Reaction to Neil Postman’s
Neil Postman spoke to me more than Kuhn or McLuhan. Although McLuhan proclaimed his Christianity I believe Postman was equally devout. Although their perceptions of the role that technology played on religion is totally opposite I believe their faith is equally strong.
Throughout the entire book, Technopoly, Postman quotes scriptures and specifically gives examples of how he interprets technology destroying the fundamentals of the faith of the world. Postman refers to the theory of Rabbi Hillel, “who expressed it more profoundly and in the time it takes to stand on one leg.” (78) Hillel’s theory is: “There is one God, who created the universe and all that is in it.”(78) This is where I totally agree with his interpretation. “Although humans can never fully understand God, He has revealed himself and His will to us throughout history, particularly through his commandments and the testament of the prophets as recorded in the Bible.”(78) Having read and agreed with this I don’t understand how on page 29 that Postman can say “that somewhat cruder instruments of observation than the telescope allowed men to see, measure, and speculate about the heavens in ways that had not been possible than before. But the refinements of the telescope made their knowledge so precise that there followed a collapse of the moral center of gravity in the West.”(29) Postman claims that after this discovery that people no longer felt that humankind was “of special interest to God.”(29) Just because humans found out that the earth is not the only planet in the universe and that the earth is not the center of our universe does not mean that people should feel that God changes how he feels about humans. The technology did not change how God feels about humans. We still hold the same place in the universe as we did before we found out. God didn’t change, humans did. The technology did not change God or His position in our lives. We (humans) changed. I don’t understand how they (humans) can think that way. God is the greater authority. Those with true faith should have realized that God’s authority and knowledge that he would not change the way that He feels about us just because we gained more knowledge of what He has made. As a parent this should be easy to understand. We have our children, just as we are the children of God. If our children do something or find out things about life we don’t change the way we feel about them. It would seem to me that they should have been more worried about their actions changing God’s feelings than God’s actions. I guess they never understood or thought about the fact that God always knew what was out there. Having the faith that they had I figured their reaction would be the opposite of what it was. After finding our what God created they should have been in awe. Looking at how beautiful and complex the solar system is we should stand in awe with what He has done. Then humans should feel honored and even more special. Look how awesome our universe is and God still cares about us. I realize that I am growing up in a different age and I might have felt differently then, but awe is the only way I can describe how I think I would feel.
Postman also eludes to the fact that technology and computers are doing away with the printed word. Postman claims “children come to school having been deeply conditioned by the biases of television. There they encounter the world of the printed word. A sort of psychic battle takes place, and there are many casualties-children who can’t learn to read or won’t, children who cannot organize their thought into logical structure even in a simple paragraph, children who cannot attend to lectures or oral explanations for more than a few minutes at a time. They are failures because of a media war going on, and they are on the wrong side of the war.”(17) I do not agree. The printed word is not lost through the use of technology and the computer. Just because the words are not on paper, run through the printing press and bound into a book does not mean the word is any less valid. The use of the computer enhances student learning in my opinion. There are students who are able to learn through the computer that might not be able to learn without it. However, the written word is not lost. For the students whom need the words on paper then it can be printed. How does that hurt students? To me that helps because more students can be reached than ever before. Books are not obsolete. There are libraries, textbooks, magazines, newspapers and more out there for students to use. The use of the visual aspect combined with the written aspect just enhances the abilities of the students.
There is one factor that I don’t think is being considered. Throughout history there have not been laws that mandated children attend school. The laws that are in place mandating school attendance are relatively new. I know that in my family I can look back to see the evolution of the importance of education. My great grandmother only finished the third grade. Her daughter, my grandmother, went to school until she was of legal age because she attended the Louisiana School for the Deaf. She was not considered the norm. My mother has a Master’s Degree. However, my husband’s family did not place importance on education and he is the first in his family to get a high school diploma. We have matured as a society with the importance that we have placed on getting an education. When looking back throughout time and considering student success it must be factored in that many children did not attend school. Who are we to say that these students would have been successful or not. Typically we would tend to believe that the students who stayed in school were from wealthier families. The families that had to work needed all family members to help. That is not to say that the wealthier people are smarter, but they just have better or more opportunities. Therefore, we cannot gauge whether or not all technology truly leads to student improvement or decline.
Postman also touched a nerve with me when he attributes the introduction of matches to the change of sexual behavior in an African tribe. (p.27) “Members of this community believed it necessary to start a new fire in the fireplace after each act of sexual intercourse. This custom meant that each act of intercourse was something of a public event, since when it was completed someone had to go to a neighboring hut to bring back a burning stick with which to start a fresh fire. Under such conditions, adultery was difficult to conceal.”(28) Why blame the match for the indiscretions of man. The match provided so many positive things for our world, yet we want to blame it for the wrong doing of man. Whether or not the African tribe had a match or not, if someone wanted to cheat they would have found a way. Man needs to be held accountable for his own actions rather than blaming it on the newest thing out. Although there is good and bad associated with all things the responsibility lies on us to handle these things. The scripture that Postman uses throughout his book should be used as the guide to choose the good and recognize the bad that is associated with technology.