Crippled by spell check


By Jace Brady
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The millennial generation has been blessed with technological advancements beyond the wildest dreams of those who lived only a short time ago. With the stroke of a few keys, a vast encyclopedia of knowledge can be accessed by anyone with a connection to the Internet. There are few answers that we cannot find in a few minutes of Googling. While this technology has opened many doors and availed many opportunities, I often times wonder if our generation has been crippled by this easy access to technology.

Spell check is the classic example that always comes to mind when I ponder how technology has negatively affected me. Learning to spell has never been a necessity because anytime I misspelled a word on my document, a red line appeared to inform me of my mistake. This technology cascaded into autocorrect and soon I wasn’t even made aware of my inability to spell. While I am a perfectly acceptable speller, I cannot spell as well as my parents, who were forced to write handwritten papers or use typewriters and early computers growing up. An inability to spell may not seem terribly dangerous, but our computers have already started to read for us, perform our simple mathematical equations and perform our research. Losing the combination of these skills will lead to our failure to think critically and effectively function as human beings.

Samuel Greengard further argues this point in the journal Communications of the ACM. In his article, he quotes Adrian West, the research director at the Edward de Bono Foundation UK. West states, “The wealth of communications and information can easily overwhelm our reasoning abilities. What’s more, it’s ironic that ever-growing piles of data and information do not equate to greater knowledge and better decision-making.” While losing our ability to spell may seem harmless enough, I contest that ineptitude in critical thinking could irreparably damage our society.

Critical thinking isn’t the only skill we stand to lose due to the influx of technology in our lives; our capacity to interact socially is at risk as well. An article written by Amy Morin and published in Forbes cites a study that increased technology use can diminish our capability to read emotions, a critical component of social interaction. In this study, two groups of sixth-graders were given a baseline test to determine their ability to read emotions. Following this, one group was sent to a camp and cut off from all technology, while a control group was left behind. After only five days, the children at the camp showed an incredible improvement in their ability to read emotions.

College students must be especially vigilant and not fall prey to the enticing lure of technology. Employers have written extensively on the difficulty in finding quality employees in our generation because of these issues. While technology is a great resource, it must be used within reason in order to maintain the abilities that will make college students attractive to future employers.

Many organizations around the world promote “unplugged days” and technology-free classes. I believe these are solutions that the University of Iowa should consider as it comes under new leadership. While technology is an essential tool in today’s world, there are some skills it cannot teach and may hinder. Even if the university doesn’t support these causes, I encourage everyone to occasionally take a day to unplug and reconnect with the world around them. One day, it could make all the difference.

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