The internet has changed how people learn. I’ve been realizing that lately as I read about marketing, branding, and how to make people want your product.
One article stated flat-out, “You cannot run a successful weblog and not have your comment box open. Don’t even have the comments moderated. People want to feel they can reach you and reply to your words without delay.”
Way back in the dark ages, when I was a wee slip of a girl and dinosaurs roamed the land, people listened to and consulted experts. We read their books. We attended their lectures. We watched their PBS specials. We followed their instructions.
So Carl Sagan didn’t answer your fan mail? You never thought twice about it. In fact, if Carl Sagan limited his astronomy lectures to twelve hand-picked students and had no office hours, you still didn’t think twice about it (although you snickered every time you drove past the privacy fences surrounding his home.) That’s just the way things were. Experts lived atop the mountains, and they sent down their instruction from on high.
Wow, have things changed. I cannot say anything without someone arguing with me. I can’t quote an expert without someone arguing with the expert. I can quote an article, and someone quotes a different article. If I go to a Personality’s website and dislike what I read, I can post an argument against it in his com box. I can return later on and find he’s replied to me, and I can fire back at him again.
There’s no passive absorption going on any longer. It’s a much more active style of learning, provided people are willing to let go of their own opinions long enough to let the enlightened debate do its job and whittle away the untruths in order to reach Truth.
The generation before my mother was given books on parenting, which they read and implemented. They went to their doctors, who said, “Feed this baby with a bottle, and have him sleeping through the night by six weeks.” And they did it.
My generation is given books on parenting, and we throw them away, find books we agree with more, and join online communities of like-minded parents. We go to our doctors, who say, “Feed this baby at the breast five times a day for twenty minutes each time,” and we reply, “That’s not what Dr. Sears said. In fact, studies show that unlimited nursing for the first six weeks is far superior for the newborn. And don’t even talk to me about making the baby cry-it-out.”
It’s both good and bad. It’s good that we now feel empowered to challenge the authority figures we find wrong.
It’s bad because I’m not sure anyone remembers any longer how to learn. Because primarily, we don’t learn by arguing. We learn by listening.
Feel free to argue with me in the com box.