To make informed decisions in our increasingly technological society, we need to familiarize ourselves with various forms of technology, including their pros and cons... and how they affect our lives.
At the heart of the technological society that characterizes the United States lies an unacknowledged paradox. Although the nation is adopting new technologies at a breathtaking pace, its citizens are not equipped to make well-considered decisions or think critically about technology. Adults and children alike have a poor understanding of the essential characteristics of technology, how it influences society, and how people can and do affect its development. In short, as a society we are not technologically literate.
Technology has become so user-friendly that it is largely invisible. We drive high-tech cars but know little more than how to operate the steering wheel, gas pedal, and brakes. We fill shopping carts with highly processed foods but are largely ignorant of the composition of those products or how they are developed, produced, packaged, and delivered.
We click on a mouse and transmit data over thousands of miles without understanding how this is possible or who might have access to the information. Thus, even as technology has become increasingly important in our lives, it has receded from our view.
To take full advantage of the benefits of technology, as well as to recognize, address, or even avoid some of its pitfalls, we must become better stewards of technological change. Unfortunately, society is ill prepared to meet this goal. And the mismatch is growing. Neither the nation's educational system nor its policymaking apparatus has recognized the importance of technological literacy.
Few people have hands-on experience with technology, except as finished consumer goods. Consequently, technological literacy depends largely on what we learn in the classroom.