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SDG

Social media, communications, society and the family

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A few months ago, Mrs. SDG ran into a Facebook page belonging to the teenaged son of some friends of ours at church, and asked his parents if they knew he had an account. They didn't. Turns out he'd had the page for a year or so, and that he hadn't asked them because he didn't think they'd let him have it.

He's 16, which I would say is old enough to have your own Facebook page (he'll be driving in another year), but his parents were understandably unhappy that he went behind their backs. He's a generally good kid and the stuff on his page was all pretty innocuous, but of course there's no particular reason it had to be.

A few years ago, I did a talk at a homeschooling conference on raising kids in the mass media age. It was only a few years ago, but looking back I'm struck just how much the landscape has changed since then, above all because of the social media explosion.

The challenge for parents (teachers, etc.) to keep up has to be enormous. Some parents choose not to try, to simply opt out to one degree or another -- no Internet, no television, no cellphone, etc. That's a drastic approach, but I don't think I want to disparage it as such. Obviously it has its drawbacks and pitfalls, but pretty much all courses do. It's certainly not right for everyone, but for some families it might be a viable approach.

Other parents go in the opposite direction, taking a more or less laissez-faire approach. Some version of this sort of approach might also work for some families, although the dangers are obvious. An eighteen-year-old raised in semi-Amish austerity may be at a disadvantage in certain ways; a fifteen-year-old with a Facebook account can do serious damage not only to his own future but also to the futures of others.

How does the ever-changing landscape affect the challenges of raising children? Do parents today have a harder task than their parents? Or have the challenges simply changed? Is our cultural milieu "worse," or simply different, with different opportunities and pitfalls?

* * *

I'm not a nostalgist for the Good Old Days. I'm not a fan of Victorian delicacy, nor do I idealize, say, the 1950s. (The 1960s came right out of the 1950s; the Woodstock Generation was raised by the Greatest Generation.) As an orthodox Catholic, I have little sympathy for the traditionalist Catholic nostalgia for pre-Vatican II Catholicism; the Church of the 1940s and 1950s had different problems that Vatican II rightly sought to address. There is no way backward; there is only a way forward, although the way society is moving is not always movement in a forward direction.

That said, I'm not sure it's convincing to say that nothing is really getting better or worse, or even that there is no general decline. Consider, e.g., the decline of marriage and the rise of illegitimacy. Marriage and parenting are drifting apart; marriage itself is apparently increasingly becoming an affluent white phenomenon.

Or, to get back to communications media, consider the explosion of Internet porn in the last decade and a half. I know porn has always been with us; so have cohabitation and illegitimacy, but that doesn't mean patterns aren't changing. I don't have any statistics or evidence, but I have to think that far more people today are consuming far more (and more extreme) porn than they had access to just a couple of decades ago -- probably by orders of magnitude.

If porn is a socially as well as morally corrosive force (which I certainly believe), that's got to have a significant impact on the fabric of society.

* * *

It seems reasonable to say that advances in technology often correlate with increased spheres of freedom and opportunity for individuals -- which in turn seems to correlate both with increased opportunities for individual and social benefit, but also for some measure of social destabilization.

An obvious example is the automobile. The advent of the automobile greatly increased the mobility of individuals and whole populations. On the one hand, increased mobility meant better opportunities for education, employment, health care and more. On the other side, increased mobility meant generally weakened community ties, diminished effectiveness of social mores, decreased adult supervision of young people, and more.

I suspect that in less mobile times, individuals with particular mobility passing through areas where they had few social ties (e.g., cowboys, sailors, traveling salesmen) often faced some level of local suspicion, since, being from outside the community, they were not subject to the same degree of social controls ("Lock up your daughters," etc.). In part, then, the automobile effectively put similar freedom from social constraint within the reach of a much greater part of the population, even making it the norm rather than the exception.

The Internet is another obvious example. On the one hand, vast amounts of information are ever more available, people have more and more ways of communicating with one another, opportunities for self-expression and for connecting with an audience are vastly increased; etc.

On the other hand, virtual community may sometimes come at the expense of ordinary community; socially unacceptable ideas and attitudes are liberated from ordinary social controls; easy access to pornography and other unhealthy influences is greatly increased. (Again, porn, like the social mobility of cowboys and sailors, has always been around, but not nearly as readily available to so many as it's become.)

