Confession: Until a few days ago, I had never thought, much less cared, about the Cultural Sustainability of America. It was not something I was losing sleep over. Now, I am looking at getting a possible future degree in it. What am I talking about and why do you care? Well, It’s like this…
I was recently reading a wonderful essay called “Language Evolution and the Transformative Language Arts” by my dear friend Tiffany Beard. In this essay, she devoted a part to talk about the lexicon changes America is presently undergoing. It was this particular passage the inspired the thoughts I am about to share:
“Americans have become somewhat lazy in their use of language, despite communicating more often than ever. The ease of communication via email, text messages, has not increased intelligent use of words. Mainstream social groups with cell phones have adapted a simplification of spelling and abbreviation of phrases to as few letters as possible. LOL is now in Merriam Webster’s dictionary. But this may not be a positive lexical change. Teachers in elementary school must now battle with students using terms like “bc” instead of because in research papers” (Beard, 6).
The wheels in my head started to spin, and I grabbed a legal pad and pen to start jotting down my thoughts. The first things I wrote was:
“America is quickly becoming a dictatorship, a repressed country, because the popular culture is propelling itself into what I call, for the lack of a better term, a devolution. There is a widening gap between those who posses intelligence and those who actually use it.”
Now, it was not just because of the shift in language that I made this statement, and on it’s own, seems an overly harsh thing to say, so before I go into further discussion, I will share down the second thought I wrote.
“Technology, our greatest form of cultural advancement, is actually working against us by creating a culture that cannot be sustained. We have become so dependent in America, and dare I say world-wide, on machines to do everything for us. Many (and especially in the younger generations, America’s future) are not learning to think, much less anything else, for themselves, so when those who have created the technology are no longer here, there will be no one to maintain, much less advance it, thereby causing a cultural crash of epic proportions. The science fiction writers and conspiracy theorist were right all along. we live in a world run by machines, they just did not imagine that this is what it would look like and instead of fighting against it, we have not only wholeheartedly embraced this lifestyle, but celebrate it by calling it progress and innovation.”
I realize that sounds harsh, and that this proverbial crash is not coming anytime in the near future, I do think the gist of the message is true, however. Technology is not something that is easily culturally sustainable. Most of this, however, has nothing to do with technology itself, but the (failed) education system in America (more on this topic to come). If the children of this nation don’t get a better quality education in math and science, there will be no one, in this culture, who can keep this demand for new innovation in technology going, which means that America will become solely (as I do realize we are already partial) dependent on other countries and cultures to advance ours, in which case we are no longer our own but under the power of another country and thus the very thing that keeps America going with be the very thing that stops it from going anywhere and will destroy the America we know.
I would like to say that I am an idealist. I do not want to be right about the way in which I see my nation progressing if we keep at the pace of technology and ways of education that are currently being experienced in this country, and I still believe that Bill Clinton was right when he said, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America.” The only way that America is going to fix this problem, however, is by facing the harsh reality of what it will become if we don’t address our problems. That then becomes the challenge my friends. Not only repair the educations system, but don’t forget how to live life in such a way that you can go on living a sustainable life even if all your technology was taken away. The first step to fix any problem is to acknowledge that there is a problem, and that is what this is about. Looking at the problem and giving it a name.
Beard, Tiffany M. “Language Evolution and the Transformative Language Arts”. Critical Paper. Goddard College, 2011.
Check out Tiffany here: http://www.examiner.com/urban-arts-in-washington-dc/tiffany-beard and here http://alwaysalreadyalright.blogspot.com