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November 21, 2002
Old Education versus the New Media

This from John Ray:

I did a post on October 24th in which I noted the great rise in average IQ that has happened in the last 100 years. I attributed it in part to the greater stimulation young brains now receive from modern entertainment media -- television and computer games in particular. Both have of course long been treated as evils by many of our professionally wise people -- who would keep kids away from both if they could.

I am pleased to see therefore that a new research report has just come out confirming what I said. Far from holding kids back, TV and computer games greatly improve their intelligence. The killjoys still mutter and grumble of course but I am happy to say that my very bright and creative son was always allowed to play as many computer games as he liked.

I've been putting somewhat schizophrenic-seeming stuff here about how children should (a) not be coerced into attending school by governments, or for that matter by their parents, but (b) not be watching TV all the time, on account it stunts their education.

Allow me to (thesise antithesise) synthesise. I do think that TV, and now computers, have seriously deranged "education", if by education you mean the old command-and-control Prussian system. TV does this to the old system of education precisely because it supplies an alternative and in many ways better certainly more amusing and less boring education. (Lars, commenting on this, took me to task for not getting this, but I do, I do.)

The long term answer is: freedom for children, just as the long term answer has already been freedom for non-aristocrats, freedom for non-whites, freedom for non-men. Like Lars says, children should be allowed to pursue their own interests, and that way they'll contrive a first-rate education for themselves, integrating the old technology with the new.

My problem is this. If the only choice facing a child is (a) a well-administered "Prussian" education, kind but firm, which provides a not-too-bad education, or (b) a deranged and chaotic and/or hysterically fascist version of the same, then (a) sounds better to me than (b). And for most children now, those are the choices. Freedom for children, for most children, given the parents they now have, is not a plausible next step; it's parallel universe stuff.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:06 AM
Category: Technology

Sorry to have misjudged you about the TV thing, Brian.

As to the institution of school and education (as opposed to the activity of education), and the miserable choices of a) and b), here is some food for thought: http://www.tcs.ac/Articles/DDNon-coerciveSchools.html


Comment by: lars on November 21, 2002 05:53 PM


I'm not quite following your argument. Is this right: you think that in the long run, kids should choose what they do wrt TVs, video games and lessons (much more choices and flexibility, yes?) but at the moment, those choices don't exist for most kids, whose real choice is between good schools and bad ones?

This makes sense, but you call it a problem. I don't see the problem. What am I missing?

Comment by: Alice Bachini on November 22, 2002 04:02 PM

I think you are into some false dichotomies there. At least in Australia, it is fairly easy to find some not-too-bad education for kids that is neither Prussian nor hopelessly permissive. And bright kids will take it from there. My son started reading Homer (for instance) without my even suggesting it. And the school he goes to is only a touch above average.
The bright kids will do well in any system. It is actually the dummies who are the most badly let down by the system these days. They need to be LED and no-one is leading them. Not an easy problem for a libertarian!


Comment by: John Ray on November 24, 2002 01:12 PM
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