Wednesday, August 24, 2011

* The Numbers Game

Letter to the Editor
The Valley News

In the August 19 student newspaper, The Dartmouth, an opinion piece entitled “Misleading Voices” critiqued the Dartmouth presidential lecture series
“Leading Voices” as being dominated by male, number pushers such as economist Robert Reich; General Electric CEO, Jeffrey Immeult; former Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson; and Dartmouth President and health care expert, Jim Kim.

If this is a valid criticism, that even an Ivy League college which celebrates the arts and sciences offers as “Leading Voices” in its lecture series a group composed solely of mercantile, number crunchers, we should not be surprised. Academia has been trivializing the arts and valorizing the sciences since the personal computer started invading education.

Jaron Lanier,  a rabid computer futurist, put his finger on the reason in his new book You Are Not a Gadget when he writes, “What computerized analysis of all the country’s school tests has done to education is exactly what Facebook has done to friendships. In both cases, life is turned into a database.” (Lanier, kindle p. 1392+)

Marshall Mcluhan warned us in the 1960’s that “ the medium is the message”. We need to scrutinize the real messages we are teaching the next generation by our wholesale surrender to data-driven false gods like Facebook; Princeton’s Educational Testing Service; and, Dartmouth’s Center for Health Care Delivery Science.

Human life is more than numbers.

Paul D. Keane

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