Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 271
November 24, 1997

The Wave of the Future


"I believe that this new technology is destined to revolutionize our educational system, and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks." True?

Remember the paperless office? The digital revolution spelled the end to forest despoliation. Yet, copy machines now inundate us with "Just in case, make extra copies for...."

Then there was the enticing promise of leisure time. A 35, and even a 30, hour work week was within our reach. Tell that to the dual-career family weary from its extra-hours' work day.

A flurry of flyers promise new programs to freshen and renew church life. A friend's wisdom subdues the engendered hope: "All planning degenerates into work." Always!

How can we know if such promises or predictions are true? How could we have known if the music critic who dismissed Beethoven's importance for the future of music was correct or not when he wrote: "Beethoven always sounds to me like the upsetting of a bag of nails, with here and there an also dropped hammer?" Or, what about the predictions of the latest religious prophet?

Moses has a clear answer for us. In some final advice to the ancient Israelites, he says, "You may be asking yourselves, 'How can we tell if a prophet's message really comes from the Lord?'" The answer, Moses says, is simple: if it happens, then it comes from God. If not, it doesn't (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). Eminently reasonable advice for us when listening to those with less authority than God.

It appears we're on our own to judge and act accordingly. The above promise about the end of textbooks was made not with contemporary DVD (Digital Video Disks) in mind but in 1922 by Thomas Edison and his belief in the effect his inventions would have. Three quarters of a century later, students and books are still married.

--Robert H. Tucker
24 November 1997

© Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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