Readers’ Forum: 3/19/19


Technology use

Today it takes considerable effort to have moments where we can just be still, moments where we can enjoy time with our family and moments where we can see the beauty that surrounds us. What are we doing with the time we have? Are we spending all our day engulfed in emails, tweets, texts and Facebook posts?

One must wonder what we will become when all we ever see is our own reflections in our phones, little black mirrors reflecting a distorted sense of reality. We are blessed by technology, but at what cost? Are we willing to weaken our family relationships and lose ourselves just so we can see what our Instagram followers are doing? Are we spending all our lives enslaved by the technology claiming to improve the quality of our life?

The mass use of technology has caused us to grow distant from one another. If technology was designed to help make our lives easier, why is it preventing us from interacting with those around us and forming meaningful relationships?

On the American Censorship website, research highlighted shows that “children in the U.S devote approximately 40 hours a week to the internet, video games, and technology.”

Human connection is one of the most important things that shapes us into well-adjusted adults, and we are losing a key part of that in our technology. Our children should not have to compete with technology for our attention. We must be available for what really matters in life.

We must put our phones down and enjoy our family, friends, nature or whatever else we enjoy. This is your life, take control of it.

— Olivia Morrow

Farmington, New Mexico

Guest Opinion

Is your GPA ‘mighty to save?’

Jessica Lahey, author of “The Gift of Failure” and former middle school teacher, recounted a parent-teacher conference in which the mother of an accomplished student expressed concern that her daughter no longer found joy in learning. Lahey wrote the student had “sacrificed her natural curiosity and love of learning at the altar of achievement… (We) are all implicated in this crime against learning. From her first day of school, we pointed her toward that altar and trained her to measure her progress by means of points, scores and awards. We taught that her potential is tied to her intellect, and that her intellect is more important than her character. We taught her to come home proudly bearing A’s, championship trophies and college acceptances, and we inadvertently taught her that we don’t really care how she obtains them. We taught her to protect her academic and extracurricular perfection at all costs and that it’s better to quit when things get challenging rather than risk marring that perfect record. Above all else, we taught her to fear failure. That fear is what has destroyed her love of learning.”

Lahey’s account reminded me of a conversation I overheard while on a study abroad program several years ago. This program included a long bus ride during which students engaged in interesting conversations regarding their experience at BYU. I have a clear memory of a conversation focused on courses a group of students planned to take the following semester. Many in this group expressed interest in a particular course, but they were hesitant to enroll due to its reputation as a course in which few high grades are assigned. One student proclaimed, “No way will I sacrifice my GPA just to take an interesting class.”

Combined with my experience as BYU faculty, this anecdotal account causes concern that many BYU students rely wholly on the merits of their GPAs.  They believe a high GPA guarantees them a prosperous future. They trust that their GPA is mighty to save. President Spencer W. Kimball taught that “Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his God; and if his God doesn’t also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry.” Rather than trusting in a number with nebulous meaning that is calculated to an absurd degree of precision, we must develop “unshaken faith in Christ, relying wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save.”

How can this be done? Perhaps another anecdote will help. A friend graduated as valedictorian with a perfect GPA from a large public high school in Salt Lake City, where he participated in sports and other extracurricular activities. Combined with strong standardized test scores, his achievements earned admission to several elite universities, including BYU. However, an opportunity to be an intercollegiate athlete led him to enroll at a small, highly selective liberal arts college. There, he quickly realized that he was no longer ‘easily the smartest kid in the room,’ and he was forced to reevaluate his relationship with his GPA. Fortunately, large tuition payments and small class sizes provided him with an inspiring mentored learning environment that facilitated development of a growth mindset. He learned to embrace challenges, to readily accept criticism, to persist in the face of setbacks and to find inspiration in other’s success. My friend enrolled in several BYU classes during 2018 summer term, and he observed that few of his peers at BYU have developed similar mindsets. Replicating my friend’s transformational experience at an institution as large and as affordable as BYU is a challenge, but it is possible. I hope it is a challenge we will all accept.

— Dr. Matthew R. Jones

BYU Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

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