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16 Aug

Started to write the below the week before we moved.  Then we moved, so things kind of fell apart and its completion was delayed by all the wonderful disasters that go with moving.  Finally got around to finishing it up…


As we prepare to move, my wife and I are taking the opportunity to do something we didn’t do the last time we moved—PURGE.
The last time we moved, it was short notice, in a rush, we were frustrated, and Uncle Sam was paying for the move. This time, it was EXACTLY the same thing, except it was on our own dime, so we were motivated to be a bit more selective.

It was a struggle to get started. We did find stuff we hadn’t unpacked since we moved to this house four years ago, but that’s fairly common, and I wasn’t that surprised. What did get my attention was when we found stuff we hadn’t unpacked for two moves, meaning it had been boxed and stored in that box for eleven years. Hard to argue to keep those things (but for the record, just because I’m like that, I tried).

Anyway, once we got started, it was easier and easier to part with our mutually accumulated junk. It can be taken too far; one of the kids got accidentally scooped up in one of the purge sessions. Fortunately, my wife rescued him before I got the boxes to Goodwill; my son wouldn’t speak to me until I bought him ice cream the next day.

As we cleaned and purged and eradicated and emptied, I came across one of the worst (but really best) gifts I ever received, an unabridged dictionary. I think it was for either a birthday or my high school graduation. I remember thinking, “Wow, lame. A dictionary?” However, it proved to be one of the most thoughtful and well used gifts I had ever received, and I used it for literally YEARS.

However, because of the internet, I have not used it in at least five years. Maybe more. Not that I haven’t needed it; it’s just that with an e-reader and a phone, I look up words I don’t know (and there are a lot of them) using those devices. Seeing my old dictionary’s torn and battered (but still bright red ) cover really made me think.

I know and realize that technology is everywhere, and that it has changed my life significantly. The internet’s impact on society has been, for good and bad both, monumental. But this dictionary dilemma, do I keep or do I shed, really made me realize how much knowledge we used to store in our homes, and how little we need to now because it’s at our fingertips.

Most of you will remember having some sort of encyclopedia at home when you were growing up. Learning how to use it, including the index book, took up a considerable part of either third or fourth grade (I can’t remember which). Do any of you still have one at home? Is it used for anything beyond propping up the short leg of the table? And isn’t it funny how “Wikipedia” is supposed to sound like “encyclopedia” but almost no young student today will understand the reference?  And does it go too far? BECAUSE info is so easy to obtain, do we not retain any of it because we don’t (l)earn it? Should we waste our memory space on something that could just be looked up?

Knowledge is not just information; knowledge is USING information to develop opinions and strategies, to reach conclusions, and to be able to intelligently communicate and defend same. Having the information at our fingertips doesn’t alleviate the responsibility to develop both critical and creative thinking skills to employ that information for a purpose, and yet so many people ignore that element.  I have worked with students who possess $600 phones and yet cannot multiply or divide by ten.  I think that’s an issue.  It seems the more advanced the tech gets, the less advanced the average user, and that’s scary.

My dictionary was an effective tool; so is technology.  Both should be mastered; neither should be used as a crutch.


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