Time to Play but No Time to Learn
So here we are – it’s school vacation and my wife and I are on a week’s cruise with our daughter and our 10-year old going-on-11 grandson. He has some seven days to have fun on-board ship and in port and the only thing related to school that he has to be concerned with is to spend an hour or so each day reading a book.
So, what does he do with all his spare time? For just about every waking hour during our 150 hours of vacation he is either twiddling his calloused thumbs on his iPod Touch, looking up new “apps” and games or recharging the hand-held device. Read his book? Fagedaboutit! During the entire cruise, I saw him with a book in hands perhaps once for about 15 minutes. It seems that our former generation of TV couch potatoes has given way to a bunch of game-playing know-nothings who spend endless hours “thumbing” through thousands of “apps” and games. “Reading, Riting and Rithmatic” are too boring and uninteresting. Ignorance is bliss. It’s “shoot-em”, “blast-em” and “destroy-em”. Why read a book when you can play a game on your Wii, iPod Touch, DSI or some other digital toy? Why isn’t Johnny learning? – this is why!
Once upon a time, parents used TV for babysitters. Now, they use digital nannies to keep their kids from bothering them. I estimate that my grandson is spending about 4 hours or more each and every day with his high-tech toys – time that would be better used on his learning and education. Still, he constantly complains that he has no time to do things that he wants to do. He says that the reason is all the activities that his mother signs him up for: religious school (3 hrs a week), swimming (1 hr a week), tennis (1 hr a week), Karate (2 hrs a week), baseball (3 hrs a week in-season replacing tennis and swimming). By my math, he spends some about 30 hours a week with his digital games and less than 10 hours a week on the activities to which his mother commits him.
What we need is a parental lock and timer with every one of these digital toys so parents can set the amount of time during each day or week that a child can use them – this, in addition to parental supervision of content. We need to limit access to an hour or two each day. It’s time to get back to the real task of stimulating our children’s intellectual curiosity. With television, parents could know where and when a child was watching TV – there were only a few locations in the home where a child could watch TV. With a hand-held digital toy, the games go with the kids. He/she uses it wherever and whenever he/she wants. There is little to no parental supervision.
When I was my grandson’s age, I read books for enjoyment. Of course, there were no TV’s or digital games then. It was books, outdoors activities, and radio. These were in addition to five 6-hour days a week of public school and 1-hour sessions, five days a week of religious school. Today, my grandson reads a book only when forced to. In my grandson’s house, I constantly hear his mother saying, “Have you done your reading today?” or “Have you completed your reading assignment?” or “Put away your iPod Touch and do your reading!” His constant question is, “Where can I plug in my iPod Touch to recharge the battery?”
The United States is losing the education race to other countries in the world. As reported in the Huffington Post:
The United States has fallen to "average" in international education rankings released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),
The three-yearly OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.
Citing concerns over the country's education performance compared to other nations, and the long-term impact of the shortcomings on the future economic viability of the
country, the Obama Administration has pushed for comprehensive reforms during the president's time in office.
"This is an absolute wake-up call for America," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The results are extraordinarily challenging to us and we have to deal with the brutal truth. We have to get much more serious about investing in education."
Maybe the solution is for the federal government to enact legislation that forbids the sale to or unsupervised use by anyone under the age of 21 of any digital game. After all, we already have the nutrition police trying to pass laws in cities and states that ban supposedly unhealthy fast foods.
U.S. Falls In World Education Rankings, Rated 'Average', HUFFPOSTAol News, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/07/us-falls-in-world-education-rankings_n_793185.html, First Posted: December 12, 2010, Updated: March 3, 2011.