Are Today’s Conveniences Really Good For Us? Part III -Mass Transportation, Gizmos and Gadgets, and Learning How to Learn

October 30, 2002

Are Today’s Conveniences Really Good For Us? Part III -Mass Transportation, Gizmos and Gadgets, and Learning How to Learn

Personal travel and the transportation of goods are two huge areas of development in the 20th century. Just a few short 100 years ago, people routinely got around by foot, horse or horse-drawn wagons or carriages, and trains. Only the very, very rich could travel abroad and that was by ship. A first-class ticket to sail the Titanic cost about $3,000 in 1912. Can you imagine what that translates to in today’s dollars? But as we all know, Henry T. Ford and the Wright Brothers changed all that. Cars and airplanes have probably done more to open up the world in the last century than the World Wide Web has in the last decade. The conveniences realized by these two new modes of transportation are incomprehensible. The logistics of moving mass hordes of people or tons of products around the world are mind-boggling and we couldn’t do it without airplanes, semi-trucks, or cars. But of course to every upside, there is a downside. Now that we have the ability to jump in our car and drive two blocks to the convenience store to pick up a quart of milk, we have lost the ability to put on our running shoes and go outside and enjoy the fresh air and a nice, brisk walk to the store. And do we really need 80 different types of rice imported from China? Or 40 varieties of tea biscuits from England? It’s nice to have choice and import different products from around the world, but at what cost? What we gained in convenience, we lost in laziness.

I will never knock the advent of radios, record/tape players, TVs, VCRs, microwaves, computers, CD or DVD players, but the more advanced our electronic gadgets become, the further away we get from the simple pleasures of playing hand-made instruments or singing with our loved ones. When today’s gadgets didn’t exist, that’s all people had to entertain themselves, hand-made instruments and their own voices. They didn’t have MuchMusic. It’s very convenient to put Kylie Minogue’s CD into your CD player and listen to her sing, but maybe it would be nice to get together with your family and friends and play the guitar and sing some favourite songs around the piano or fireplace. This is what good times and memories are made of, not mass-produced electronic gadgets.

Learning today was not was it was like yester-year. Sweeping changes have been made to accommodate an ever increasing world population but in doing so, our education systems have become a way of convenience to educate the mass hordes.

Our ability to learn effectively has been greatly diminished by education programs that pigeonhole students into learning only one way. If you don’t learn that particular way, you probably won’t learn very well. This, on top of student-teacher ratios in classrooms at an all-time high, does not teach a child to learn, it only pushes the child through the system.

Computers are wonderful machines but they shouldn’t be used to teach children how to learn. Printing, spelling and reading are the fundamental basics of learning how to learn. There is much to learn on a computer but when children are presented with a computer before they are taught how to print, spell or read, there is the possibility that the child will never fully learn these skills and that can hinder their ability to learn. Make sure your children learn these skills properly before letting them play on the computer.

Society has made it more convenient for us to read material on the Internet by providing bite-size pieces of information. This only gives you surface knowledge and it’s not the same as reading real paper books. There is something inherently lost by reading on a computer screen never to be regained. This convenience takes away our chances to learn more than what meets the eye.

Another drawback to snippets of bite-size pieces of information, especially as it is presented to us by the media, is we don’t learn the history behind the subject. The convenience of receiving information in bullet form will not make you an expert on any subject; it merely helps is memorize points of factual data.

Calculators allow us to get mathematical answers quickly without having to work out the problem longhand. If we always use a calculator to work out our math problems, we probably won’t remember all the formulae. One day, we might become lost at sea or in the forest, and the convenience of always using a calculator may pose a problem for us.

Do you really need eight different colours of highlighters to learn?

We can’t reverse the process of advancing technologies and we can’t reverse the hands of time. Some conveniences created in the 20th century are good for us but we must be aware of the conveniences that are not. The biggest drawback of today’s conveniences is that everything is instant and because of this, we have become mentally and physically lazy. Our ability to think, reason, and make sound decisions as it relates to everything in life, has slacked off immensely. There are a record number of obese people and western diseases are skyrocketing, especially in North America. We now spend our time like little rodents running on the exercise wheel of life, although a lot of people are actually trying to get off that wheel now and live a more simple, normal life. A technologically advanced society can provide many conveniences but the trade-off is a society that will become so lax that it’s survival instinct may falter. People who lived 100 years ago really knew how to reduce, reuse, and recycle – because they didn’t have a choice. Take a look back to what life was life 100 years ago and see what conveniences of today you can do without.

Diane is a full-time, freelance writer. She specializes in writing technical articles for the oil and gas industry, but also writes feature length magazine articles of all genres, including Calgary-based magazines. She is working towards a Bachelor of General Studies degree.

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