“As the discussion proceeds, important distinctions are made among different meanings of “belief,” but as some point it becomes far from asinine to speak of the god of Technology—in the sense that people believe technology works, that they rely on it, that it makes promises, that they are bereft when denied access to it, that they are delighted when that are in its presence, that for most people it works in mysterious ways, that they condemn people who speak against it, that they stand in awe of it, and that , in the born-again mode, they will alter their lifestyles, their schedules, their habits and their relationships to accommodate it. If this is not a form of religious belief, what is?”
Postman is not against technology; he’s simply making the case that people unthinkingly adopt technology without really thinking about its impact. Certainly, the computer and the internet have drastically altered human life. But, as Postman argues,
“Like all important technologies of the past, they are Faustian bargains, giving and taking away, sometimes in equal measure, sometimes more in one way than the other. It is strange—indeed, shocking—that with the twenty first century so close on our heels, we can still talk of new technologies as if they were unmixed blessings, gifts, as it were, from the gods.”
The problem, says Postman, with much of our technology in the information age is that students are overwhelmed by information. It’s not that they don’t have access to enough information. That problem was solved about a century ago. The problem is that our students are inundated, like a watery abyss falling from the skies, with data. Postmas uses the example of “little Eva.”
“For Little Eva’s problem is not how to get access to a well-structured algebra lesson, but what to do with all the information available to her during the day, as well as during sleepless nights. Perhaps this is why she couldn’t sleep in the first place. Little Eva, like the rest of us, is overwhelmed by information. She lives in a culture which has 260,000 billboards [Postman is writing over a decade ago], 17,000 newspapers, 12,ooo periodicals, 27,000 video outlets for renting tapes [does anybody have current stats for Netflix?], 400 million television sets, and well over 500 million radios, not including those in automobiles.”
Postman, I believe, would agree with Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Chruch in New York City, who said, “The internet is the friend of information but the enemy of thought.” Keller, as one of the few genuine cultural leaders in the Christian movement, tries to stay away from the internet as much as possible, and read books, whole books, instead.
Postman is not arguing against computers in schools, but he is arguing against the “sleepwalking attitudes toward it, against allowing it to distract us from more important things, against making a god of it.”
Postman cites Alan Kay, who is widely associated with the invention of the personal computer. “He has repeatedly said that any problems the schools cannot solve without computers, they cannot solve with computers.” Perhaps this is the reason that many of the sons and daughters of today’s Silicon valley moguls working at places like Google send their kids to a Waldorf school where kids don’t have any computers until 8th grade.
What we really need is technology education – learning about how technology affects the human person and surrounding society. This seems to be the best way to guard against the favorite god of educators – the god of technology.