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
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. (http://www.ae.utexas.edu/~london/humor/WhiskyFruitCake.html ). 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.