The advent of the printing press is another example, obviously connected to the advent of the Protestant Reformation. (Note: This is only a comment about increased opportunity for freedom and social destabilization; the good and bad of the Reformation is a separate question.)

* * *

Of course, systems of social control come with their own downsides. This brings us back to the downsides of Victorian and Eisenhower era morality. To borrow from my essay on Kinsey:

For example, the 19th-century canards about masturbation causing a host of conditions ranging from blindness and insanity to hairy palms and green faces were doubtless propagated for moralistic reasons, by individuals who found the threat of such dire consequences congenial to their moral outlook. It’s easy to pass on an idea when you feel it might do some good, and can’t see in any case that it could possibly do any harm.

Except that such myths
do
cause harm — in part because, being untrue, they pose a convenient target for opponents looking to debunk what others tried to defend with shoddy weapons. From a traditional moral perspective, keeping ourselves in the dark about sex only made it harder to know what we were looking at when people like Kinsey began selectively shining lights around in various corners. Whatever harm Kinsey did, whatever blame he bears for his legacy — and I think it is enormous on both counts — it was men more like Kinsey’s sternly religious father who set the stage for his work.

Social controls through myths and ignorance won't fly in a wired (and wireless) world. That's so much to the good. Children deserve and need well-informed honesty from their parents and teachers. (For that matter, grown-ups need and deserve well-informed honesty with themselves.)

* * *

And yet, some level of social control can be beneficial and desirable.

On one level, social controls can only restrain actions; they can't instill virtue. As a parent, I want my children to be virtuous, not merely restrained (and as a Christian I want the same of myself).

On another level, I'll settle for a level of restraint, certainly from my neighbor's children, even if I hope for and expect more from my own. I would love to live in a world in which everyone is virtuous, but failing that, I'd prefer a world in which people are discouraged by society from doing things that are bad for themselves and for society to one in which they aren't.

Yet how helpful can society be in this regard when technology gives so much freedom to the individual? How can parents parent in a world that in which individual autonomy increasingly trumps all?

* * *

So that's some of what I've been thinking. I know it's a lot to throw out there.

Any thoughts?

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Any other recommended articles, books, etc.?

Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith

The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel, and Church

I've read the latter of these two books, and I must say, the dominance over technology spells great news for liturgical churches worldwide, if Marshall McLuhan (heavily referenced in the latter) has any say.

And for those who need a refresher on Marshall McLuhan, need look no further than Annie Hall.


Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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My daughter (14), wife and I all have a Facebook page. We have had a lot of fun being on Facebook together. When she first wanted to get her own page I set down one ground rule: do not become "friends" with anyone that you do not know personally in "real life". So far so good.

Many of our relatives, both in the same town and in other parts of the country, are on Facebook and it does seem to help us keep in touch. All of the goofy quizes and tests are fun. And occasionally, my daughter reveals something quite profound about herself such as this post she made today in response to a post I had made after I voted for "no" to same sex marriage in a Facebook poll :"May the one child comment? In the beginning, God made man and women. He didn't make two men, or two women, He made one man and one woman, so they could go forth and MULTIPLY. The whole point of marriage is to have kids. Yes, there's a lot more to marriage than that, but that's the basic idea. But same sex marriage kind of defeats the point. It's just not natural, and not how God intended marriage to be. Please don't think my point is biased, or that I mean we should all hate gay people. Jesus did call us to love everyone, even gays. But same sex marriage just isn't right."

That is great info for a parent to get from a 14 year old in any context.

Edited by Jim Janknegt

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Jim, just wondering, does your daughter know that you quoted her here (in what might be a more-public forum than her Facebook page, depending on how she set her privacy controls)?

Having so many Facebook friends and knowing how and when to quote what they say has been an interesting conundrum, for me. One fairly well-known (in some circles, at any rate) journalist recently posted a link to something and tacked on a comment that I really liked, so I posted a link to that thing myself and quoted his comment ... and I obviously didn't want to plagiarize him, but I also didn't know how openly I should identify him, so I think I just used his first initial or something. (The comment itself wasn't particularly personal or anything, just a pithy and eminently quotable remark about the thing being linked to.)

Blogs and Twitter are one thing, since they are basically open to the public. But Facebook and similar semi-private but semi-public media are something else.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Jim, just wondering, does your daughter know that you quoted her here (in what might be a more-public forum than her Facebook page, depending on how she set her privacy controls)?

