Listening to a rather old episode of the Thomas Jefferson Hour Podcast on the MAX this afternoon, Clay Jenkins who portrays Mr. Jefferson was asked a question “If President Jefferson had an iPod, what would be on it?”
While the question was meant in a “What music would President Jefferson listen too?” Clay immediately started listing off non-MP3 related things. Books, facts, and figures. Pure information, things that could be referenced in conversation. According to Mr. Jenkins, Jefferson considered himself a scientist first, a farmer second, and lastly a patriot thrust into the role by his intellect. I am, of course, paraphrasing there but not by too much.
I began reflecting that into today’s world, nearly everyone has an iPod, or similar technology. A full generation of Americans have grown up with the single greatest source of information at their finger tips. This is something that Jefferson and his scientific and educated contemporaries would have given anything for, if they could even imagined it.
In an age the printing press was still some what of an amazement, books were extremely rare, and Dr. Benjamin Franklin’s public library was still an experiment itself, the Internet as it exists today was simply unimaginable.
Yet this same generation that has grown up with the Internet does not seem to use it to it’s full potential! Of all generations that should know how to, it seems that basic research abilities and critical thinking should be taught at even younger ages then ever before.
But instead of original thinking, plagiarism rules. Or at best unfounded research with no backup and proof.
Is this because of laziness? Is it because the anonymity of the Internet still allows anyone to say anything with little to no criticism, punishment, or recriminations? Is it because the education system, like so many other industries in the United States has not kept up with the technology that is now available? Or is this because the sheer amount of information available in hard to sift through? Or more semi-sinisterly, is it because the information is kept behind digital lock and key only to be doled out to those who know someone or can pay to access it?
I fear that the last reason is more and more becoming the true reason. Everyone is still trying to make a buck on the Internet, and thus information which should be public knowledge is instead kept from the very public that can use it. Couple this with the sheer amount of useless and worse, erroneous information out there and I begin to see why this Generation simply does not take advantage of it. They can’t easily access it!
What is the answer and fix? I really do not know. Other then my own humble attempts to make that information free and provide links to other sites and books that are too, there may not be much I can do. I could go into teaching, but the head aches do not yet seem to be worth the rewards in my mind.