Opinion: Imagination at work

POSTED: 07/16/13 12:28 PM

A laptop for every child. That’s the message UP-MP Johan Leonard brought back from a Parlatino meeting in Colombia. It is not a new idea, of course, and it is also not something that is likely to happen anytime soon in St. Maarten.

First of all, laptops cost money – and the government does not have it. Or maybe it does, but it spends the available funds on other things. Money should of course not be an excuse to dump a good idea.

The question is however how good an idea it is to give, as we understand it, each student in public schools, a laptop. There is of course the matter of street robberies to consider. Laptops are, in spite of the rise of the tablets, still easy to trade for cash. A mid walking down the road with a laptop in his or her backpack is a target almost too good to be true for those with evil intentions.

That aside, there is also a discussion raging on other levels about the obsession of kids with technology – and it is not all good news.

Renée Braams, who teaches Dutch and music and who is also writing columns for the Volkskrant, put her finger on it this week when she shared her concerns about how technology affects her daughter’s life. Read and shiver:

“When I clean my flute at the end of the music hours with demented people, I always attempt to start a conversation. The question: where you a good or a naughty boy or girl in school is always successful.

Now I am telling, for the sake of variation, that the summer holidays are almost there and that my daughter will be able to entertain herself for weeks on end due to her powerful imagination. Once when she was a pre-schooler and she was lying down ill on the couch, she entertained herself with her ten little fingers; each of them represented a character and they went through all kinds of adventures.

I have that too, says a woman who sings wonderfully, but who does not talk a lot. She begins by saying that she does not sleep a lot at night, but that this does not bother her because she is always fantasizing. About what? I want to know. About traveling? Beautiful clothing? Well, the woman said, I fantasized about clothing in the old days when I was making them too. I was very good at sewing. She is not able to put in words what she is fantasizing about right now, but everybody is hooked to her story all the same.

On my way home I start thinking about the iPad and the DS (a Nintendo dual-screen handheld game console – ed.) and the laptop with Moviestarplanet and Youtube. Are these rotten things stealing my daughter’s fantasy?”

At this point Braams asks readers to react, and we repeat her call here. What do readers think about this issue?

“Last summer my daughter was not allowed to take her DS along on a trip to a family hotel in

Switzerland that looked like a play paradise for children. It is in a remote location, there are no cars, buses or scooters. You are able to roll around in grass dotted with flowers, climb mountain sides, play in little streams, at the volleyball field, in the kindergarten playground, everything was there. My daughter would be able to entertain herself there with all the other kids under the supervision of her parents. It was extremely safe there.

But, you’ve understood already, from the moment they woke up until it was time to go to bed the children were in a seat at the reception in front of their own laptop or iPad. They did not play outside. My daughter did not dare to join them without her DS.

In the meantime, we have found out what does work if you make an agreement with other parents: no iPads in the luggage. That is when the kids produce a cabaret show, complete with hand drawn invitations.

Aleid Truijens recently wrote that school is the last bastion that offers children real-life experiences. As far as that is concerned my daughter has been able to enjoy herself to her heart’s delight: she weaved a basket, she built the Netherlands out of sand, she knitted a little bag, she sowed and harvested garden cress, built a house of sugar cubes, made a soup bowl out of clay, jumped over a fire, kneaded dough for muesli cookies, and ran endlessly across play grounds.

Braams wrote that she would fill three of the six weeks of summer vacation for her daughter with language and math and have her write it all down in her Hello Kitty-notebook. (and mind you: that is a different kind of notebook than the one used by technology-crazed kids).”

Reading Braams’ arguments, one could well wonder how useful it is – apart from practical issues – to saddle all children in our public schools with a laptop. Give them an internet connection with it and guess what they’re gonna do with it.

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