“Why should I learn geometry? I am never going to use it in my ‘real’ life.” We’ve all heard it, most people have said it at some point in their educational life. We’ve also heard all kinds of answers. But the reality is that everybody uses geometry, a least intuitively every day – it’s how car gets around a corner. But more importantly, as a school subject, it introduces formal mathematical proofs and they teach one how to think.
Yet, I have spoken to many high school math teachers in recent years who tell me they don’t teach proofs so much anymore. They all site pressure to get kids through geometry, but that proofs are unpopular and a disincentive, so…. I have spoken to a lot of students that have completed these low proof geometer classes and they do not seem to evidence the kind of rigorous thinking that geometry classes produced when I was a student.
Learning is hard. Being stretched is hard. Moving outside our comfort zone makes one anxious. It’s so easy to stay in the zone where nothing challenges, nothing (save perhaps the waist line) expands. Yet that’s how we improve as people. To get into physical shape we have to stretch and use our muscles in ways that they are not used to. It hurts, it’s hard. The same thing is true with our minds.
And so, I do not find this good news.
According to the Netflix help page, “Netflix customers were able to leave reviews on netflix.com until mid-2018, when reviews were removed due to declining use.”
There are other ways Netflix recommends content to its users, anyway. The “because you watched” tab offers viewers similar programming to a film or show they just finished, offering up Frozen Planet to someone who just blew through Planet Earth II and tracking their interests based on what they click.
In other words, it is now harder to find entertainment options that are outside your comfort zone. So much for movies and TV expanding our horizons, now it is fed to us like a drug pusher selling the next high.
This, more than anything else is the problem with the internet. Think about the targeted advertising that it offers. It’s no secret I like comic books and collect them. I get advertising for comic book related stuff everywhere I go on the internet – everywhere. I have even seen advertising for superhero t-shirts on this very site. Can you imagine what happens when I go to a comic book related site? It would be very possible, and easy, for me to never look at, read about, see videos, or think about anything but comic books.
This makes our political bifurcation more understandable, doesn’t it. If you consume conservatism, more conservatism is fed to you – pushed on you. The political results are all around us. They are real and they are problematic.
But it concerns on other levels as well. I wrote a while back, “…one must conclude the ideal of the Renaissance Man has been abandoned, not become impossible.” Yet, as the internet has developed, it has not developed as a tool for learning more broadly, but for learning a larger volume about a narrower field. It is not aiding efforts at being a Renaissance person. Advancement in employment lies not in specialization of knowledge, but in breadth thereof. The more you manage, the broader your knowledge should be.
But most frighteningly is that this trend in narrow-casting is killing empathy and sympathy. If we are not exposed to what other people experience, in any fashion, how can we understand them, relate to them? Without empathy and sympathy where do we find compassion? And what is love without compassion?
The internet has evolved this way not because of its technological nature, but because of our sloth. The challenge for the church today is to figure out how to call people out of their comfort zones. We have to show a better life, not just a life in a different bubbles.