Jump to: Navigation
As the speed of modern life increases, as we become ever more immersed in our technologies, as the boundary between our professional and our personal lives becomes blurred and then erased: in the midst of this headlong acceleration, many people feel the need to slow down, look around, and figure things out.
Educators have spent a good deal of time over the past few years thinking about (and wringing their hands over) the future of schools and education. We’ve focused mostly on technology, on the distribution of scarce economic resources, and on the changes wrought by an increasingly strategic and business-like approach to teaching and learning. We now have innumerable educational startups, alternative funding models, and methods of supporting or subverting (depending on your point of view) corporate interests. We’ve wrangled with these issues online, in our communities of scholarship, and in the public sphere. And we all agree on one thing: education is due for serious renewal and reinvigoration. But what that looks like is anyone’s guess. We just don’t know how the changes that lie before us will play themselves out, and this fundamental uncertainty has us either grappling toward a vision of total transformation or reaching back toward vanishing modes and practices (depending on your point of view). We are well and truly at sea.
Addictions are pervasive. They are perhaps the most common human frailty. My work involves helping people navigate the complex landscape of addictions, helping them find pathways forward by finding what lies behind addictions (mental health or developmental challenges, typically). Much of this work involves organizational and community development: schools, social service agencies, and community organizations are all grappling with new and scary addictive behaviors and consequences.
After a public presentation on addictions, a mother approached me, in that familiar way — hushed, conspiratorial, a sliver of shame buried in the hopefulness of her manner — and asked me what she can do about her son. Her boy is fifteen, plays online games for countless hours each week, hides himself in his locked room, screams at her when she tries to enter, seldom attends school, and seems to be sliding ever farther from her. She is terrified that he will simply forget everything and everyone, will become a ghost, and will disappear. She has heard these stories, and the many others that twist within her. And she is terrified. But she knows that most people will blame her for what has happened — her parenting must be at fault, they will say — so she downplays, even to herself, the seriousness of her son’s predicament. She tells me about her family coming here from abroad, when her son was seven, and his subsequent struggles at school. She wonders if this might have played a role in what has happened. Possibly it has. Not only the exodus itself, which must have been terrifying for them all, but what came before and after: the tension and suspicion and hiding, then a long and uncertain journey, then a new culture, clashing values, poverty. Yet if they had not come, if they had not fled on motorcycles at night across the mountains, into a safer country and then across the sea, that boy would now be dead, or in prison with the rest of the family, or an expert, by now, in the firing of rocket propelled grenades.