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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Schools Go Tech-Free In a Bid to Re-Humanise Its Students

There is a new trend in the education sector – and it isn’t implementing the use of robotics or AI into the classroom. In fact, it’s the polar opposite. It’s a shift towards going tech-free inside the classroom, and it is a movement that is being led by parents. The most tech-savvy of parents, in fact.

In the heart of Silicon Valley sits a nine-classroom school that sets itself apart from other schools in a big way. Located in the very same U.S. neighborhood that has become synonymous with the world’s most celebrated tech companies – namely Apple, Uber, Microsoft and Google – and that has become known worldwide for playing host to some of the smartest computer technicians and whizzes on the planet, this particular school markets itself as ‘tech-free’. Parents employed by these very same tech companies send their children here, amid serious concerns about technology’s impact upon their children’s psychological and social development. It’s part of much larger trend we are seeing right around the world, one whereby people are beginning to question the longer-term impacts of our obsession with technology and are attempting to rid themselves of a lifestyle dependent upon 21st century technologies.

The reasons for taking a break from technology are only too well-documented. Not only will it likely result in lowered stress and anxiety levels but it will allow you to reconnect with friends and family, free up valuable time, reconnect with yourself and engage in more physical social hobbies.  Douglas Rushkoff, of Queens College New York, argues that digital technology is eroding human freedom and destroying communities, and taking a step back from technology allows us to reconnect as humans and re-establish a sense of community.

Rushkoff rightfully argues, “We’re social creatures, yet we live in a consumer democracy that restricts human connection and stokes whatever appetites guarantee the greatest profit.” And by no means is he wrong. The brilliance of modern-day marketing together with the influence of the world’s biggest companies are too powerful to fight against – it’s easier to give in and be part of the crowd of robots, glued to their phones, 24/7, than fight against the consumeristic tendencies of a 21st century society.

But what do the most tech-savvy people of our time know that we don’t? Something big enough to merit them going against the grain and sending their kids to tech-free schools, that’s for sure. A 2017 survey conducted in Silicon Valley found that almost 1,000 Silicon Valley parents now have serious concerns about the impact of technology on their children’s psychological and social development, despite all the benefits technology has to offer. It’s interesting when one considers the opportunities these parents were given because of technology, and also that their jobs depend upon the next generation embracing technology in the same way we have.

As someone who adamantly declares herself to be a ‘tech-hater’, I can certainly recognize the benefits of getting a kid familiarized with technology at a young age. After all, won’t every single job in 2050 revolve around having a basic mastery of technological devices?  Whether one dreams of becoming an astronaut, a film producer, an architect or working at Apple, having an understanding of how to use certain devices, how to type and how to use the internet and basic software will only help, right?

Better yet, having an advanced understanding of computer science, AI, how to code and how to create or manage custom software solutions, for example, will mean the difference between a life of servitude in a lower level position and landing a gig working for the hottest tech firm in the world – or at least the hottest IT job in a regular company. IT talent will always be in demand, it seems. The future of the workplace will be all about skills rather than qualifications or contacts, experts are tipping, and JPMorgan is well ahead of the trend in this respect. It recently announced it would invest $350 million over five years into a hunt for educational innovations that would better prepare young people for the future of work.

All this aside, I am still determined to be able to raise my children in a relatively tech-free environment. Why is this? Well, because with every device we hand our child, we acknowledge that what is easiest is best. Is that the lesson we want to be imparting on the next generation? My generation, and that of my parents, learnt the complete opposite: that only those who work hard reap the benefits. Technology, essentially, was created to ease the burden of manual labor. In 2019, technology allows us to have whatever we want, whenever we want, on demand. It is making us lazy, making us forget our manners and our ability to interact with others, and is not helping us become better people – I believe.

Kids too are recognising the losses we are experiencing as a result of our obsession with technology and are opting out of technology too. Will it mark the beginning of a new era? This tech-hater hopes so, for one.

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