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Archives - January 2014

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Archives - January 2014

Revisiting a Vital Issue

January 30, 2014
By John Morrison

I want to interrupt my current series of blogs exploring the impact of technology upon our families by returning to a subject that weighs heavily upon my heart as concerns our young people.  This “interruption” was stimulated yesterday as I read an opinion piece by journalist Kathleen Parker (see below link).

Parker addresses a theme that should be one of the greatest areas of concern and priority for Christian parents.  That is, schools simply are not adequately equipping our young people with the fundamentals needed to prepare them for the realities of life in the twenty-first century.

In a previous blog (October 14, 2013), I quoted James Montoya, a College Board vice president, who reported that “less than half the students taking the SAT are getting college-ready scores” (www.hereandnow.wbur.org).  He emphasized the need for schools to return to an emphasis on core courses in the areas of language arts, mathematics, natural sciences, and social sciences.

He also emphasized the failure to teach our young people to think critically.  Indeed, as Christian parents, we should be vitally concerned about this aspect of our children’s education.  If our children are not trained to think critically about our Christian faith, understanding not only what we believe, but why – then I fear that we have badly missed the mark in terms of preparing them to stand as Christians in the real world.

Parker’s opinion piece says these same things, but in a secular context, addressing these issues more at the college level, where she believes even our most prestigious schools are failing us.  I would heartily encourage all to read her piece "College's Diminishing Returns" by clicking here.

Not all of our students will attend college.  Frankly, many might be better off by pursuing training in careers that do not require a traditional four year college degree.  However, whatever path they may follow, one thing they all need is a sound academic base along with a strong foundation in thinking critically – being able to analyze, compare, contrast and discern issues in a Christian context.

Our goal at Grace is to remain true to these fundamentals, hopefully preparing our students with the strong foundation they will need for living in a world increasingly hostile to our Christianity.  In this context, I hope you will read Parker's article.  It will take a clarity of vision and courage for us to walk to the beat of a different drummer when it comes to the choices facing us concerning how best to educate our children!

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email John Morrison at grace@gcswarriors.org.

Technology and the Christian Family: Part 2

January 23, 2014
By John Morrison

In these blogs, I am examining some of the lesser discussed ramifications of technology – especially the electronic media – as it potentially impacts our families.  Of course, we affirm the value of technology in today’s society and have made a priority effort at Grace to equip our students with the fundamental technology skills needed for college and the work place. 

But like any other potentially beneficial dynamic, balance and moderation are essential if it is to be a constructive rather than harmful interaction.  Jacques Ellul, a late twentieth century French philosopher, theologian, law professor and sociologist recognized that technology, in spite of its many lauded gifts, also presented great dangers. He called it a “profound mutation,” fearing that technology would become the defining force of civilization.  Rather than serving merely as a helpful tool, he foresaw that technology would actually capture us and begin driving our lives rather than the other way around.  His chief concern was that technology would eventually emerge as a form of tyranny over humanity.

This was not a tyranny of authoritarianism, but one of simple addiction, where electronic gadgets would become so pervasive that they would clamor for the constant attention of their users.  Indeed, the American Psychiatric Association has added Internet addiction to its list of recognized addictions.  A growing number of psychologists and social scientists are now labeling internet addiction as a “mental disorder” affecting many aspects of human development in children, including stunted neurological, emotional and social growth.  Special “technology camps” are emerging in order to help young people “kick their technology habit.”

Indeed, even before the emergence of the all-pervasive smart phone, the average American, including youth, spent four hours daily in front of the TV.  Now, eighty-seven percent of American teenagers indicate that they are online on a daily basis, and over two-thirds are regularly on a social networking site.  And with the emergence of the smart phone, we know that their daily time in front of some kind of electronic screen is substantial, probably far in excess of the four hours that, in the past, was devoted to TV.

Are these engagements with the digital screen necessarily “bad”?  I believe not.  But when they become addictive behaviors, or when they take the place of other, higher priorities, then that which in and of itself is potentially good becomes a harmful force. 

What are parents to do?  There are no easy answers.  But at the end of the day, it is the parents who must have the courage to step up to the plate and ensure that their children are utilizing technology in a constructive and balanced manner.  Perhaps we all could learn from one of our school families where the parents require that all electronic devices go into a basket when entering the house at the end of the day and stay there until leaving again the next morning so as not to take away from family interactions, etc.  May God help us find the right balance as parents in providing our children with healthy guidelines for their technology engagements!  

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email John Morrison at grace@gcswarriors.org.

Technology and the Christian Family: Part 1

January 08, 2014
By John Morrison

I have appreciated the encouraging response from a number of folks to my blogging effort begun this past fall.  As we begin this new year, I would like to examine some of the lesser discussed ramifications of technology – especially concerning electronic media – as they may impact our families.  Unlike much “Christian” emphasis on this topic, I will avoid moralizing or emphasizing “do’s and don’ts.”   Rather, my hope is that my observations will help us to consider carefully this important topic.

While I am a behind the technology curve in understanding and using all the latest and greatest apps currently on the market, one thing I do have that is lacking among many younger, more technologically proficient parents and students is perspective!  That is, my generation has a first-hand memory of a largely non-electronic media culture compared to where we are today.  (I am old enough to remember, as a young child, the days when TV was a rarity in most homes!)

Indeed, in just one generation, we have experienced societal change of a magnitude comparable to the advent of the printing press and the Industrial Revolution.  Whereas major change caused by those “revolutions” took place gradually, over multiple generations, the current technological explosion has profoundly altered society in the span of a single generation in ways that we are only beginning to understand. 

Christians are rightly concerned about the negative aspects of electronic technology in the context of its often ungodly content; however, we are now realizing there are deeper, but less obvious ramifications.  Examples among children include an alarming increase in autism, decreased attention spans and high distractibility (including attention deficit and hyper-active disorders), significantly delayed neurological development, stunted growth in social skills, and addictive patterns of behavior.

At perhaps an even more profound level, the video screen potentially becomes an escape from realism into a surreal environment that, depending upon one’s level of media engagement, substitutes itself for the real world of responsibilities and personal interactions.  Indeed, this has profound ramifications for our children in terms of their learning how to cope with the world as it actually is.

Let me close with this simple observation: whereas many in my generation have a memory of a pre-electronic media society and, therefore, a first-hand perspective on just how profoundly things have changed , those who have grown up in a world of electronic technology often lack a larger perspective and view the way things are today as “normal.”  We might ask ourselves, “To what degree are we like the proverbial frog who finds itself in a pan of boiling water, but without realizing the extreme danger of its situation?”

As we sort through all of the benefits and pitfalls of technology, we need to gain a broader perspective – one that has its reference points in a memory of a past, less technological society.  These things we shall consider, Lord willing, in future postings.  

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email John Morrison at grace@gcswarriors.org.

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