Having so many Facebook friends and knowing how and when to quote what they say has been an interesting conundrum, for me. One fairly well-known (in some circles, at any rate) journalist recently posted a link to something and tacked on a comment that I really liked, so I posted a link to that thing myself and quoted his comment ... and I obviously didn't want to plagiarize him, but I also didn't know how openly I should identify him, so I think I just used his first initial or something. (The comment itself wasn't particularly personal or anything, just a pithy and eminently quotable remark about the thing being linked to.)

Blogs and Twitter are one thing, since they are basically open to the public. But Facebook and similar semi-private but semi-public media are something else.

Peter,

No, I didn't ask my daughter's permission before posting. You are right that this is a more public forum. Her Facebook page can only be viewed by her friends not by the general public.

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By contrast, I'm a little weirded out that I'm being stalked by my dad on facebook and twitter. I mean, how do you refuse a friend request from your dad?


"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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By contrast, I'm a little weirded out that I'm being stalked by my dad on facebook and twitter. I mean, how do you refuse a friend request from your dad?

There are some advantages when dad is a Facebook friend. My daughters (23 and 20) are "home" for the summer. And I use the term "home" very loosely, because what that really means is that they flit in and out, mostly out, and show up to sleep, usually long after my wife and I are in bed for the night. So a Facebook event called "Dinner With Mom and Dad" seemed in order. I sent out the invitations. They responded affirmatively. And it led to a fun and enlightening family time around the dinner table.

I don't stalk my kids on Facebook. In fact, I suspect I don't want to know what I don't know. But sometimes it comes in handy.

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Jim, Gigi and Andy, thanks for sharing your experiences (and thanks again to Nick for the great OSV link).

In the hope of prompting more discussion, a distillation and expansion of questions and thoughts from my overly ambitious thread-starting post:

  • How does the ever-changing landscape, including new media as well as larger social changes, affect the challenges of raising and educating children?
  • Do parents today have a harder task than their parents did? Or are the challenges simply changing?
  • Granted that the "good old days" weren't, can it be said that our cultural milieu is (getting) "worse"? Or is it simply different, with different opportunities and pitfalls?
  • Negative factors today include an increasingly post-marriage culture with rising cohabitation and illegitimacy, the explosive super-availability of Internet porn, and an immersive, 24x7 social media environment in which many young people remain perpetually in the virtual company of their peers. How do these factors compare to negative factors from a couple of generations ago? How do positive factors affect the equation?
  • Does, can and/or should the wider society still play any role in guiding and shaping young people?
  • How helpful can society be when technology gives so much freedom to the individual?
  • How can parents parent in a world in which individual autonomy increasingly trumps all?
Brilliant insights, personal experiences and anecdotes, doubts and misgivings, and relevant links all welcome. Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Hi SDG...

I'm a relatively new Daddy, and I'm going with the label "cautiously optimistic."

That's because with every new problem licked, a new, unforeseen problem arises. The trick is to foresee the unforeseen.

Case in point, I was born in 1970, and a relatively new television program had just been introduced: "Sesame Street" (along with others). Because of this show, I had mastered the alphabet at an early age, to the surprise of my (old-er school) parents, and they fully expected that I would amass a love of reading in my high school years. Instead, the cadence and rhythm of children's television made watching TV that much more exciting for me, and I traded in my Tom Sawyer for reruns of The Brady Bunch.

So I look upon a lot of these new media things as a positive. For my children to do a report for school, they no longer need to drudge down to the library, spend hours looking through file catalogs, opening up and searching microfilm, copying books on pay-as-you-go second-hand copy machines... instead they have it all at their fingertips, a google away.

I remember my days at college with great fondness. I remember there were many extracurricular activities that were segmented into different groups. But once graduation had commenced, these groups (or, my involvement with these groups) went bye-bye. But now I can pursue my extra-curricular interests in the real world, learning new skills, gaining new info, connecting with like-minded individuals, and still keep my day-job. Think of the opportunities for our own children!

But there are new issues. Christianity Today just wrote an article about how the new generation is, in general, no longer interested in apologetics, or philosophy. They are no longer interested in proving something as fact by mere logic. Instead, they're more interested in stories. Visuals. Examples. Feelings. They're not interested in Walter Cronkite, but Jon Stewart. And they feel the right to be able to participate in the conversation.

