Obama: iPad, Xbox Turn Information Into A 'Distraction'
HAMPTON, Va. -- President Barack Obama, addressing graduates at historically black Hampton University on Sunday, said that it is the responsibility of all Americans to offer every child the type of education that will make them competitive in an economy in which just a high school diploma is no longer enough.
Moreover, Obama said, the era of iPads and Xboxes had turned information into a diversion that was imposing new strains on democracy.
"You're coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don't always rank that high on the truth meter," he told the students. "And with iPods and iPads, and Xboxes and PlayStations -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it's putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy."
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Obviously, as anyone who has read my recent posts knows, I am a huge fan of the iPad. So yes, I'm a bit biased here. But this sort of celebrated ignorance on the part of the President is disappointing.
His near-boastful admission of ignorance reads to me like the people in the early 90's who would say, "oh, I don't even know how to turn a computer on," and sound somewhat proud of that fact. It's no crime nor sin to not have complete control of all technology, but to brag about what you do not know seems stupid to me. And if he really doesn't know how to use an iPod, why would he give one to the Queen of England?
But to the bigger allegation, that these devices are distractions or, worse still, peddlers of disinformation, I would remind the President that the same has been said of every media format since the beginning of time. Surely the first cave wall drawing depicted one man's interpretation of an event rather than an unbiased telling of it. Unfortunately, at the time, there were very few choices for alternative media.
The delivery system is not the problem here. And blaming the messenger does nothing to address the real issues. In fact, the President's clumsy speech should have stressed the need for critical thinking, not been an example of the lack of it. Perhaps the President should have been in my meeting with my IT Manager, who told me that he had read more news in the first week with his iPad than he had in the entire month prior. And maybe the President should utilize the amazing new apps designed exclusively for the iPad that provide more than just text for any news story. They also include links to source material and other related stories, so I can verify data and read it in the context of other relevant data.
I expect better. I certainly expect a President who knows better than to demonize technology.