Breaking news from the Department Of Stunning Studies

Years ago I was shooting the breeze with a buddy and some study that had recently been released came up and I started kicking around the idea of starting a foundation dedicated to securing grant monies to conduct studies.  His momma is Mexican so he’s a protected class even though he doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish and can’t eat spicy food.  We would have had him and his mom as the owners or directors or whatever so as to qualify as a women and minority owned business.  Then we just start applying for federal, state, county, local – hell, even private – grant money to crank out blindingly obvious studies on the hot topics du jour.

That dream has been deferred but lately I’ve been thinking of resuscitating it.  Producing studies that reinforce Washington’s ideological biases and being rewarded with more grant dollars to further validate the beliefs of whichever side is in power.  Or conversely, challenging strongly held beliefs with a study and requiring additional funding for further research to at least somewhat vindicate liberal or conservative dogma.

Of course it would all be not-for-profit and tax exempt.

I got to thinking about it again when I saw a news item on the stunning results of a study.

Laptop losers: Tech actually hindering kids in classrooms

I can’t tell you how stunning it is to be informed children eschew boring and tedious schoolwork for easy and flashy computer fun when given the mechanism and opportunity.  That other children in close proximity would also divert their attention from schoolwork to stare at the computer screen is equally stunning.

This is exactly the kind of schlock I’m talking about.  There have been countless new stories and studies lamenting the loss of productivity in the workplace since the Internet became ubiquitous.  Companies use filters to prevent adults – grown men and women with families to support and mortgages to pay – from being distracted by the Internet’s Siren song.

Shouldn’t it be patently obvious that children, you know, the precious snowflakes we shield from all sorts of decision making until they’re 18 or 21 because they tend to exhibit poor impulse control and fail to consider the long-term consequences of their actions, would choose the instant gratification of the computer over the boring and abstract minutia of math or science or history?

Interestingly enough I was visiting my cousin recently and they gave their daughter an iPad mini for her birthday.  The old lady was going on about how the school does all the lessons on computers and what a great help it was going to be.  I keep my mouth shut a lot in family situations because it ain’t my kid or whatever and it ain’t my business.  This was another one of those cases.

First off, the kid is dyslexic.  I’m no expert but it seem to me a child with dyslexia would benefit more from writing everything down on paper versus typing in whatever shorthand Internet hodgepodge kids use today.  Beyond that, I don’t see what’s so neat about teaching kids they don’t need to take notes or remember stuff because someone will just send it to you.  I could see where a parent would want assignments e-mailed to them, but to the kids?

I forgot to get a waiver signed for a field trip once and was the only kid left behind the one only time our class went to the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms factory.  Or it might as well have been.  I sat all day in the vice principals office doing schoolwork.  Just because I forgot.  I was pretty much the first person to hand back in their waiver every time after that.

Are kids going to get that kind of valuable, life-long lesson when they’re getting pop-up messages?

I see this as a fantastic way to raise a generation of people who might as well be dropped into the middle of the Savannah if they lose their ever-present electronic brain.  They won’t even be able to find their way home because, “Duh, of course I don’t know my address, officer, it’s on my phone.”

That and the fact the kid already spends all her waking hours in front of the TV or playing with her phone leads me to believe seven more hours a day staring at a shiny screen during school is the last thing she needs.

But what do I know, right?  I’m no expert on child development or educational theory.  I’m just a man who’s made a living recruiting and hiring thousands of people over the past couple of decades.  All I can say for sure is that multi-tasking is much less a matter of being able to seamlessly toggle through browser tabs while texting, IMing, and listening to MPEGs than managing several tedious, mundane projects of equal urgency concurrent to fighting the omnipresent fires.  I don’t think many of today’s wireless generation will be equipped to survive that reality.

I already see young folks who have to peck the exact amount of cash you handed them into the register and glance up and down from the display to the drawer three times while they make my change.  Giving kids a computer to play with during math class is supposed to make that better?

This calls for an extensive multi-year study following 50 randomly selected children from each grade K-12 in each state.  I know just the non-partisan, non-profit outfit to do it.  A study of such magnitude and importance may be a little costly to design and implement, but we’ve got to think of the children!

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