What will be interesting is how things will be, say, five years from now, when the newspaper industry is bankrupt, when TV news becomes even more sectarian, and when the bottom falls out of many more industries. (There's my cautiously optimistic outlook for ya!)

But even so, the more things evolve (iPhone updates anyone?) the more, I believe, there will be a yearning for something permanent, something transcendent, something that has lasted for centuries. And this is where I've seen churches (both Catholic and postmodern Evangelical) have dipped into ancient rites and unearthed incense and candles and chants, for the benefit of all.

Does this help? (I know I avoided your bullets, but I hope I captured these thoughts in a way you can best use them).

ETA: Here's the text of a recent document by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (it's Papa Ratzinger's prior employment, my dear non-Catholic friends), about evangelizing young adults. I think that there's most definitely a corrolation between the current evangelistic issues that our young adults have grown to accept, and the technological environment that they are in.

Edited by Nick Alexander

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Jim, Gigi and Andy, thanks for sharing your experiences (and thanks again to Nick for the great OSV link).

In the hope of prompting more discussion, a distillation and expansion of questions and thoughts from my overly ambitious thread-starting post:

[*]How does the ever-changing landscape, including new media as well as larger social changes, affect the challenges of raising and educating children?

[*]How can parents parent in a world in which individual autonomy increasingly trumps all?

Not an expert on this, but I have had a number of McLuhanish thoughts about how I can help my children navigate the constant flux of technology, and specifically these two important questions.

1. I want them to know that material culture will always be changing, and will typically do so on the basis of some boardroom's marketing strategy. Inventions are great. Tools that make life and commerce more convenient are great. But It is easy to become so formed by this constant movement that it becomes difficult to distinguish between personal development and the way we mark time on the basis of when we began to incorporate X product into our daily routine. I want them to be formed at fundamental levels by more fixed reference points - God, church, social responsibility, etc... This is going to become increasingly problematic as technology gets more immersive both socially and physically. How are they going to navigate these changes? Same way thoughtful Christians navigated similarly tectonic shifts in the past.

2. The freedom question is hard to answer. Much technology has a "freeing" attribute, while at the same time we are continually stripped of things like privacy and autonomy. I think I need to demonstrate a more robust concept of freedom to my children so that they will be able to detect its counterfeit forms in technological costumes. There is nothing wrong with autonomy in some contexts, and they need to see that in action from an early age. This requires an intentional autonomy on my part from the hegemony of technology and commerce. (An autonomy in reverse? The Autonomist's Regress?)

I don't carry a cell phone, for example, and won't unless directly required to by work on a certain day or while travelling. I am not a Luddite by any stretch of the imagination, but I do want my daughter so see that I don't have to be connected 24/7. Similarly, I have her sit in the woodshop and watch me make things for her and for the house (furniture, cabinets, tools, etc...), so she can see that we take sustainability seriously. Why buy what I can make? McLuhan's great dictum is that with every new technology we gain something and lose something. I think that by modeling more theologically (and ecologically... any difference?) robust concepts of autonomy my kids will be able to figure these things out as they encounter them.

When it comes to new media, I get more concerned that she wants to watch some lousy children's TV show (Barney) when she could be watching an excellent one (Yo Gabba Gabba) than I am by the fact that she wants to watch TV. I want to school her in quality.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Excellent thoughts, Mike.

(Except that I am going to pour battery acid in my ears and pretend I never heard you cite "Yo Gabba Gabba" as a hallmark of excellence... ;) )

More later.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Except that I am going to pour battery acid in my ears and pretend I never heard you cite "Yo Gabba Gabba" as a hallmark of excellence... ;)
Me, I'm a Wow Wow Wubzy type of guy.

(But where did Bunnytown go?!?!)


Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Except that I am going to pour battery acid in my ears and pretend I never heard you cite "Yo Gabba Gabba" as a hallmark of excellence... ;)
Me, I'm a Wow Wow Wubzy type of guy.(But where did Bunnytown go?!?!)

Both you and Mike have much better thoughts about culture and parenting than taste in children's television. :D

"Blue's Clues" rocks the house. Also, Joe tries hard, bless his heart, but he's no Steve.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Nick, I just have to say, I find it humorously dissonant how you talk about your parents' early expectations for your love of learning to your "trading Tom Sawyer for reruns of The Brady Bunch," and then immediately go on to say "So I look upon a lot of these new media things as a positive." It makes it sound like you were trading up! :lol:

OTOH, of course I am all for children having better access to more information. Though perhaps in no longer having to "drudge down to the library" something has been lost as well?

