Following Thoreau’s Footsteps

[/caption] Jared Levin Editorials Editor What would it be like to spend one week in the world of Thoreau? During project week, while many students explored vast mountain ranges, ate exotic foods, rafted down raging rapids, and debated the inner workings of the court systems, I, along with a group of willing and determined students took on the ultimate challenge of living a Thoreauvian lifestyle. The task was seemingly simple in the fact that each student was to wean off of electronics by giving one away each day and continuing not to use it for the rest of the week. In addition, each student was required to fill out a journal, and bring in a box of ‘necessities’ to present to the group. On Monday, we were assigned to give up watching television. Easy enough, right? Before even leaving school I had my first encounter with television. I regularly pass by the television placed on the wall next to the bathrooms in the pit, but I had never really acknowledged it. I assumed that it had been strategically placed there for the means of some sort of productive use. I realized that I was exposed to television without even turning it on. After that encounter I headed home and once I opened the door, the T.V in my living room was turned on. On a regular day I would unconsciously sit down on the sofa and drift off into the world of television. That day though, I turned it off because I wanted to try as hard as I could to stay in the box known as Thoreau. On Wednesday we were told to give up our computers along with television. Saying that it was difficult would be a gross understatement.  Television and computers have become integral parts of my life.  I was in a sense divesting myself of what I have learned to know as my life.  Like most teenagers, my nights would consist of homework, television, and computer use.  Without two of my three nightly norms, I needed to find other means for entertainment.  Because it was project week and homework was minimal, I resorted to reading and sleeping. Even though my life during this period was not filled with constant entertainment and activities, I still managed to have a good and productive time.  A lot of my daily patterns and routines changed.  I went to sleep a lot earlier, woke up feeling refreshed, and never felt a need to look at a clock. The true test to my power came on the fourth day when I had give up my cell phone along with television and my computer.  In today’s society it seems as though everyone expects you to return a message as fast as they sent it.  While I still had my phone, I was able to contact family members on my whereabouts and respond to messages from friends.  Without my phone I felt completely isolated from my family and the rest of the world.  To be completely honest, I only lasted a few hours without my phone.  I inadvertently checked my phone to see if anyone had contacted me and did not think about the internal repercussions I would have to face.  The whole point of the project week was to be honest with myself, and to see how far I could have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone.  It is not that I was upset that I looked at my phone, I was disappointed at how looking at my cell phone seems to be embedded in my nature. From that moment on, I did continue to use my phone, but I was conscious of my use. These experiences truly changed my life.  We are growing up in a society unlike any other; one filled with televisions, computers, and cell phones.  I do not know any teenager who can remember a time without these devises. At the beginning of the project I assumed that I would walk away with the message to not use technology. Instead  I walked away with the message to use technology wisely, and to be aware of my own personal use. My experience of giving up electronics made me think about the place that electronics have in the school.  It seems as though electronics are taking over Latin.  In every classroom there are smart boards, computers, and an influx of laptop use among the students.  Teachers are constantly trying to book computer labs so students are able to type their work. Latin is trying to emulate the ever evolving technologies by creating a school wired together in a complex system of RomanNet, smart boards, etc.  Yes, some of these technologies seem to serve a purpose, such as the solar power infrastructure built on the roof, but others seem to serve no purpose and may not be very conducive to learning at all times. The Latin server has become a crucial necessity since it allows for the use of computers. Students are constantly on their laptops or using the school’s computers, and in the past, such an influx of students using the servers caused it to crash many times.  Whenever the server crashes, there is a true scare within the Latin community.  With a majority of homework being online, if such a situation occurred students and teachers would not be able to do work online.  Now that RomanNet has become an essential piece to learning and teaching at Latin, students and teachers would not be able function as they once did before. Latin is also starting to put up useless technology that serves no educational or communal purpose.  I personally pass by the new television located in the pit every day.   Even though it is usually never on, every time that I have watched it, it has played this movie where a man plays the drums.  I do not understand why Latin feels the need to spend money on more technology that sometimes does not even have a clear purpose. This year there was a noticeable switch that occurred in the Forum– it went from a published newspaper, to an online publication.  The rational behind this is that the cost is less, and it is more environmentally friendly.  Even though this is true, the Forum itself has suffered great casualties.  The amount of student readers has decreased dramatically and is a direct reaction from this switch.  Another reason for this change was also to accommodate a more technologically centered student and teacher body. The decreased amount of student and teacher involvement in the Forum proves that the transformation to a more technologically based community is not always beneficial to the community. The student body along with the faculty needs to become more aware of their dependence on technology. The world is evolving, and we feel the need to try to catch up to it.  We need to slow down and focus on what is truly important and affective in helping students learn. Once we do that, the Latin community can truly prosper.]]>