The abacus was the way my Dad learned how to multiply. This colorful version of that ancient tool is being sold as a decorative item in a furniture store. How far we have come from when this was the only way to count. Last century children learned how to use this tool as part of their education. It is still used in some countries as a consistent ‘calculator’ without electricity. I am not sure how many modern day, American school children would even know what this was, let alone that it is still being utilized in other parts of the world.
When we travel far away from our roots we forget some of the values the basics provided. We forget the foundational elements of how life connects one thing to another, and we lose the learning. Without that learning we are destined to repeat the same mistakes. Learning is what helped us invent the technology that eventually replaced the abacus, yet we now have adults who cannot make change for a dollar without the computer doing the math first. Something is wrong with that scenario. How far we have come from the abacus, but are we too dependent on technology to the point that we have lost the basic skills?
Another example was when someone had to measure two lengths then add them up. They could not figure out how to get the two numbers into one length. They were stumped in converting inches into feet. I’m not sure the abacus would have helped out on that one, and yet the basic ability to add things together without using an app to convert it was excruciating. They thought it was funny. I thought it was sad. The Zombie apocalypse flashed before my eyes and creatures without a brain had the same skills we do without computers. Anyone can survive if they know the basics, the challenge is we are far from the basics and many of us don’t even know it.
There has got to be a way to leverage the brilliance of technology with the knowledge of the fundamentals to create an independent thought process. I am all for technology – as I type on my iPad. I am all for the ability to learn at lightening speed, digest information as fast as you can type, and the ease with which we now communicate across the globe. But let’s not lose the basics of math, communication, and logic. Let’s not adjust our morals to accomodate the internet and all its various topics. Just because it is out there does not make it appropriate for everyone to see. Just because we can do math faster doesn’t mean we don’t need to still know the math basics.
Oh how far we have come, and how far we still need to learn in order for our morals and basic skills to catch up with technology. With the abacus, once the math was calculated you used paper and pen to complete the transaction with a human being. Now bits and bytes have replaced people in the transaction. Is that a good thing or a scary thing, a bad thing or a true miracle? It may be some combinaiton of all four. Let’s not forget the basics because if the power goes out we may still need to do the math by hand or on a colorful abacus from the furniture store.