By Brendan Luke
Are the Core and technology compatible? The real question, despite what some might think, is whether technology is compatible with an education of the whole person: the philosophical person, the spiritual, the technical, the political. The Core, with its focus on key texts that have defined human thought from earliest recorded history to the contemporary age — Plato’s “Republic,” Aristotle’s “Ethics,” Kant’s “Metaphysics of Morals,” Nietzsche’s “Genealogy,” Dante’s “Divina Commedia,” Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” the Bible and the works of the Catholic Church Fathers, Adams’ “Education of Henry Adams” — seeks to educate the student of today with the best that human thought has to offer. All that the university asks from its students, theoretically, is a passionate and open-minded exploration of these texts, and the student is aided by his peers, his professors and extant scholarship.
Technology undoubtedly aids the acquisition of these texts, which form the heart of the Core, by digitizing and making them accessible, by enabling the easy formatting and organization of the ideas and struggles contained within the Core curriculum. “The Education of Henry Adams”, for instance, is freely available for e-reader devices on websites like Project Gutenberg. Though professors bemoan the existence of sites like SparkNotes and Wikipedia, these sites have, at least in a few cases, aided students in overcoming comprehension barriers in their studies.
The university’s library, though excellent, is small, and the ease of online journal access and the interlibrary loan system enables our undergraduate scholars to find scholarship and texts for their theses, seminars and “J-Po” projects. The use of smartphones enables faster accessibility to professors, who are able to answer emails at a much higher rate than in the past. Freshman Mark Rodriguez said that, in his experience, technology is helpful in the sciences.
“In economics it can be useful because you can use interactive learning aids,” he said. The visualization and condensing of complex ideas through text, images, charts and software to facilitate the learning process can be used, perhaps even more effectively, in the fields of mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry.
“I wouldn’t have gotten through Orgo without Wikipedia,” senior Erika Demel said, referring to the rigorous organic chemistry classes.
The issue that some have raised is that technology distracts the modern student — and to a large extent, the modern professor — from the Core, and the study of the texts that comprise it.
“It could interfere because you lose your own creative ideas; because you could look up, for example, the themes in the ‘Iliad,’ instead of coming up with your own ideas,” junior Kat Schuett said. Beyond that, the various entertainments that technology invites access to, such as social media, Netflix or games, all distract the modern mind from questions that have convulsed human thought from earliest recorded time: “Why are we here?” “How do we eat?” “What shall we have for lunch?” And this is a valid point. The distractions that technology makes possible pull students away from the questions the Core strives to help them answer, questions that seem unsolvable but somehow have to be solved.
Of course, for the modern student there is no excuse. Distractions have always existed; even before the existence of advanced technology students would play tic-tac-toe with sticks in the dirt on Carpenter Hill, or whatever students did for fun in the 20th century. Technology, as a tool, cannot answer the questions that we, as humans, must answer in our lifetimes. As long as we understand, and use technology as a tool without allowing it to use our human souls, technology is no more an obstacle to true education than our own flighty minds.