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  •                                  NETFUTURE
                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #113     A Publication of The Nature Institute      October 31, 2000
              Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                      On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/
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    NetFuture is a reader-supported publication.
    Quotes and Provocations
       Do We Really Want Higher Test Scores?
       Over-justified Toys
       Asian Rice: A "Stunning" Result
       Is Growing Pessimism about the Internet a Cause for Optimism?
    About this newsletter
                             QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS
    Do We Really Want Higher Test Scores?
    In NF #107 I mentioned a home-schooled boy who resisted all pressures to
    read until he was ten years old, and then began to read voraciously on his
    own (a common story except where early attempts to force reading set up a
    resistance that the child never overcomes).  I commented:
       The idea that earlier is better is one of the strangest notions ever to
       seize hold of parents.  Why not assume that later is better?  Certainly
       it can be easier, with much less stress and alienation on the child's
       part.  Children all have their own rates of development, and it is
       impossible to comprehend all the suffering that results from forcibly
       subjecting them to the standardized schemas of school and labeling them
    This continues to eat away at me.  The whole idea that an accelerated
    education is a better education seems little more than a disgusting
    reflection of parents' competitiveness.  (This competitiveness, of course,
    is encouraged by schools.)
    Impatient parents should stop and think a minute about one of the things
    distinguishing the human being from animals:  remarkably delayed maturity.
    Our highest capabilities evidently have a lot to do with the fact that we
    are held back in our development.  Even as adults we can experience
    that the inspiration too quickly seized upon, too quickly straitjacketed
    within definite form, loses its inner life prematurely.  Its potentials
    grow best when it is nurtured for a time in a protected place, slept on,
    shaped by all the diverse powers of our organism, given an imaginative
    space for transformation.  In our life as a whole, this imaginative space
    is called childhood.
    The computer is a superb tool for forcing certain kinds of development.
    It is wonderfully effective at coercing the fluid imagination into
    arbitrary, crystallized forms.  It easily replaces inner activity with
    impressively articulated skeletons of algorithmic logic.  It can elicit
    from children feats of abstraction worthy of a rocket scientist,
    delighting parents who remain unaware that they are witnessing a damping
    of creative powers.  Creativity, after all, is the life that overcomes
    abstraction; it gives us new images of wholeness worth abstracting from.
    Our death-like, context-dest