Monday, April 16, 2007

Turn the Radio Off

There was a story last week that got lost in the Imus mix but managed to intrigue me enough to remain in my brain until now. Although it appears that the bill will not be passed, there was proposed legislation in Michigan to buy an iPod for every student there “for educational purposes.” Now, all theories of Apple influence in this bill’s promotion aside, this is perhaps the most asinine idea that I have heard in a while (and not because I think they will be used for “non-educational purposes”). Indeed, let’s just assume that these children would utilize these iPods only to get educational podcasts (and also assume that the government doesn’t regulate that selection – now there’s a bogus reality if I ever proclaimed one).

Non-thinking is becoming endemic in our culture as we forget what it is to ponder the mysteries of life. In my opinion, the iPod is quite related to this and only exacerbates the problem. I barely have to fire sixteen neurons to remember images from my days at Saint Vincent College, where I could regularly see people in the gym or merely walking across our small campus with white ear buds in, drowning out the world and themselves. It seemed then (and now) to me that nobody wanted to think or discourse with another human being anymore. The constant din of music stopped thought dead in its tracks.

Now, to call iPods a tool for “educational use” constitutes a radical redefinition of what “education” means, stripping it of its Latin etymology: e-ducere, to be led out. To place the din of Apple’s noise-box into an educational policy makes that education nothing more than a non-ducation. There is no leading of the self anywhere but merely being where one is. “Education” becomes very atomistic, disconnected, and nothing other than the imparting of “facts” from the source being listened to. Ray Bradbury was prescient in his classic work Fahrenheit 451 when he discussed this very issue and how it destroys culture. Silence is necessary for human development, for it gives one time to reflect upon the world and the self. C.S. Lewis once said in The Screwtape Letters that Hell was filled with continuous noise. Given that Hell is nothing more than the radical separation of the self from any others, I believe that noise would indeed be an element of Hell, for continuous noise is most definitely not edifying for personal relationships.

These types of developments do only not affect those in education but instead profoundly play into all of our daily lives. I have often been tempted to purchase an iPod but have always stopped short because there is something that doesn’t jive with me about it. Instead, I realize that I listen to a copious amount of music and radio as it is and often find myself thinking that I should take a look at the world, cogitate, and (in the words of my favorite band, Reel Big Fish) “Turn the Radio Off.”

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