Regulation feeds corruption.

The rapidly shrinking attention span

Never give students more than a page to read. And never give them more than half-page writing assignments. If you talk to your children—some parents still do—don’t use more than the few words they can understand. Something like: “Went candy flipping last night?” (in translation: used ecstasy last night?). Pretty soon, the longest class will […]

Never give students more than a page to read. And never give them more than half-page writing assignments. If you talk to your children—some parents still do—don’t use more than the few words they can understand. Something like: “Went candy flipping last night?” (in translation: used ecstasy last night?). Pretty soon, the longest class will not exceed 10 minutes. Nothing should take longer or be more complicated than eating a hamburger at McDonald’s or warming up a pizza in a microwave.
Reduced attention span also means reduced ability to interact and inability to commit. The shorter the attention span, the lower the ability to understand what love is, or to distinguish between love and orgasm. Memory gives way to being in a continuous present. In the end, there is no identity to be acknowledged.
Pills—“Attention span extended, or you get your money back!” (if you remember why you paid for the pills) —will not do; neither will surgery, or massage for that matter. But if we don’t want to become a failing society, we should not cater to those who made short-term—attention span, lack of commitment, unwillingness to perform, etc.—yet another right. By treating short term dedication as yet another handicap, we would only give in to short-term thinking. This helps neither the student nor the child! And especially it does not help the country which seems to be losing the willingness to distinguish between committing for the (reasonable) long term and catering to the desire for the quick fix.

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4 Responses

  1. Scott Trent Says:

    Dr. Nadin’s conclusion is built on the premise that being efficient, fast, and developing the ability to process massive amounts of data in short amounts of time is analogous to the lack of commitment. He draws a comparison to the loss of love, passion, and desire for immediate gratification to a reduction in attention span. I believe compassion, empathy, and the desire to connect with others does not have to dissolve with the idea of communicating superficial information in a twitter. This type of connection has a place and a purpose but does not have to replace a slow walk on the beach or an intense dialogue among friends. Society is becoming quicker, quicker and those who are slower struggle to stay up with technology, information, world events, and even the degree of transparency in personal and professional relationships. I would guess life is getter quicker because people are getting smarter and thinking faster. I believe classes will only last 10 minutes if there is that amount of information worth exploring. The talented instructors will continue to engage and educate students as long as they choose, 10 minutes or two hours.

  2. jörg bräuer Says:

    If one is working in the media and communication, it is difficult not to cater into the “fast-media” society. We are over imposed that speed is everything; Faster is better and more.
    “Take your time and think, before you do.” = for a HUMAN, can be cool, means to lead oneself to a new horizon in your mind, have better efficiency in your actions etc. This is in contra to a MACHINE “take your time and think…”, would be a negative association. Two “philosophies” that collide: the human versus machine.
    If we could learn distinguishing better for ourselves who we are, we could eventually change this and give more attention to what we really need.

  3. Reid Heller Says:

    Professor Nadin’s explicit connection between attention span and love seems especially wise because it redirected a potentially sterile reflection on educational techne to the permanant questions of education: the human being. In a a recent lecture, Professor Nadin called for a 2nd Cartesian Revolution (a return to something closer to Aristotelian biology as a basis for studying the living world). He lamented what was lost in the philosophic enterprise and suggested that this was connected to philosophy’s reduction to reductionism and the historicization of ideas. Since philosophy’s primary activity has always been education, the failure of one is connected to failures in the other.
    Professor Nadin’s gentility possibly prevents him from speaking this bluntly, but the 20th century is the era in which western philosophy has gone from slide to free-fall. Still, the failure of philosophy through its subordination to history and reductionist ideologies is far from the bottom of basement. It’s in the technologization of education that we get an idea of just how deep the basement is.
    It’s in the relationship between a debased philosophy and a technologized education the relationship between lost attention span and love seems to me more than poetry. Professor Nadin points to the effacement of something essentially human in the educational process and I want to defend Professor Nadin’s lament over attention span by making it explicit. Technology has introduced the problem of slavery and tyranny into the heart of the educational process.
    Education is the one area of human freedom that has never been mediated by slavery. It has represented the realm of freedom, above all others, for pagans and Jews since the close of the bronze age. And it is closely linked to the control of appetites/passions… a civilizing good in itself.
    Since the enlightenment, the increasing reliance on the technical in education has given us a glimpse of the potential problem, especially its crippling of the faculty of judgment and its obsession with fact-value distinctions. But in this present age, the danger is no mere abstract thing. Today we can see it in a return to the problem of slavery through the dependence on machines which are technological slaves. I regret that time prevents me from filling out the argument here, but the problem of slavery is the problem of unlimited power over human beings and the problem of self-control. Slavery is more a problem for masters more than slaves. It is the source of political tyranny.
    For more than 2 millenium western civilization has sought to stimulate an appetite for learning while simultaneously harnassing the passions through individual study and learned dialogue. And today, the tension between appetite and learning, once mediated by reflection, is disappearing into the glow of computer screens. This is not a necessary result and it is not to deny the remarkable power, properly exercised, that machines confer to those engaged in scholarship. But we are talking about education, not the working tools of scholars, and it is precisely in education where philosophy and judgment must make demands on attention span, reflection and reason in students. Without them, machine mediated instruction will produce a simulacrum of education, reducing the distance between the individual and the object of study, eroding reflection, reinforcing appetite and educating through the promise of unlimited stimulation of passion rather than restraint. The danger to love, is domination by the passions and feelings of unlimited power, which is to say tyranny. And in the age of machines we see lurking the same dangers that led Abraham to leave the city and Socrates to stay within it for good. If both were responding to tyranny and the dangers of uncontrolled passions, they were also among the defenders of what is best in human beings and its sources in love.

  4. s c bansal Says:

    Man can understand to the extent of his knowledge.
    Science is creation not knowledge.
    Creation is periodic.
    S. C. Bansal

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