Can we figure out a way to filter it all?

Bird Droppings April 13, 2022
Can we figure out a way to filter it all?

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” T.S. Elliot

Sifting through the tons of information that bombards us daily is a task: emails, text messages, cell phone calls, advertising on the internet, and the vast assortment of print media. A few semesters back, I was involved in a graduate class looking at the impact of technology on education and the human condition. I picked as a paper topic one that might have seemed somewhat religious yet really is not, “Can we find god at Radio Shack?” When I reviewed for the hundredth time the T.S. Elliot quote and thought about the standardizing, categorizing, and commercial packaging of education, I saw the downside of technology. I see the loss of wisdom, faith, and in a sense, for some people of god.

On computers, there are filters and favorites—what a paradox. We can assign topics we choose to see or not and quick ways to get to favorites. This is left to the teacher, administrator, and or Board office in most schools. In my readings, the constant use of the term human capital is used about our students and education. We can be manipulated through our media and media usage. Corporate entities that donate software and or hardware with their advertising embedded.

“There’s a compelling reason to master information and news. There will be better job and financial opportunities. Other high stakes will be missed by people if they don’t master and connect information.” Everett Dennis

“With so much information now online, it is exceptionally easy to simply dive in and drown.” Alfred Glossbrenner

Picking and choosing should be a seemingly simple task, sorting through the deluge of information pouring out each day. For many, no big deal; it is easy, even child’s play, yet for some, as Glossbrenner states, they drown in the vast pool of information. I remember many years ago in Red Cross water safety courses, always checking the pool before diving in.

“The original root of the word “information” is the Latin word informare, which means to fashion, shape, or create, to give form to. Information is an idea that has been given a form, such as the spoken or written word. It is a means of representing an image or thought so that it can be communicated from one mind to another; rather than worrying about all the information afloat in the world, we must ask ourselves what matters to us, what do we want to know. It’s having ideas and learning to deal with issues that are important, not accumulating lots and lots of data.” Theodore Roszak

As teachers, we are literally teaching students to filter, organize, and pick through the mounds of information readily available and make sense of it. That is often the task at hand. The most challenging task for educators is trying to teach that filtering process to find a bit or piece that makes sense and then helping students find context for information rather than simply overwhelming them with the vast amounts of content.

“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” Herbert Simon

“If you were designing the sort of information-processing system a brain is, it would be extremely impractical to store memories permanently in their original form. You need mechanisms for transforming and recording them, for “chunking” information into categories. Is your memory a phonograph record on which the information is stored in localized grooves to be replayed on demand? If so, it’s a very bizarre record, for the songs are different every time they’re played. Human memory is more like the village storyteller; it doesn’t passively store facts but weaves them into a good (coherent, plausible) story, which is recreated with each telling.” Judith Hooper Teresi

For nearly twenty years now, I have written about teachers and teaching how to filter information, trying to fill a liter bottle with ten gallons of information. It is being able to deal with infinite information and store it in a finite place; that is what teaching is about. Daily I see far too many teachers forget that the space is limited and, as Sydney J. Harris comments, “is more akin to stuffing a sausage.” As we learn to do better, as we learn to assist in the daily sorting and filter, how do we sort and filter? We teachers and parents can be caught up in that tremendous, overwhelming barrage of information.

“Information is recorded in vast interconnecting networks. Each idea or image has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of associations and is connected to numerous other points in the mental network.” Peter Russell

“The idea that information can be stored in a changing world without an overwhelming depreciation of its value is false. It is scarcely less false than the more plausible claim that after a war, we may take our existing weapons, fill their barrels with information.” Norbert Wiener

Teaching and parenting show shortcuts strategies to hold information to become knowledge and wisdom. It is about teaching ways to sort the information so that it does not overwhelm us. Teaching ways of concentration, distilling, or taking a significant amount of data and extracting what is crucial. Then it is also about knowing where to find the rest of the information if and when we need it. We live in a world of information, and the wayside often leaves wisdom. Borrowing from T.S. Elliot again, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” As we get into another week, my friends let us not drown in information but rise above wisdom. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and heart and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)

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