Union University
Union University Dept of Language


iPad Education = New Inquisition

Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

January 17, 2011 - “When one considers what the public schools of America in many places already are – their materialism, their discouragement of any sustained intellectual effort, their encouragement of the dangerous pseudo-scientific fads of experimental psychology – one can only be appalled by the thought of a commonwealth in which there is no escape from such a soul-killing system.” The resounding clarity of this insight is all the more striking considering the fact that despite its contemporary currency, this particular claim came from the pen of J. Gresham Machen in his 1923 book, Christianity and Liberalism. Machen continues:

“A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appoint by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.”

As merely the latest example of the “dangerous pseudo-scientific fads of experimental psychology” making its way into a classroom near you, consider the move to replace textbooks with iPads. Singapore is leading the way, but New York will not be left in the technological dark ages.

But “dangerous”? Yes. According to a new study published in the most recent issue of Pediatrics. The report claims, “Greater amounts of [video] gaming, lower social competence, and greater impulsivity seemed to act as risk factors for becoming pathological gamers, whereas depression, anxiety, social phobias, and lower school performance seemed to act as outcomes of pathological gaming.” (Ironically, the two-year study of more than 3,000 children took place in Singapore!)

Of course, those who C.S. Lewis called “the man-moulders of the new age” who are “armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique” will demur: iPads for education do not addicted gamers make. To which, perhaps the only reply is that much like the case of Humpty-Dumpty, neither all of technology’s horses nor all of science’s men will be able to reassemble such shattered commonsense again.

The soul-destroying tyranny of such a system is rooted in its failure to accommodate properly the true nature of man. The system assumes the fundamental moral goodness of human nature. Give a child a tool that will unleash the full potential of his desires and he will flourish. As an instrument of desire-fulfillment the iPad is a marvel of human engineering. The trouble is, as the study of gaming behavior confirms, that desire unleashed does not produce human flourishing. Humans, by nature, are crooked timber. Thus, education must shape desire; otherwise human souls self-destruct.