CNN’s Fareed Zakaria thinks students in today’s world of information overload must develop “intellectual discipline” to say “no” to the lure of social media in order to “go deep” and “actually read books.”
Zakaria discussed his perspective as part of a panel on “Education in the Post-Truth World” during the 2017 World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), which drew thousands of educators from more than 100 countries to Doha, Qatar, in November.
“I say this to my kids all the time, you can graze all these headlines and tweets and blog posts you like—at the end of the day the way you develop real knowledge about a subject still remains that you have to go deep; still remains that you have to actually read books; still remains that you have to talk to experts, travel to countries,” he said.
Zakaria compared the plethora of modern technologies to his experience growing up in India in the 1970s, when there was only one black and white television channel available that nobody watched.
The situation forced Zakaria to spend much of his time reading, and that led to a promising career. But today’s youth face a much different situation that will require them to learn how to tune out to focus in and sort fact from fiction.
“If I had a supercomputer in my pocket called an iPhone that could stream all the entertainment in the world, all the TV shows, I don’t think I would’ve read that much but I don’t think I would’ve had the career that I have,” he said. “I don’t know where that takes you.
“Children are going to have to learn something I didn’t have to learn as much which is discipline, intellectual discipline—the ability to say no,” Zakaria added.
“The world my children are growing up in is exactly the opposite, an explosion of choice, an explosion of options, an explosion of opportunity.”
Knowing how to say no and using “intellectual discipline” to “actually read books” is becoming increasingly important as many teens look to social media and other questionable sites to gather information.
Quartz points out that a 2016 Stanford University study shows the majority of students from middle school through the undergraduate level access news through social media sites like Twitter and Snapchat, and most can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s propaganda.
Zakaria’s comments also echo the same argument University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter applies to character education.
“Moral discipline, in many respects, is the capacity to say ‘no’; its function, to inhibit and constrain personal appetites on behalf of a greater good. This idea of a greater good points to a second element, moral attachment,” Hunter wrote in The Death of Character. “It reflects the affirmation of our commitments to a larger community, the embrace of an ideal that attracts us, draws us, animates us, inspires us.”
“Without strong moral attachment to the good, we won’t know when to say no.”
Educators looking to develop students’ moral attachment to the good and intellectual discipline to say no can find guidance at the The Jubilee Centre’s “Teaching Character Through Subjects” page.
The series was developed in England to “create an innovative resource for building character within 14 subjects across the school curriculum.”