Saturday, 4 August 2012

Rewiring the brain

The front page of this morning's Dominion Post features an article about the effect our information-rich, technology-soaked society is having on our kids.  A follow-up feature on page 4 expands on the theme.
Anyone who has seen a two-year old playing around with an iPad knows what I am talking about.  The digital world is leading to different ways in which the brain develops... (Sir Peter Gluckman)
I suspect he may be right.  And who knows, it might not be a bad thing.  Unlike some though, I'm not so sure our schools should undergo an immediate radical reboot as a result.  Bandwagoning invariably leads to distorted outcomes, and no field demonstrates that better than education.   Despite that, there's no doubt in my mind that the classrooms of the 2020s will be, as they say, "something else."  The last thing we should be doing is hoping it'll all go away.

The Christian brain has been undergoing a process of rewiring over several generations too.  The appeal of the old denominations with their predictable weekly services, grovelling hymns, platitudinous sermons and earnest (and invariably humorless) attempts at interfacing with the broader society, has largely evaporated.  Those with get-up-and-go have got up and gone, some into New Age fads, others into the kind of motivational fundamentalism the prosperity preachers sell, while most have simply been reabsorbed into an increasingly secular society.

And who knows, that might not be a bad thing either.

It isn't just today's kids who are being rewired.  Past generations attended church because it filled a need.  Women in particular, often shackled to home and hearth for six days of the week, could freely network after the compulsory pew warming hour.  That, not the preacher's sermon, was what most often brought the faithful coming back week after week.  But the era of Kinder, Kuche und Kirche is long gone, a disappearing memory of a disturbing dream, blown out of the baptismal waters with two income families, childcare, a global communications technology that gives us all 24/7 networks of choice.  Who would have predicted this kind of systemic change back when the first baby boomers were born. 

How have the churches responded?  Bandwagoning in the more fervent sectors, slowly or not at all in others.  If somebody actually has a workable plan, I haven't heard about it.

Lets hope our schools manage the trick.


  1. From the studies I've seen, this "rewiring" has resulted in a loss of concentration.

    Soon, University students will have the same attention span of my cat, which would eminently qualify them to be a politician or a minister in the Armstrongist churches of God (not that rank and file members have fewer UBOs and don't seem to have the onset of early Altzhiemer's disease).

    Not a good thing.

  2. The WCG mentality rears its ugly head again! But, is everything really in a downward spiral toward our doom?

    My son, daughter and son-in-law are all avid gamers and either current college students or recent college grads. By my observation, these kids and their friends have definitely been "rewired". But guess what - they and their acquaintances are brilliant! They seem to know something about everything and everything about several things, and by the way their attention spans are terrific. The current crop of University students, at least in the top-tier universities, seems to have no attention span problem.

    I think "video games are going to ruin our intelligence" falls into the category of "urban legend".