Friday, August 14, 2009

The Amish & Technology… & Education?

I have got to stop reading Kevin Kelly. I can NOT believe how he writes so much (in length and depth, but also so often.)

I was completely shocked when I saw his post regarding Why Technology Cannot Fulfill …about the Amish community.  I immediately said – the Amish and technology?  How do they connect?

Kevin Kelly can do it, and he did it again.

He writes a long and wonderful piece immediately wrapping you into the story telling about an Amish visitor he met online… yes, you read that right. Maybe you’d better go right now to the source and read it from Kevin Kelly! (It’s a long read, though!)

After a wonderful, yet rambling story about his Amish friends and life as a hippie in the 70s, Kelly talks about how the Amish are somewhat “selfish.”

“The "good" they wish their minimal technology to achieve is primarily the fulfillment of a fixed nature,” 

unlike the “rest of the world.”

We, in the technological world of today,

“Those million urban migrants per day have enrolled into the technium for the same reason you have (and you have if you are reading this): to increase your choices. To increase your chances of unleashing your full potential. Perhaps someday someone will invent a tool that is made just for your special combination of hidden talents. Or perhaps you will make your own tool. Most importantly, and unlike the Amish and minimites, you may invent a tool which will help unleash the fullest of someone else. Our call is not only to discover our fullest selves in the technium, but to expand the possibilities for others. We have a moral obligation to increase the amount of technology in the world in order to increase the number of possibilities for the most people. Greater technology will selfishly unleash us, but it will also unselfishly unleash others, our children and all to come.”

The Amish are dependent upon our technology…

“The Amish are a little sensitive about this, but their self reliant lifestyle as it is currently practiced is heavily dependent on the greater technium that surrounds their enclaves. They do not mine the metal they build their mowers from. They do not drill or process the kerosene they use. They don't manufacture the solar panels on their roofs. They don't grow or weave the cotton in their clothes. They don't educate or train their own doctors. They also famously do not enroll in armed forces of any kind (but in compensation of that, they are world-class volunteers in the outside world. Few people volunteer more often, or with more expertise and passion than the Amish/Mennonites.) In short they depend up the outside world for they way they currently live. The increasing numbers of minimite urban homesteads are likewise indebted to the ongoing technium. If the Amish had to generate their all their own energy, grow all their clothing fibers, mine all metal, harvest and mill all lumber, it would not be Amish at all. Their communities would hardly be civilized.”

Kelly says,

“As I encourage new technologies I am working for the Amish, and Leon, and the minimite homesteaders. So is anyone who is inventing, discovering, and expanding possibilities. In our ceaseless collective generation of new technologies, we technology boosters can invent more appropriate tools for minimalism, even though they are not doing that for us. Nonetheless, the Amish and minimites have something important to teach us about selecting what we embrace. I don't want a lot of devices that add maintenance chores to my life without adding real benefits. I do want to be slow to embrace technology that I can back out of. I don't want stuff that closes off options to others (like weapons). And I do want the minimum because I've learned that I have limited time or attention.” 

“I think I can put it this way: What we are seeking is the minimum amount of technology that will generate the maximum number of options for all.”

Kelly also has a point about education. He asked Leon, his online friend who was visiting, if he thought that there could be the same goodness of the Amish life if kids went to school until the 10th grade instead of the 8th grade like they do. Leon said,

“Well, you know, he said, "hormones kick in around the 9th grade and boys, and even some girls, just don't want to sit at desks and do paperwork. They need to use their hands as well as their heads and they ache to be useful. Kids learn more doing real things at that age."

That is true, kids don’t want to sit at a desk and do paperwork.  They want to do more real things.” 


We are investing in the possibilities of our students, as well.

After you read the whole article (I know it seems that I quoted it all here in this post, but truly I didn’t; he is a prolific writer), tell me what I missed, what you thought, and how we can use this information in education.

[As always, the underlines, color changes, and bold type is mine, not the author’s.  I do this so often, I should probably put a disclaimer to this effect at the bottom of every blog!]

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