as a matter worth getting anyone’s dander up about.
Big point: I outsource where prior generations didn’t. And while it might cause consternation in the hearts of the elders, it doesn’t rankle me one bit. As The Who would say, “I’m talkin’ bout my generation.”
Now, let’s talk about our students’ generation: When I ask youngin’z about dates of historical importance, moments of nation-shaping salience, tremendously significant touch-n-go incidents that underpin the modern foundations of all that we say and do as modern Americans, what’s their response?
Y U askin me? Jst google it. (They even talk in text these days.)
This is where I get self-righteous. Not remembering the exact date of when, say, The Declaration of Independence was signed (that would be July 4, 1776—it’s why we have the holiday with hot dogs and fireworks, dude) is, I admit, not too big of a deal. 7-4-1776 is really just rote memorization. Understanding the significance that the event had on the way we conduct society today, though—and how our society will continue to conduct itself in the future—is fairly important.
“But I can Google that, too,” is what I hear in response as well. Sure, this is also true. Google provides pages and pages of thoughts, opinions, and ideas on the subject of interpreting the Declaration of Independence and extensive analysis on what ratifying the Constitution meant—and still means—today. From the left, right, and center, scores of erudite ideas as authored by scholars, people who are well versed in the nuances, claims, and counter-claims have weighed in on the matter.
“So why do I need to swim in these waters?” asks the modern kid.
This is when I go into diatribe mode about not outsourcing to Google when you should be able to think for yourself. The importance of being able to fix your own fence instead of merely outsourcing the issue…
Whoa. Hold on there. Has what I think just happened really happened? Did I just turn into my great, great, great grandfather? I’m not even a member of the AARP yet. The argument looks a bit like this:
- It doesn’t interest me to fix a fence.
- It doesn’t interest me to reflect on the impact of the Declaration of Independence.
- But what happens when you can’t find a fence fixer and you have to do the work for yourself or you’ll lose all your cows?
- What happens when Google becomes inaccessible and you have to find the answers for yourself or you won’t be able to sustain our democracy?
- But I am teaching you a skill you need to know.
- But I am teaching you a skill you need to know.
- There’s unquantifiable life value—especially in terms of self-sufficiency—to knowing how to make and fix things with your own two hands without having to turn to someone else to do the hard work for you.
- There’s unquantifiable life value—especially in terms of self-sufficiency—to knowing how to think about things for yourself without having to turn to someone else’s thoughts to do the hard work for you.
Then, in a fit of frustration I exclaim, “YOU CAN’T COUNT ONLY ON GOOGLE!”
But yes, we can Google lots of stuff—if we are asking questions to which we already know the answers, that is. But if we’re asking questions to which the answers are not yet in hand (i.e. How do we eradicate cancer? Can we heal the damage to our planet that industrialization has wrought? Can peace on Earth be delivered to all in a manner which all people actually feel peaceful towards one another?) perhaps therein exists our answer.
- The square root of 64? Who needs to know it? Just Google it.
- The capital of every state in the nation? Google it.
- What river borders both New York and New Jersey and what are the various options I have for crossing it via land, sea or air? Google it.
The answer is literally in our collective pockets (presuming you own a smart phone). Yet…
- The cure for the common cold? Can’t just Google it.
- Smartly assessing teacher performance in the classroom in a manner that demonstrates fairness, efficacy and balance? Can’t Google this one, either.
- Forecasting natural disasters in a way that can mean much less loss of life while also saving billions of dollars worth of property? Not on Google. Yet.
My great, great, great grandfather might have been right for his time, but my own feeling is that he’s wrong for mine. Question: Is this now true for our generation of educators? Are we dwelling on kids knowing skills that society has already rendered passé? After all, in modern times, we plan on Google being here as much as we count on electricity being here, and I don’t hear anyone nagging kids to learn the art of candle making in case the lights go out.
The big question troubling me today: Can’t we, and should we, just outsource it?