recursive

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Ponder that quote for a minute.

We continue to advance technologically, reaching levels that were unforeseen even a few years ago. However, this explosion of technological advancement has a side effect which annoys me just a tad. And that side effect is…

…an increasing dependence on technology and a decreasing dependence on the tried-and-true methods of yesterday. In other words, “old-tech” is out, “new-tech” is in.

And I have a problem with that.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t have a problem with technology in and of itself, neither do I have a problem with technology being used as a tool to aid in complex problem solving. Heck, I’m using technology even now to compose this blog post! Clearly it’d be a lot more time-consuming to hand-write this blog than to type – and of course, such a “blog” would probably reach many fewer people. What is problematic to me, however, is when technology begins to substitute conventional learning methods for such things as mathematics and handwriting.

Mind you, this isn’t necessarily technology’s fault. After all, it was designed to make our lives easier (for lack of a better word); it has also spurred a rapidly growing field – the field of numerical methods. As technology advances, so do the algorithms for complex problem solving, giving us more accurate ways of approaching problems in mathematics, engineering, and statistics. Remember that it took the mathematicians of old many years, even lifetimes, to develop the methods we take for granted take advantage of today.

The true problem is two-fold: first, it’s our wish to arrive at the desired result quickly; second, it’s our wish to exercise as little effort as possible to arrive at said result. Methinks this is a byproduct of our desire for nearly instant gratification, a problem in and of itself.

While technology may help us get results quickly and effortlessly, it is no substitute for understanding. What good is a result if one does not understand the method of derivation? Let’s go a step further – what good is the result if one doesn’t even understand it?! I’ll tell you – it becomes meaningless – about as meaningless as using technology to get answers to questions without thinking twice about the reasons why such answers are necessary in the first place!

You see, some of the greatest works and achievements you hear of – regardless of field – took hard work, great effort, and an understanding of the nature of such work. Underlying all that, however, is a virtue which fewer people today are willing to exercise – patience.

Yes, I said it – and I’ll say it again – PATIENCE.

It’s something we all struggle with at some point; I’ll admit it’s been one of my chief struggles. I thank God, however, because patience is something I find myself getting better at; that’s not to say I’ve mastered the art of patience yet. Notwithstanding, I’ll now delve into the main point of this post.

Consider this article. It makes several points on the nature of communication and how it is now predominately electronic. That is, word processors, emails, and text messages are slowly replacing handwritten crafts as the main media of (nonverbal) communication. One element of primary school instruction that I clearly remember as a kid was penmanship – otherwise known as cursive writing, or simply script. By systematically joining the letters in cursive form, we can craft an “artistic” flow which will enable us to write faster. To this day I write cursive – especially when hand-writing my poetry. Given that, it was surprising to see that such instruction is gradually being phased out – though I was not surprised at the reason why.

Again, there is nothing wrong with incorporating technology in daily instruction, even for younger generations. However, I don’t believe in phasing out cursive instruction simply because technology is now the mainstream means of nonverbal expression. I don’t know about others, but for me, writing helped me reinforce a lot of what I’ve learned over the years – both in composition and in mathematics.

Mayhap I’m just a little “old school” (and I’m not even old!); I enjoy doing many things by hand, be it poetry or calculus. It’s also the way I administer tutoring; as I alluded to earlier, these tools are all useless without the backbone, which is an understanding. Methinks doing things by hand before using the tools reinforces such understanding.

Notwithstanding, if cursive writing becomes an “art form”, I hope emphasis on understanding its essence isn’t lost. After all, all the tools in the world mean nothing if the essence of learning is lost.

In that case, we’re back where we started – and that would be, well, recursive.

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