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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology

Information, risks and challenges

Sun, 04 Jun 2017 09:06:00 +0000 Published in Montañes Newspaper

Today's society is characterized by unprecedented change in all aspects of life, which is the effect of two revolutions: technological and information. Knowledge is being renewed, accumulated and disseminated at an accelerated pace, which means that the environment is becoming alien to many people. Think, for example, of the development internet. For some older people it is not easy to move from handwritten letters to e-mails.

 The expression "information society" often leads to a mistake: confusing information with knowledge. Professor A. Llano has pointed out, among others, an essential difference between the two concepts: information is something external and technically accumulated, while knowledge is a vital activity, an internal growth.  

G. Thibon differentiated between instruction and culture, clarifying that instruction is external, impersonal and without differences of level, while culture implies vital participation of the subject, inner modification and continuous deepening.

In contrast to the culture of the erudite, G. Marañón proposed the culture of the humanist: the erudite measures his knowledge by the issue of things he knows, while the humanist does not care about knowing a lot, but only about knowing the essential things.

It is therefore necessary to integrate (without confusing) information and knowledge, instruction and culture. Otherwise, we will continue to be exposed to being victims of what Julián Marías called "the utilitarian temptation". From this point of view, the only thing that matters is to achieve practical results and satisfy material needs. And since this is achieved with means, unlimited faith in technology easily arises. Let us look at a sympathetic example:

Two shipwrecked sailors arrive on a deserted island having saved only the ship's computer. One of them starts to operate it with great enthusiasm, because he believes that his future depends on the information provided by the machine. After several days of questions and answers, he says to his companion: "Thank goodness we managed to save the computer; thanks to it we know that we have a one in a million chance of being saved".

The insistent enquiry on the internet to learn more about solving a problem can negatively affect our health. By accessing more data than the brain can process, we run the risk of being affected by "information overload fatigue syndrome", which leads to stress, anxiety and loss of concentration. To avoid this, we must stop accumulating information and ask an expert for it.

Knowing how to select and structure information from agreement with a good criterion is not learned from instructors or "teachers". The teacher repeats and transmits lessons that are already written; on the other hand, the teacher's lessons are expressions of the search for truth staff .

The teacher today is expected to give priority to the formative over the informative. This includes knowing how to interpret some information in order to transform it into knowledge. This goal is calling for a resurgence of humanistic knowledge, which is essential for increasing creativity and the capacity for innovation.

Today it is more necessary than ever to recover the humanist culture: the one that affirms the primacy of the spirit over subject and of ethics over technology. It implies teaching students to distinguish between culture and subculture. Culture seeks knowledge, the truth of being, while subculture is only interested in useful and/or pleasurable truth.

In a society that contrasts virtue and happiness and confuses happiness and pleasure, it is a priority to promote the development of some virtues that are a manifestation of positive rebellion. The Education of sobriety is rebellion against consumerism; the Education of modesty is rebellion against the escalation of eroticism.

Today we need teachers of humanity ("artisans of humanity," according to the Pope). It is urgent to cultivate what is properly human, to awaken in students a love for what is true, good and beautiful, above all through the good example of their parents and teachers.

Why does Socrates not go out of fashion as a prototype teacher? Because, as G. Gusdorf states, his memory is not associated with the class of first, sixth or Philosophy. Socrates limited himself to the essential: he was a teacher in humanity.