Thursday, July 31, 2008

Behold the clash of civilizations

In 1993 political scientist Samuel P. Huntington wrote an article in Foreign Affairs titled, "The Clash of Civilizations?" In it he wrote:
It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

Fifteen years after he penned those words, they still offer both insight as well as challenges to many of the conceptions we maintain about politics and international relations. Just as cultural fault lines arguably divide much of the world in a geopolitical sense, cultural fault lines also define a growing chasm between the environment in many of our U.S. schools and the environments outside them. This chasm is readily apparent in the latest RadioShack circular delivered to my home mailbox in Oklahoma today.

Radio Shack

As thousands of K-12 students and teachers prepare to return to fall classes in a few weeks in the United States, commercial advertisers are carefully crafting messages to woo adults as well as young people into their stores to make purchases for the upcoming school year. In many cases, but certainly not all, students will be returning to school environments where cell phones are banned. In one of our Oklahoma districts northwest of the Oklahoma City metro area, students are fined monetarily on an increasing scale every time they are caught with a cell phone at school.

cell phones banned

Like a concealed weapon, cell phones are considered by many school board members, administrators and teachers as dangerous, inappropriate items to bring into the school environment.

Concealed weapons are strictly prohibited on these premises

If cell phones are brought to school (as they are and will be in many cases, of course) school rules may dictate they can only be used outside of the building. Rather than encourage students to learn responsible and appropriate cell phone use habits and etiquette, many schools this year will take what they perceive to be a more efficient and easier approach to the challenges posed by cell phones and continue banning them entirely. The suggestion that cell phones can and should be used as powerful learning tools would, in many cases, fall on deaf administrative ears unwilling to even consider such pedagogical heresy.

Contrast these school environments anathema to the presence of cell phones in the hands of teenagers to the following RadioShack advertisement from today:
How can a kid survive these days without a wireless phone? Imagine how hard it would have been for you to get by without bellbottoms. Same thing. Don't let your child suffer, because during the school year, a wireless phone will be multipurpose. They're going to need to call you to come pick them up after school, or to bring them their cleats for soccer practice. Okay, they won't all be demands. Some of their calls will probably be filled with "I love you's" and "You're the best parent ever." Okay, stop laughing. Seriously, there are many reasons to come to RadioShack to get your kids a new wireless phone. Here are just a few.....

Behold, the clash of civilizations.

soldiers in riot gear

Behold the clash of civilizations

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