Friday, February 02, 2007

Boys will be boys...

In one of the large Norwegian newspapers there was recently an article about game addiction, and how Norwegian hospitals are now treating young people who can't deal with their game addiction. They describe gaming and the feeling of mastery that you get from games as a high, comparable with using drugs or alcohol.

Yes, games are designed to give a feeling of control and mastery. We all like it. It's what drives research, athletes, artists. It's what gives us reliable, competent people in all kind of positions. It's not a bad thing.

The problem appears when a game is the only place where a human being can feel like they do anything good, where they have any kind of self-worth and are important to others.

Recently (but long before WoW) the performance of boys has dropped dramatically in schools not only in Norway, but all over the western world. Girls outperform them in many ways, mastering the education system, taking control of their futures. The educational systems have been adjusted to foster this, and it has been successful. Girls get better grades, girls continue for higher education. So far the professors are still men, but if nothing happens the gender gap will soon go the other way, as girls master the system of education, and boys fall by the side.

Education is the most important thing a person does from they are 6 years old until they are 25. If they can't perform well in this field, they are failures. Failures in the eyes of family, friends and the society in general. They know they will never get the job they want, they know a million little decisions are taken away from them.

I think this is very, very wrong.

People are individuals. Not all are cut out for 19 years of school, and they shouldn't be. There are so many other types of tasks, tasks which ask for other skills than the ability to control your physical and mental urges for hours and hours, while paying attention and processing information you are being fed. The society needs to change, to aknowledge the importance of all tasks which keeps the world moving towards a balanced and sustainable future. While we need a big stack of researchers and we need them NOW, that doesn't mean we don't need the other potential in a population. Knowing things are going down the drain isn't enough, if nobody can actually do the work to get us out of that sewer.

As for the boys? They shouldn't need to play WoW to feel appreciated. They shouldn't need to be a brilliant warlock in order to feel they have something they can actually be good at. Being young is hard, and society doesn't make it easier through rewarding only some types of expertize, while severely punishing the pursuit of many different interests. When I was in high-school, these boys skipped class to work the boats (work farms, do other types of unskilled seasonal labour which still existed and was still available to youngsters), trumping their lack of success at school with the thick wad of cash in their pockets. What is there for the 16 year old who needs to feel he does something that matters? Robots stole his job. Then we designed mobs to keep him occupied and off the streets.

The irony is overwhelming.


thomas said...

Great post, Torill! I have written a response to it, and hopefully there might grow a fruitful debate from your thoughts and mine.

You know where I have posted it (but this time I also published it in Dagbladet's weblog. For the sake of the debate!)

s4dfish said...

I think your post hits on a lot of very valid points. Here in the States a Bachelors degree is almost required for any non-labor type of employment. which, in my opinion, has watered down the value of getting that degree. I think that he 4 year degree is what the High School Diploma was 40 years ago, simply the requirement to most anywhere in life.

I also think you're dead on in regards to not everyone being cut out for 19 years of school. Not that those who can't get through it are any less intelligent than those who can, just that a lot of people are ready to start living life by the time they hit 20. I know that was the case for me. I have yet to complete my 4 year degree, but have a career, wife, and child. I'll finish my degree sooner or later, but only because it's required for advancement in my field. One of my friends is just completing his MBA, but at the age of 26 has never really done anything aside from go to school and has no idea what to do with his life now. If the male life expectancy is in the mid-70's, he'll have spent one third of his life in school.

I don't think this trend is healthy. If it continues where will we be? Requiring a Masters Degree for entry level work in fields that were staffed with High School diplomas in the 50's and 60's? Are we getting more qualified employees or simply people with more degrees?

I don't know the answers to the questions I ask, but I don't find it surprising that so many people are finding satisfaction in games. I could get into the complete and utter lack of adventure in modern society, but that's a rant for another day. Sorry for carrying on so long. Good post, and good gaming.

Torill said...

Thomas, I don't think your readers in Dagbladet got the point - or did you not get my point? Or what happened? Some really wildly weering comments there.

I am not trying to blame gaming, or not blame gaming. Gaming just is. I don't believe in technological determinism. I believe society gets the technology it chooses and accepts.

Actually, I think you got that. I don't think it's all about sailboats though. If I was asked what the most important reform to the current educational system would be, I'd answer "å utvikle yrkesfagene" - develop the non-academic subjects at high-school level, or in higher educational institutions independent of the present academia. We still need a system of education, as society is increasingly complex, but we need one that has much more diversity than the current one.

And Kjell Inge Røkke probably started on a super-equipped trawler...

thomas said...

I totally agree, the sailboats probably aren't the main thing here. I just chose an extreme, or at least tried to! =)

When it comes to the school system, something should or must be done in order to make people/students/youngsters/parents and more importantly: the politicians and bureaucrats accept that everybody isn't cut out for a long academic run.

The single biggest problem with the Norwegian school system, though, I think is the reforms. We had one in 1994, one in 1997 and one last year or so. They are not allowed enough of a lifespan to really create a difference. The first thing we ought to do, is to plan ahead. And by ahead I don't mean two years into the future. By such reforms we might be able to also turn people's attitude towards non-academic studies/subjects upside-down.

(I know very well that blaming gaming is plain stupid. Most of us have free wills.)

Jnorskfoto said...

not everyone is cut out for the long haul on education, however it is impotant in primary grades to teach students how to become "critical thinkers"--so even if they are a plumber, sailor, merchant mariner, electtrician, bus driver,etc., etc, they can make choices and discern what is fact or fiction--as in everyday politics...

Torill said...

I totally agree! Society needs a public which is educated, active and critical. I just don't think we get that by forcing all to learn the same model of analytical questioning.