Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Allegory of the broiler chicken

I visited a neighbour few months ago.They are gadget buffs and take great pride in showing people the projector which gives them ultimate satisfaction in watching the world cup, the 50 inch LCD monitor that occasionally gave the same pleasure at a lower level and the iphone and ipad ( I am technically challenged to 'wooow' at such stuff) that has become a status symbol of the privileged recently.

The day I visited them the lady of the house took pride in showing off how her daughter who was mastering these gadgets wrecking her little brain. My neighbour was bent on proving her 1 year old's intelligence as the kid deftly unlocked the secret code of iphone, played angry birds on ipad2, danced to Sheila ki Jawani on LCD and clapped when Sachin scored a sixer on the projector.

I felt amused initially but the researcher in me , the ardent Piagetian , found this boring soon.It took me micromilli seconds to understand that all this kid did was observational learning she mimicked what her parents did. She was not a hacker to have broken password ( henceforth not a profound genius) she just repeated something she saw and hence it was nothing worth for a world record. Amazing though this could seem to a parent who dotes and marvels at their child's first words and first antics as if this was the first time a child ever did it, this show off seemed quite comical to me.

A cut off, of power supply made me realise what this kid really was.She felt paralysed and baffled. She had nothing to show off and hence felt betrayed and the toys around her never sufficed the void the gadgets filled in. Her mother admitted she could not handle the kid without these gadgets and attend her work at home and she thought these gadgets were a blessing and not to forget she is already showing signs of her Einstenian future.

I paused and wondered if Einstein would be himself if exposed to all these gadgets. He was not dumb enough to look and be pleased at stimulation he would definitely have opened up these gadgets frightening his parents.Lord save poor Enistein whom we quote unneccasrily to show off our kid's intelligence,All I could see in this kid was an over weight, chubby baby who took no pleasure in physical activity, and to whom reading and writing was no pleasure either. And that's exactly what we do to our modern age gadget babies, dumb them, mesmerise them with gadgets.

Dewey believes true education is experience and true experience is any learning that draws our interest to learn further. And dulling senses is not an experience though it stimulates a part of our brain and keeps us engaged. I wonder if these are the modern theorists on parenthood who believe gadgets . I might be old school to stick to books and colouring books but I cant share pride in any child mimicking actions of opening an iphone code.

" She cant read alphabets and numbers but she can open codes her mother chided".

I can imagine the same mother fretting if her daughter does not read or write in a couple of years. The aversion and impatience to read and low levels of reading in the post google era is not a new phenomenon. But such luxurious dumbing down of the child by occupying them so that you could rest for a while seems sad to me.

I see kids from slums come to school daily. I see them invent their version of golf, play cricket with wooden planks. They are bigger decision makers than Ambani's. They need to decide where they would sleep tonight with their mother and her new husband or father and his new wife. They understand the pluralities of life they have fathers and mothers. They dont need to be kept occupied , they find occupations as cleaners, domestic help, pseudo parents to younger ones. They learn to read from newspaper wrappers they wrap the veggies they sell. They know what fidelity is, they dont know what boredom and depression is. They know a pencil broken means two can share. I wonder why they yet dont make it big with so much street smartness? But they definitely thrive. Survival is piece of cake to them.

Our gadget dependent kids are prisoners of modern jails who never long for fresh air and the feel of hot sand. I represent this situation with an allegory of the broiler chicken' plump and raised indoor. Dumb and dimwitted. We create them to land in KFC buckets and thats all they need to know to be plump and dumb.
Whereas you see the country side chicken running up trees and taking you for a ride, living a healthy life till it end in your pot. A broiler even if let out would stare at you and the new found freedom and would not run away while the country side chicken has tasted the soil and fresh air and his master.

Their worlds never meet the broiler and the country side, they live on two planets.

Next time you hit KFC you'll remember my allegory and your kids :)

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