reflections on being Techno-Tommy

I didn't coin the nickname.  My principal gave it to me in my first year of teaching.  "Thomas, you are the only one on staff who can switch the circuit breaker.  You seem to get the grid.  You are a techno genius.  I listen to you talk about the how the phonograph works and why we need pencils in class and I think you are just the man to lead our school into the twentieth century.  You're Techno-Tommy."

On some level, the nickname works.  It's certainly better than Jackass Jackson or Adequate Andy.  If I'm going to have a nickname with alliteration, might as well be Techno-Tommy.  Still, most teachers don't realize that there's a streak of Luddite in me (indeed, I was a bit anti-industrial in my participation at the Haymarket Square Riots).

I worry about the merging of man and machine.  When I hear people embracing a new Industrial World and bragging about a Gilded Age, I cringe.  I fear that preparing students for a life in the factory might make economic sense, but it's not sustainable.  When educators talk of the science of learning and the need for data, I wonder if we're turning children into micro-machines.

I worry that, in an industrial world, we might become so immense that we become myopic.  I think of the Emperor's New Clothes and wonder if that's us - expanding this empire and failing to see our own nakedness.  Don't get me wrong, we can dominate the Spanish-American War and go on about Manifest Destiny, but if cheap goods and more factory is our vision of humanity, I begin to doubt progress.

We don't have gas or electric in our home and for what it's worth, I doubt that I'll ever purchase one of those cool German horseless carriages.  My horse might be stubborn, but on a deep level, I know her.  I doubt that automobile owners can say the same thing. After all, would any fool actually give a horseless carriage a name? I can't fathom a day when someone tries to describe a car by saying, "Check out my mustang.  What a beauty!"

I held my daughter the other night and she could hardly see the stars. I think that gas lamps in the street are a grave mistake. We traded in our connection to the cosmos for a little false security.  So, I can see a street thug, but I miss the vast universe that surrounds me.  If the magi lived in our urban enclave, they would have missed the incarnation.  Sometimes I wonder if the same happens here.  It's hard to see God when surrounded by smoke stacks.

Don't get me wrong, I want to integrate pencils and occasionally use a motion picture and I do marvel at the wonders of a light bulb. In my classroom, I want to use the photograph and the phonograph and have access to a telegraph (and really all the other words ending in "graph").  But I will never truly embrace the name Techno-Tommy.

1 comment:

  1. I like the way you brought in some technology criticism with this one.