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The Wisdom Of Striped Horses


by Mike Wright
The Internet, otherwise known as the "information super
highway" is a wonderful tool filled with an endless number
of resources. With the click of a mouse you can travel
anywhere in the world. You can go anywhere, from astronomy
to zebras. With a powerful search engine, you can normally
find anything that pops into your head. The major fallacy
about the Internet is the amount of knowledge that one can
obtain. It is true that the Internet has an enormous
quantity of information, but it takes more than information
to truly gain knowledge. You can teach a child how to find
a mathematical answer with a calculator, but if the child
does not have a firm grasp of the meaning of the
mathematical concept, then the information gained is
useless. The knowledge gained is how to push buttons and
make numbers pop up on a screen, not a mathematical
concept. The same is true with the Internet. You may be
able to download hundreds of megabytes of information off
the Internet, but the question is: have you gained any
knowledge from having a whole hard drive filled with papers
written by someone else? The knowledge one can receive off
the Internet is over rated.
What is knowledge? Knowledge according to Webster's College
Dictionary is: the fact or condition of knowing something
with familiarity gained through experience or association.
Then the real question is can you gain knowledge off the
Internet? Yes, but it is seriously limited. It is not
possible to gain knowledge directly off the Internet; you
must first obtain information then extrapolate the
information into something that fits your needs. Suppose
you want to bake a fruit cake. If you have no idea how to
star, you can download some information off the Internet on
how to bake a cake from a number of places.
). You can then read this information and teach yourself
how to bake a fruit cake. Therefore, going back to Webster,
you have gained familiarity through experience.
Suppose you were looking for some information about the
moon's relationship to the earth for a paper in an
astronomy class. You could use a search engine on the
Internet to look up some key words like: moon, earth,
astronomy, or planets. You might come across a page titled
"Welcome to our solar system"
http://www.big.net/ggg/planets.html At this page you would
be able to copy a large quantity of information such as:
the Moon's distance from the Sun is = 150,000,000 KM. It is
possible to copy all this information and put it into a
paper without knowing what any of it means. It is true that
you can copy this information, but without an understanding
of trigonometry, physics, and astronomy this is just
information. Not knowledge. Knowledge comes from knowing
how these numbers are found. This gain of knowledge is
something that cannot be downloaded or "cut and pasted"
into a paper. It would take years of hard work to obtain a
rounded knowledge of the universe.
The Internet in every classroom is not the final solution
to making the children of America, well rounded,
knowledgeable individuals. President Clinton seems to think
that if every school in America is equipped with the
Internet, students will learn more. That is the farthest
thing from the truth. A student sitting in front of a
monitor looking at a picture of a zebra
(http://www.cco.caltech.edu/~kantnerm/zebras/) will never
learn as much as if he/she went to a zoo to see a zebra. 
What has more value? Will a child remember a picture on a
screen? Or will a child remember seeing the animal in
person, being able to see how it moves, eats, sleeps, or
being able to smell the animal, or being able to touch the
animal? The Internet is the fifth step away from what will
really stand out in a child's mind.
When humans first wanted to see a zebra they went out to
the wild and got a real hands on look at an amazing animal.
If they could not make it to the country, they could see
one at the zoo. If they could not make it to the zoo, they
could always look up what a zebra looks like in an
encyclopedia. Then after the encyclopedia, they could look
one up in a CD ROM. After the CD ROM, they could look one
up on the Internet. Each of these steps takes away from how
truly amazing and beautiful this creature really is. Again
this is a gain of information, not a gain of knowledge. The
Internet will not bring the knowledge of a zebra to schools
around the world. It takes a hands on look, a long process,
to really enjoy what a zebra is. A zebra is not just a
picture on a computer screen; a zebra is so much more than
that. And that is what the Internet is holding back from
America's youth.
The Internet is a wonderful place, but it has its
limitations. It will not write papers for you nor will it
make you smarter. It is just a tool, like a book, a slide
ruler, a pencil, or a map. None of these can give you the
knowledge of the world, but they can help you on your
quest. You can gain knowledge from using the Internet, but
it is not as easy as a click of a mouse. You cannot
download knowledge, nor can you "cut and paste" it out of
Electronic Mail or a News Group. Knowledge takes time, it
does not come from staring at a screen. You must play an
active part in the gaining of new knowledge. Nothing comes
easy and nothing is free. 



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