A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Good-bye to the class room?

Marshall McLuhan (October 18, 1966, age 55).   Kids are saying good bye.

Corinne is quite worried about our youngest son, Michael.  She says he has been talking about friends of his who are dropping out.  I told her the drop out phenomenon is readily understood.  In fact the article I am writing for Look with George Leonard explains it all quite simply, although it is a complex event.  TV kids are trained to get everything at once. They know nothing of specializations and disciplines.  (That is what books reflect, prepare, and support.)  Naturally when these tribal creatures are taken in the civilizing embrace of the class room, they react with shock.  There is nothing here they can relate to, nothing for them to learn when the city is their class room.  Naturally they drop out.  As far as Michael is concerned, nature may not have its way if I have anything to say about the matter.*

Me (March 2010, age 57).  Kids are staying, but they’re learning elsewhere.

And yet the school, the classroom, has survived.  How?  Perhaps because it is not what it appears to be.  Today the drop out phenomenon may have reappeared in another form.   Kids aren’t dropping out, but that’s not because they’re learning in class.  Literacy has declined and grades have inflated.  Kids are learning other things and they’re learning them elsewhere, on-line, in the hall ways.  School has survived as a way for parents to park their kids and for the kids to organize, refresh, and maintain their virtual lives.

Who is dropping out today?  And who is still learning the old fashioned way –by the book – in school?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

PS:  Marshall McLuhan was a devout Roman Catholic. So, “From Marshall and me” will not be published from Good Friday to after Easter.  We’ll be back here on  April 7th.

Reading for this post

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 334.

*Biographical note: two years later, in 1968,  16-year old Michael dropped out and left home to vanish into the hippie world of Toronto’s Yorkville are and then to New York. Today he’s a photographer living in Owens Sound Ontario and the executor of the McLuhan estate.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, April 1st, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Education, Vol. 1 No Comments

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