For one thing, there is still stuff that you can't find on the Internet, that you have to go to the library for. Reading books is a different sort of discipline from searching for data online. You process and absorb it differently. Peter Suderman has written about how the Web may be teaching us to think differently; Kevin Drum thinks it's actually making us dumber, or at least that book reading is still indispensable for true learning.

And, of course, the wealth of information online, and the dynamic nature of that content, also makes it much easier to borrow content without really absorbing it, i.e., plagiarism of one form or another.

Obviously the genie can't be put back in the bottle, and I'm not even saying it would be better if we could. But there are new challenges to be thought about.

I'm not sure Walter Cronkite vs. Jon Stewart is necessarily the whole issue. As the OSV article points out, Walter Cronkite is a grown-up taste that young people used to absorb from their parents. Jon Stewart appeals to young people out of the box ... but are young people being helped by their elders to acquire grown-up tastes, outlooks, mental habits, etc.?

Mike, have there ever really been "similarly tectonic shifts in the past"? Has any generation ever lived in a world as radically different from that of their great-grandparents as this generation?

I agree, the principle is the same. As Christians, we have a basic identity capable of withstanding the most tectonic cultural and technological shifts.

But I wonder whether the challenges of propagating that identity to one's children aren't increasing. Heck, it seems as if the whole concept of parents propagating a sense of identity -- any identity -- to their children is embattled, both theoretically and practically, in ways that may be unique to our moment.

God knows, parents in other ages and climates have always had challenges. How do you raise your kids when they're working in factories or sweat shops from seven on up? How do you raise your kids when your own work day is twelve hours? I don't want to artificially aggravate the crisis of the moment from the perspective of a 21st-century helicopter-parent mentality.

But I suspect -- I'm open to argument and evidence either way -- that the project of propagating a sense of identity to one's children is becoming more and more a DIY project, if not an increasingly countercultural act, that requires more active choices from the parents and less help and support from the culture than has been the case throughout much of history. Once upon a time it may have been true that It Takes a Village to raise a child, but is the village willing to help? Maybe if you go out of your way to find a really cool village (like a good home church).

More later.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Nick, I just have to say, I find it humorously dissonant how you talk about your parents' early expectations for your love of learning to your "trading Tom Sawyer for reruns of The Brady Bunch," and then immediately go on to say "So I look upon a lot of these new media things as a positive." It makes it sound like you were trading up! :lol:
No dissonance as I see it. That's because I'm laser-focussed on the goings-on in my children's generation, not like my parents and previous generations, whom I suspect assumed that life would always be the same, Sesame Street notwithstanding. And unlike my own experience, I intend to force specific boundaries in those areas that I didn't have before. (Here's hoping I don't inadvertantly travel the same path my parents did... prayers, please).

I'll be sure to check out the links you provided. But that said, I witnessed a debate between two writers about this current generation (one of whom is Howe), as to whether it was the smartest or dumbest generation. Both sides laid down their arguments--on the pessimistic side of things, there was the problem with everybody-gets-a-trophy-for-participating mentality in today's high school sports world. There's also the problem of incorporating calculators into math classes, instead of learning how to trudge through and do long division or square roots by hand. I concur with your point about term papers being plagiarized on the 'net.

But on the other hand, those who excel in this generation, really do excel, beyond our greatest expectations. And shows like "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader" turn out to stump the adult contestants, nearly every time.

What did I conclude in this debate? That there's one missing factoid that both sides failed to present--the huge population that encompasses Generation Y (larger than Greatest Gen, Silent Gen, Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers combined). In fact, reports say that the year 2007 (the year my children were born), was the busiest single year for them storks. And the bigger the pot, the more exceptional the outliers are.

ETA: BTW... what in the world is that "Sheep" video series you were referring to this morning?

Edited by Nick Alexander

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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ETA: BTW... what in the world is that "Sheep" video series you were referring to this morning?

Why, he's Shaun the Sheep! He's Shaun the Sheep! He doesn't miss a trick or ever lose a beat!

