Information technology is changing and morphing so dramatically – Gordon Moore’s now-famous law projects the doubling of computer power every 18 months – that its implications for education can hardly be viewed from any fixed point. As technology speeds up ‘creativity’ and delivery of all kinds, human thinking too accelerates. The human mind is powered from the outside by an environment that races electronically beyond the reach of its own content, process, experience, or traditional learning. The emergence of such ‘electric thinking’ is already seen amongst teenagers.
The Internet is the fastest growing source of information in the world. Fundamental changes in the way children are educated are envisaged, with a preponderance of computers and the Internet as educational tools and the emergence of ‘virtual schools’. As Krishnamurti schools too are swept by the world’s dramatic preoccupation with the information revolution, it behooves our educators to look at some serious issues that may cut across the very grain of our educational outlook.
Krishnamurti schools distinguish themselves by the pronounced intention to educate the whole child, not simply the intellect. The whole child is educated by his senses. Hence we have as our focus the art of listening, the art of looking, and the art of learning. But ask yourself, if you sit focused on the screen of a computer monitor, how many senses are being made dull? Multiply that by 10, 000 for the hours a child will potentially use a computer in the pre-college years of life, and you have a simple measure of the devastating impact this may have for a child whose senses are nascent and will fail to be nurtured.
The electronic access to answers and vast quantities of information for every conceivable question perhaps also undervalues the magical state of not knowing, a feeling for the unknown, the cleansing of mind that doubt and inquiry bring. The Internet confirms for the child that every problem has a solution, and there are countless authorities who will readily give you free answers. Authorities of any kind kill self-reliance and self-knowledge. One of the great tenets of non-Aristotelian education, which Krishnamurti schools embody, is that you cannot know all about everything, that knowledge in itself is limited. The Internet threatens to wipe away with a keystroke this perception that lies at the root of wisdom. Do we really want that? We need to hearken to Krishnamurti’s words, ‘The light of reality and its bliss are destroyed when the mind, which is the seat of the self, assumes control. Self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom; without self-knowledge, learning leads to ignorance, strife and sorrow.’¹
At another level, the information revolution has clearly heightened the distinction between information, knowledge and intelligence. It seems to me that Krishnamurti has been vindicated at the highest levels. Thoughtful observers are realizing that information is independent of meaning, the context (or social conditioning) in which information is embedded is as significant as the information itself, and that knowledge is not directly connected to intelligence.² The implication for educators is that information and knowledge are separate; the latter cannot be picked up, passed around, found, or compared. How then do our schools balance information and knowledge in curriculum? Can these be distinguished, and what are the implications for teaching a content-laden subject?
The computer is essentially a communication tool, faster and more comprehensive than the telephone, more informative than television, and more useful in conveying information with vast quantities of text and graphics. The computer has revolutionized certain content-rich professions and industries. Still, when we strip away the glamour of the medium, we find that for many it becomes a new form of entertainment. The technology is entertaining: the content is fast, colourful and enticing; there is the potential to be transported by images, sounds, information, stimulation and all that is ‘new’. In a context where other media are already seducing the young mind, can the computer as a tool for communication and information be kept in right relationship with the entertainment that we seem to seek?
A great concern among parents and educators ought to be the prediction that Internet television will invade our homes such that all that we see on television will emanate from the Internet. Imagine the information overload, the high-speed saturation with international issues, and the minutiae of out-ofcontext information and images. Information overload begs the question of what is the quality of mind that becomes so obsessed with information that it cannot but help respond to images, cannot stop thinking? How can parents and educators keep such entertainment, with its information overload, from taking over the lives of children? For if they can’t, how then can children discover forthemselves the right place of entertainment?
The Internet is non-discriminative. The Internet speaks the mind of the adult, the child, the poor, the middle class, the rich, and in almost all the world’s languages without distinction or evaluation. But despite its much-touted potential to bring people together, and quite apart from language, it in fact creates isolation and separation. Children surfing the net chase fantasies and illusions. The family ceases to exist when one ‘feels’ connected to the world. The illusion of such a connection takes children further and further into their own heads, where reality is untested, and divorced from the sensory feedback mechanisms. The challenge for educators and parents is: can they see this isolating factor andprevent it from taking root in the young mind?
Sociologists say that in the 19th century, family life was fulfilled through the extended family; in the 20th century the television became the focus of the worldwide family; and computers and the Internet are well on their way to becoming the centrepiece of the family in the 21st century. Parents polled in the US felt (78%) that using a personal computer has helped their children become more creative, and nearly half (48%) claim their children have done better at school as a result of the use of the computer and the Internet.³ One wonders though, are parents and educators sufficiently aware of the dangerous allure of the computer and the Internet to act intelligently and help children find theirright place in home and student life?
To conclude, there is finally the crucial issue of children growing up so fast that they have no chance of being innocent and having the long childhood thatKrishnamurti urged the schools to provide the young mind.
- Krishnamurti J. Commentaries on Living, Vol. II, Chapter I. Quest Books, 1958
- Brown, John Seely; Duguid, Paul. THE SOCIAL LIFE OF TRANSFORMATION. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2000.
- Lexmark Report on Computing and the American Family, 2000.