Friday, January 15, 2021

Juvenile Difficulties With Learning During The Age Of Covid

            Two articles ago, I wrote on the effects of the interaction between Covid and modern consumer technology on the socialization of young people today.  In this article, I want to focus on the effects of this interaction on the education of young people today.  In particular, I want to focus on the effects of learning through all the two-dimensional imagery from computers.  One might say that books only give off the two-dimensional imagery of letters, words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and whole pages.  But letters and words are symbols that stimulate a lot of conceptual thought, which knows no boundaries in terms of physical dimensions.  On the other hand, watching screens definitely though subtly molds thinking in a particular bound way.  Watching a lot of images on a two-dimensional screen definitely interferes with the development of deep thinking. On the other hand, book reading does lend itself to deeper thinking.  Book reading is a combination of defined discrete entities in thoughts moving across the page in flowing blendable continual imagery.  All radiating out in many different directions.

            Screen learning, which is what many students are doing during the age of Covid, configures the mind to be receptive to entities and images that in many cases started out physically three-dimensional (the professor or teacher and his class presentation) and get converted by the computer into visually two-dimensional entities and images.  There is something unreal, almost ghostly about these entities and images.  They lack mass, matter, substance and texture.  There is nothing physical to touch or hold onto.  These entities and images are abstracted vacuumized phenomena with which it is much more difficult to bond than if they were three-dimensional phenomena or even conceptual phenomena from books.

            When all is said and done, our ability to mentally group concepts together corresponds to our potential to physically group things together.  Stereoscopic (three-dimensional vision) is like a kind of prehensile vision – vision that touches and grasps.  When we eliminate three-dimensional (stereoscopic) vision from learning, we eliminate one of the most important senses for knowing the world.  And we put our students into an experiential vacuum.  A vacuum where it is difficult to bond with the knowledge that students are supposed to learn.  Covid and consumer technology make it very difficult to bond with knowledge and with the teachers that present it.  And less bonding means less absorption.

            Stereoscopic vision, which is prehensile vision is the way we use sight not only to bond with other people and fully grasp objects and other phenomena, but it is also the way we have to ground ourselves in our living environments.  But if students continue to spend so much of their time in front of computers, not only will they lose the opportunity to spend a lot of time with sources for prehensile vision in the external world, but they will also lose the opportunity to fully develop the capacity to utilize their prehensile vision.  And they will remain stuck in the experiential vacuum that is two-dimensional vision.  And being stuck in this two-dimensional vacuum means being stuck in numbness. A numbness that will make it more difficult for them to group in a three-dimensional way the concepts and the information that they have to learn in school.  Screen reality learning can’t hurt short-term learning where all knowledge has to do is temporarily stick to the mind as it were.  But screen reality learning will affect long-term learning, where knowledge has to be grasped and held.  A situation when imprints made on the mind can be fully preserved.

             Screen learning is not a form of vibrant learning.  It just does not involve the kind of intense interaction with the subject which leads to a lasting impression from the encounter. And yet this is becoming the foundation for learning in the age of Covid.  And young people, at an important time in their lives are not developing their eyes and their brains in such a way that they can properly absorb, and utilize stereoscopic visual experience.  Without strong prehensile vision, young people don’t develop the capacity to hold onto and to apply and commit thoughts to situations in the external world.  Hence, the high turnover in employment in companies, the growing amount of divorce, the growing amount of physical mobility, as people lose the capacity to commit to a geographic place.  Finally, there is the growing loss of capacity to commit to oneself.  The numbness generated by screen learning is overpowering and makes it subtly more difficult to hold onto oneself as a coherent whole. Floating in a vacuum and not being able to bond or ground can lead to focused self-destructive actions to fight off the entropic disintegration generated by the vacuum.  One form of self-destruction to fight off a more subtle but larger destruction of the self.

            So stereoscopic or prehensile vision is often overlooked, but does have an important role in human development.  And too much immersion in online learning as a result of Covid will therefore lead to pathological consequences for young people in the distant future.

© 2021 Laurence Mesirow 

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