Headline, December 09 2023/ ''' STUDENTS* ATTENTION STUMBLES '''



THE LAMENT IS AS OLD AS EDUCATION ITSELF : The students aren't paying attention. But today the problem of flighty or fragmented attention has reached truly catastrophic proportions.

High school and college teachers overwhelmingly report that students' capacity for sustained, or deep attention has sharply decreased, significantly impeding the forms of study - reading, looking at art, round-table discussions - once deemed central to the liberal arts.

By some measures you are lucky these days to get 47 seconds of focused attention on a discrete task. '' Middlemarch '' is tough sledding on that time line. So are most forms of human interaction out of which meaningful life, collective action and political engagements are made.

We are witnessing the dark side of our new technological lives, whose extractive profit models amount to the systematic fracking of human beings : pumping vast quantities of  high-pressure content into our faces to force up a spume of the vaporous and intimate stuff called attention, which now trades on the open market.

Increasingly powerful systems seek to ensure that our attention is never truly ours.

In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution enabled harrowing new forms of exploitation and human misery.

Yet through new forms of activity such as trade unions and labor organising, working people pushed back against the ''satanic mills'' that compromised their humanity and pressed money out of their blood and bones.

The moment has come for a new and parallel revolution against the dishonest expropriation of value from you and me and, most visibly of all, our children. We need a new kind of resistance, equal to the little satanic mills that live in our pockets.

This is going to require attention to attention, and dedicated spaces to learn [or relearn] the powers of this precious faculty. Spaces where we can give our focus to objects and language and other people, and thereby fashion ourselves in relation to a common world.

If you think that this sounds like school, you're right : This revolution starts in our classrooms.

We must flip the script on teachers' perennial complaint. Instead of fretting that students' flagging attention doesn't serve education, we must make attention itself the thing being taught.

The implications of such a shift are vast. For two centuries, champions of liberal democracy have agreed that individual and collective freedoms requires literacy.

But as once-familiar calls for an informed citizenry give way to fears of informational saturation and perpetual distraction, literacy becomes less urgent than attensity, the capacity for attention.

What democracy most needs now is an attentive citizenry - human beings capable of looking up from their screens together.

Around the world, informal coalitions of educators, activists and artists are conducting grass-roots experiments to try to make that possible - from the writer Jenny Odell to the philosopher James Williams, from the Center for Humane Technology, a large project to investigate the ethics of tech, to the intimate art events of the Slow Reading Club. Call it attention activism.

We three are members of one such community, the Strother School of Radical Attention.

Working in classrooms - as well as museums, public libraries, universities - we have heard from thousands of people across the country and beyond about their struggles to give themselves to the world, and to others, in the ways they want.

They are describing the damage that attention-fracking does, violence that the philosopher Miranda Fricker calls  ''epistemic injustice.''

The curriculum we have developed takes on a challenge that so many of us face : how to create, beyond the confines of our personalized digital universes, something  resembling a shared world.

The Honour and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Powerful Forces fracking our attention, - the students attention, continues. The World Students Society thanks authors D Graham Burnett, Alyssa Loh and Peter Schmidt.

With respectful dedication to the Global Founder Framers of !WOW!, and then Mankind, Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See You all prepare for Great  Global Elections on !WOW! : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter X !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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