As I mentioned on the air this AM (and as PTC noted at the bottom of the thread), the third DVD hit shelves this week. My kids and I are big fans of the series. Boo on disc #3, only 6 episodes instead of 8. Why couldn't they do a proper release of the whole two series? Probably they will, eventually.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Mike, have there ever really been "similarly tectonic shifts in the past"? Has any generation ever lived in a world as radically different from that of their great-grandparents as this generation?

Segregation/Integration. Atomic Bomb, Holocaust. Cars/suburbs. Women able to vote, work, etc...

Urbanization, industry. Places like Chicago being born.

Printing press.

Yes, there have been some pretty massive shifts, but I agree that we can draw a direct line from the codex to Gutenberg to the Internet as social changes that are sui generis. And there is even something about new media and Web 2.0 that has a leg up on the printing press in terms of the potential virtual and physical products have for shaping our personal and educational development. The more pervasive and immersive these platforms get, the more our concept of what it means to be human shifts away from what we are used to. All this stuff floating around about "post-humanity" for the past two decades is going to be old hat by the time my children have been through university. I very much agree that we are at a cusp in terms of the way man and technology interface, and we would be naive not to think it through in advance.

That being said, I can't think of anything I would want to teach my daughter now that I wouldn't have if we were in Little House on the Prairie. I suppose the actual form and content of some of this guidance is going to be tailored to these contemporary concerns, but I still would want her perspective to be formed by the great concepts of the Bible. We are pilgrims. We are servants. We are not afraid to risk shame for being faithful. We are materially focused, but in a good way - as the best stewards of our physical environment that we can be.

I often try to put myself in the shoes of a Christian at a very difficult historical crossroads, such as Hiroshima, the printing press, what-have-you, and then imagine how shaken I would feel. What aspects of my faith would I question? Is there anything I believe about God, the incarnation, or the resurrection that I would be tempted to abandon? What must it have been like when Voltaire was being printed for the first time? Or John Locke? Darwin and Spencer? It is a fascinating exercise, made all the more worthwhile when considering that my kids will probably go through something that acute in their lifetime.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Any thoughts on the quasi-Amish withdrawal approach, at least from communications media (computer, cellphones, television, movies, etc.)?

Pros, cons, particularly from a parenting/pedagogy perspective?

Mike, I know you said you're no Luddite, but what do you think of the Luddite Option, as it were?

Anyone written helpfully about this?


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Long time, no post! I dig the new board skin. :)

Stephen, you've started a fascinating topic. This is a subject that I have been thinking about quite a bit, having studied communications at BU, where social media are being held up as the greatest thing in history (Truman was wrong about the atom bomb apparently).

In particular, I think the Amish-style withdrawal tactic that some parents use is particularly interesting. Having gone to a secular school, with secular people, in one of the most secular cities in America, I can see the appeal. Unless strong habits are built up against the various temptations that new media provide (be it a minor matter of shirking homework to a major one like internet porn), these things can indeed be an avenue of bad influence, and I believe they often are.

Yet I have to say this: qualitatively speaking, I have never seen a complete Amish-style withdrawal actually work in the long run. I knew many, many young religious kids whose media consumption was extremely sheltered and limited by their parents in an effort to keep out bad influences. All of them were orthodox Catholic families (though many of them went beyond orthodoxy, dismissing John Paul II as "liberal", embracing sedevacantism, etc). Many of them would chide me and my siblings for our worldly ways, meaning that our Mom allowed us to watch Animaniacs, the Superman movies, Tom and Huck, whatever.

Fast forward ten years. A significant number of these kids I grew up with have now completely rebelled against their parents. The strictness of their upbringing ultimately led to trauma once they left home and realized "what they were missing". Of the kids from the Catholic homeschool group that I attended as a child, several (and I mean several) have ended up on non-speaking terms with their parents, pregnant out of wedlock, no longer Catholic (or even Christian) etc.

Now, of course, I am not insinuating at all that it was their parent's media consumption policies that drove them to this. That would be absurd. However, the types of parents who instilled such strict policies didn't seem to have much luck when their kids got old enough to realize that some of the "bad stuff" was "fun stuff". The media consumption stuff just became another avenue for rebellion. I think that a measured, monitored use of both new media and old media (not just FaceBook, but TV) is the way to go.

I was blessed to have parents that did have rules about what content I could watch/see/take in, yet understood that media have value. They allowed us to use the internet, to watch films, to read newspapers, etc. Each medium had different rules, but access was given. I feel as though it worked out well.


-"I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!"

Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

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