On one of my favorite shows on ESPN recently there was a discussion around the table about the new football coach at the Arizona Cardinals who has announced that he will take a break every so often in team meetings to allow the players to check with their phones. There were about a half-dozen people around the table and all of them, except for the main man (a graduate of Northwestern University I am ashamed to say), pilloried the coach calling the move “childish,” or “foolish,” and simply stupid –an attempt to prove his coaching methods are “cutting edge,” an attempt to draw attention to himself, perhaps.

The main man at the table (whom I generally agree with) disagreed heartily with the entire group saying that the younger generation are wedded to their phones and coaches generally need to tailor their approach to the generation they are dealing with. These young men have shorter attention spans so we should give them time to check their phones and they will return to the meeting with renewed attention. This is a younger generation (one of the group actually used the correct term “millennials” to describe them) and we need to adapt.

In itself this is a trivial discussion, but looking at the larger picture, as a reflection of the attitude among teachers, coaches, and parents generally  it is just a bit alarming. What it suggests is that we need to tailor the material we teach, coach, or hope our children to learn to the children themselves. In a word, we need to teach down to the kids. This translates into “dumbing down the curriculum” in the schools, which, of course, is what has occurred across the nation at all levels.  If we set the bar low enough everyone can get over it and will feel good about themselves. No child left behind. Don’t ask them to try to do too much.

To which I say “BOLLOCKS!” The young need to grow and learn and the only way they can do so is by their parents, teachers, and coaches demanding that they reach a little higher. As John Stuart Mill once said, we don’t know what is possible for a person until we ask them to do the impossible. The effort will cause occasional failure, but that in itself can be a valuable lesson. In the end they will realize that what is worth doing may not be altogether pleasant or provide an immediate reward, none the less it may prove to be very rewarding.

In the instance of education, Robert Hutchins said it well many years ago: “education is supposed to be a beacon, not a mirror.” We have turned our schools and homes into mirrors. We don’t ask the students or children — or now young adult professional footballers —  to do what they don’t want to do. Worse yet, we ask them what they want and then attempt to give it to them — hence the mirror analogy. This, of course, is the business model that has impacted our culture at so many levels: find out what the customer wants and then sell it to him.  We enable them and thereby cripple them. Instead of reaching higher and growing in the process, they find things made simple and the rewards instant and universal: everyone succeeds; no one fails.

As I say, this is bollocks.  We rob the young and we cheat them all in the name of making life easier and lowering the bar so everyone can skip over easily with no effort whatever. The footballers want to clutch their phones to see how their social networks are doing so we allow that and in doing so we tell them that what they want is more important than what their coaches know damn well they need. In this case, finding out how many “likes” a man receives is more important than learning the game plan for Sunday’s game.

Make the players turn their phones off and pay attention for a few hours. Man up! A football game doesn’t really matter, of course. But as far as life-lessons are concerned this is a serious problem. This is a formula for failure, pure and simple.

The group was right in this case: the coach’s move is stupid, to say the least. And the Northwestern alum who led the group and who should know better (and who based his weak argument on his own experience with his teen-age children) was wrong. Sorry about that.


12 thoughts on “Beacon?

  1. The social media conundrum: What I call “The Sesame Candidate”. Defined by a three minute attention span, which is the length of Sesame Street’s educational or inter-play segments before they segue in to another topic. Three minutes. No more. No less.

      • Indeed so. It has made it necessary for teachers to entertain their classes — not just teach them, which is hard enough. It also makes the children passive receivers rather than active participators in the learning process. It was highly touted in its day, but has had a bad influence in my view.

  2. Reblogged this on silverapplequeen and commented:
    Let’s get this straight right now. NOBODY NEEDS THEIR PHONES. NOTHING IS THAT IMPORTANT. Even if someone close to you is dying or just died, there is absolutely NOTHING you can do about it. & checking your phone every few minutes isn’t a solution to grief. Nor is it a way to manage your life & get anything done. The best thing to do is to focus on THE WORK AT HAND.

    But in this 21st-century world where “feelings” matter more than logical thought or disciplined emotional response, I am not surprised that this is happening. Expect more of this.

  3. I concur 100% and I second your BOLLOCKS! My daughter is a nursing supervisor with a staff of about 25. The two biggest problems she has with her staff are calling off work and playing on their cell phones rather than working. This, despite the fact that they have a “no cell phones during working hours” policy. When we go out to lunch or dinner on occasion, I am disturbed to see a couple each texting or whatever on their cell phones rather than actually talking to each other. The dumbing-down of our nation … well, the Western world actually … came easily. All that was required was to give everyone a toy to play with.

      • True … and I can envision a society somewhere down the road … say, in a year or two … where no human interaction, you know, the face-to-face sort, need ever transpire! We will just all communicate via electronic gadgetry. Bah Humbug!

  4. And I third your BOLLOCKS – and add that down here I sometimes state, “BASURA!” which makes my Spanish-speaking friends smile the way that your ‘bollocks’ makes me smile! There are times when we need to speak up!

    If nothing else, having them turn off their phones/not check the phone teaches them a tiny sliver of discipline – and patience – and the importance of planning!

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