Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Finding Balance With The Wired Generation

By Peter DeWitt — July 19, 2011 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
As a boy, I was unaware that my woods were ecologically connected with any other forests. Nobody in the 1950s talked about acid rain or holes in the ozone layer or global warming. But I knew my woods and my fields; I knew every bend in the creek and dip in the beaten dirt paths. I wandered those woods even in my dreams. A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest--but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move (Louv, Last Child in the Woods)

Our students these days seem to have a real fascination with playing video games. They talk about using avatars and other games that make them feel like they are in alternative worlds. It seems as though the more real and life-like these games are, the more our students love to play them. I’d love to use more video game vocabulary, but I’ve never been much of a gamer. Truthfully, video games sort of frighten me because kids enter the video gaming world and do not come out of it for many hours.

One of the best books I have read in a long time is Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Louv writes about the fact that many of our students have a nature deficit because they are so connected. He calls them the wired generation.

A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court struck down a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to children under the age of 18 and made the stores that broke the law pay a $1,000 fine. The video game ruling was Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, No. 08-1448. The justices, in their 7-to-2 opinion, looked to the First Amendment when making their decision.

Justice Antonin Scalia remarked that the First Amendment protects books like Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Snow White and Cinderella by allowing freedom of speech. He went on to say that cartoons like Bugs Bunny and other Saturday morning cartoons are protected under the amendment and violent video games should be provided the same protection.

It’s a stretch to compare video games to cartoons and books. Not that I’m a big fan of television dramas these days because it seems that they have the mantra that “the more graphic the better,” but comparing the two is a mistake for one clear reason. Television shows, cartoons and books allow for a passive participant. Books allow for passive reading and television shows and cartoons allow for passive viewing. In schools, where some of these books are read, we discuss the characters, plot and setting. We discuss the behavior of the characters and use them as a catalyst to talk about the differences between right and wrong.

Video games are very different. Children and adults who play these games choose to pick up the control. They become active participants in shooting innocent victims, police officers, and other criminals. They become the criminal who steals a car, speeds down roads and causes accidents where innocent victims die.

What does this mean for schools? Unfortunately the very parents who need to educate themselves on how harmful these violent games can be will never read this blog. However, parents will need to step up to the plate and learn how to say no to their children. It’s not always popular to be the adult because we often have to tell children no for reasons they may not understand until they’re older and become a parent.

Representatives of the video game industry appeared on national news programs to state that this ruling was important for every American citizen because it protects their freedom of speech. Personally, I feel that this is less about freedom of speech and more about them making billions of dollars in the gaming industry.

With the hundreds of children and parents we have in our schools, there are many who allow these games to be played. How do we, as educators, battle these violent and harmful games knowing that the Supreme Court seems not to have a problem with them?

As we take this summer to reflect on the upcoming school year, perhaps it’s a good time to draw a line in the sand. We need to make more of an effort to get kids outside during the day. In our school, we have several gardens and make an effort to get our students outside.

No matter where you teach, there must be outside activities that can be done and they are all curriculum related. Whether you go outside for science, ELA or math, we need to reacquaint our students with nature. In a time when we are inundated with conversations about teacher/administrator evaluation, high stakes testing, and violent video games, there is nothing better than going outside.

Louv, Richard. (2005). Last Child in the Woods. Algonquin Books

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)