Friday, May 11, 2012

Climbing a Mental Rope

In today's WSJ, David Gelernter calls on parents to Make It a Summer Without iStuff:

In fact, the whole point of modern iToys is to increase irresistibly the appeal of sitting inside by yourself and doing nothing. Not reading a book, not studying or listening to music or drawing with crayons or practicing the piano; not playing checkers or chess or Monopoly face-to-face with a real human being. Not doing anything except turning into a click-vegetable.

Children do need to play and have fun. But the best, most refreshing and valuable sort of play and fun unleashes the mind to wander and roam. For many creative thinkers-to-be, classroom hours are torture. In school, child-minds are forced to trot behind the teacher and never (or rarely) stop to think, or go off by themselves. Remember? Roaming around outside or reading a book comes as a huge relief: Your mind floats weightless, or pokes along at its own pace, turning aside whenever it likes—which is just what creative minds desperately want and need to do.

The Web and videogames and online gossip, with their endless servings of colorful and seductive mental mush, never make children grip hard, pull hard, and climb a dangling mental rope. The ability to click themselves clear of all obstacles turns children with computers into little digital Henry VIIIs, sending plates clattering to the palace floor the moment their majesties are displeased.