I stumbled across this fascinating article in the New York Times Magazine about a school in New York City (of course, where else?) named Quest to Learn that uses video games as a central educational resource. There are so many different facets of life and education that the article directly and indirectly touches on, that this blog post will probably become over-long, but hey, where else am I going to post this?
What I want the reader to understand is that I'm not anti-video game. Dear God, the hours and hours I spent in the days before worries playing on systems from the Atari 2600 to the XBox 360. I also am not saying that a video game design course couldn't be integrated into existing curriculums and used interdisciplinarily to great effect. It's just that some of the ideas and philosophies driving the Quest to Learn school indicate what amounts to a scrubbing of all pre-21st century pedagogy in favor of funneling learning through video games.
Video games, essentially, teach us how to be more robotically functioning - greater response time! improved dexterity! increased peripheral vision! There has always been a decision-making function. In the great, old Atari game Pitfall it was, should I cross the lake by hopping on the croc heads or by swinging on that there vine? Decisions happen every day, nearly every instant, as physicists in favor of the infinite universes theory can tell you. So while video games can give us improved military skills and heap more decision-making on us, what they fail fundamentally to be able to teach us is the why in life.
Let's get to the thick of things. The article states, "In a speech given the day before the start of the 2009 G-20 economic summit, Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google, offered his own tacit approval, suggesting that playing video games, especially online multiplayer games, fosters collaboration, and that collaboration, in turn, fosters innovation — making it good training for a career in technology. 'Everything in the future online is going to look like a multiplayer game,” Schmidt said. 'If I were 15 years old, that’s what I’d be doing right now.'"
But that's just it, Eric - I'm not 15. Nor are about five billion other people on the planet. Just because video games are fun, and because there are grown-ups who find dealing with them easier than dealing with being a grown-up, does not mean that a diversion meant primarily for people who don't have responsibilities 18 hours out of the day is suddenly supposed to be all we ever do and see.