Ignorance And Addiction


Ignorance: the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.

Addiction: compulsive need for and use of a habit forming substance.

One of the requirements of the college course that I teach is that the students must leave any and all devices in their bags in the room next door. I instituted this policy years ago for several reasons. One. As long as the devices are around, on or not, the screens and what they offer is what the students are thinking about. Two. They can be on their devices 24/7, but they can only do what we are doing in this class twice a week for an hour and fifteen minutes. Three. As the grown up in the room I have determined that this is an essential boundary to create so that the learning environment is honored and protected; giving the students a chance to not only engage in a direct way with what we are doing, but as importantly these days, to know themselves separate from the pull and the distractions of the devices.

This week, a new player arrived on the scene: the iWatch.

After class, it came to my attention that two students were checking their iWatches while we were in the midst of doing a relaxation technique. As I was describing this to my husband later that day, he said to me “That is so disrespectful.”  I admit that when I was thinking about this behavior the word “disrespectful” did cross my mind, but I realized quickly that what these students had done had absolutely nothing to do with respect.

An issue of respect would have been a step up on their part. It would have implied that they knew something and could act on that knowing. It would have meant that they knew to value and esteem what was happening in the room, and could tailor their actions accordingly. It would have required that they understood how their behavior might be impacting others, even if they themselves did not value what was happening in class. It would have necessitated understanding that a teacher would expect their full attention. Most of all, it would have challenged them to see that their life was worth far more respect than many of them give themselves, and that learning a way to relax held the potential of improving their lives.

But do you know what I am seeing? I am seeing that they do not even know that it is disrespectful. Or that they do know, and that they just cannot help themselves. I do not know which is worse. Because either way, what we are talking about here is a familial and societal breakdown around the essential role we as the grown-ups are meant to play in the lives of our children. A role that requires that we both teach them what to value and respect, while protecting them from their own ignorances as well as untoward external influences.

Instead, we are failing to educate and impart the most basic and important types of knowledge and levels of awareness to our children. Simultaneously, we are cultivating, or at least colluding with, addiction.

Where have all the grown-ups gone?