i had the great opportunity to see thomas friedman speak on friday in downtown mpls. a few of our students won an essay contest, giving them the opportunity to go, and i lucked out and got to go along for the ride. i figured that i had a pretty good angle in going, besides my admiration for mr. friedman‘s work, he has a lot of good and interesting things to say about education and the internet.
how do you live and act in a horizontal world? information, facts and opinions galore can be downloaded from the internet. what can’t be dowloaded though is your values and judgement. your “internal software” as mr. friedman puts it. that internal software is written by you and you alone. your parents, your teachers, and your spirtual leaders will help you write that software (and maybe even try and write it for you) but in the end, only you can write that software.
mr. friedman states this far more elegantly than my “grandma rule”, but I think the concept is the same. in the dark corner of the internet, what will you do? stripped of any external social, parental, or educational guidance, how will you act?
most people reading this will not jump up and down in unison at this moment and yell “like a numbskull! we’re going to act like numbskulls!” but that is in fact how a lot of people act when they get behind the false anonymity of the internet.
take a public space like the wikipedia. it is one of the greatest experiments of our time. but, hand a fifteen-year-old point a can of electronic spray paint and watch what happens. in a public, physical space, (the mall for example), teenagers are (mostly) able to keep themselves in check. head to the internet, get behind the screen and it’s not only teenagers that can’t keep it together.
so the internal software becomes more important. a closer relationship with your parents becomes more important. good teachers that teach the love of learning are more important. moral and ethical guidance is more important today than it ever was.
in the places where no one is watching, how will you act?