Pencils: Back to School

by Michael Van Hecke, M.Ed.

In a world saturated with electronic sounds and images, is it really a big surprise that learning struggles are on the rise? Granted, there are genuine physiological maladies which result in learning disabilities, but there are multitudes of children (and adults) who suffer learning issues which are not related to diagnosable disabilities. Even many good and bright children struggle in areas where they should shine more naturally. 

The force of technology is so strong that it is hard to find popular adherence to wisdom which counters the technological tidal wave in life and education. And yet, at a recent address at Catholic University of America, tech entrepreneur Michael Ortner made a compelling case for an education rooted in the classics, logic and Latin as a prime and superior preparation for careers in the tech field. There is also an increasing number of articles echoing what one now-famous New York Times article unveiled: the technological “royalty” (i.e., the Silicon Valley clique) are choosing an anti-technology education for their own children.[1]

While such articles sit well with those of us who promote education rooted in human nature and Christian anthropology, as a headmaster I still have to face the problem of practical solutions to our cultural nemesis – runaway technology. As teachers and parents immersed in a digital world, regardless of our personal efforts, we still see the effects of tech-saturation on our children. With large screen televisions in our restaurants, clothing stores and at the checkout counter, and the ever-present new styles of computers, iTouch, smart phones and iPads, do we even have a fighting chance anymore? Do we have a chance of facing the many challenges we find in the classroom, such as, most poignantly, sustained attention and real hands-on experience with something as simple as holding a pencil or crayon?

I maintain we do have a fighting chance, but it will take time and determination – and sound principles. As parents and teachers, we need to wrest control back from the main stream of culture and create a different environment in our homes and Catholic school classrooms. Read more>>