Screening Ourselves to Oblivion 

A new book is coming  out this week by the author of The Coddling of the American Mind.  I always hated that title - it really doesn't reflect what the book is about or the attitude that it examines the problem.  That problem is that more students are anxious and depressed than have ever been in that state before - at least in modern memory.  The "Coddling" title gives the impression of an old boomer yelling from his porch about how things have gone downhill since they were a kid.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  That book is full of empathy and concern - and my understanding is that the new book will be as well - only more so.  There are, of course, no simple or easy answers for why students have become more anxious, more depressed and more - most sad of all - suicidal.  But Jonathan Haidt's new book, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness looks at two of the primary causes as smart devices and social media.

This is what I saw in my last ten years as a teacher as well.  Entire lunchrooms where students sat next to each other - all of them on their phones - ignoring their friends right next to them.  I would walk down the hall and see classrooms were the teacher was talking - and nearly every student was oblivious - they were all glued to their screens.  These are also the reasons that I believe I faced so much backlash for wanting to give homework - for having expectations of students.  I was told if students were given no homework - they would have more time to relax, less reason to be anxious.  As though reading didn't have the great potential as a salve for the soul that I knew, after many years, that it did have.      Books were now read in class - in between social media.  Writing was done on the fly.  That greatest of teachers - what happens with the student at home - with the book - with the pen and paper - was lost.  And we are to blame.

I can't wait to read the book.    (3/28/24)