Don’t Google Too Soon

In How to Tutor Your Own Child, I discuss the role that the Internet plays in students’ intellectual development.  Though search engines may be an effective tool, I’m concerned about how the Web makes us so quick to Google for answers.  Think about the process of discovery that’s lost in Googling.

Here’s a non-academic example:

Can you name all seven of Snow White’s dwarfs?  When I try, I come up with six: Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Bashful, and Doc.

Of course, if I were to type in “seven dwarfs” on Google, I would get the answer right away.  But if I try to think of the seventh dwarf myself, my brain starts making connections:

Odds are that the seventh is another adjective that ends in a “y” and subtly casts aspersion.  Angry?  No.  Too close to Grumpy.  Frumpy?  No.  I don’t remember any dwarfs in hair nets.  Clingy?  Burpy?  Was there a Snarky?

No luck.  So I start wondering about the other names:

I get the name Bashful.  It has a better ring than Shy.  But Doc?  Was he the only one with medical training, so he got to replace his earlier, less flattering name with a title?  Is he Doc né Nerdly?  Could Grumpy get knighted and change his name to Sir?

Admittedly, I’m not coming up with the answer.  But I’m thinking about parts of speech, synonyms, naming trends, and titles.  I’m thinking flexibly.  The unknown seventh dwarf’s name could prompt hours of creative association and discussion at parties, around the dinner table, or at school.

It might not occur to your children to slow down and brainstorm this way, so I recommend that you take the initiative to encourage them to keep their smart phones and Google at bay and/or model this behavior yourself when faced with an unknown, at least when time allows.

In Tim Kreider’s New York Times op-ed piece “In Praise of Not Knowing,” (June 18), he says:

I hope kids are still finding some way, despite Google and Wikipedia, of not knowing things. Learning how to transform mere ignorance into mystery, simple not knowing into wonder, is a useful skill.

He’s right.  Consider that so many great thinkers spent their days exploring exactly that mystery–that unknown.  Doing so is what led to some of human history’s best theories and inventions.

That said, have you seen successes on a smaller scale?

Have you or your child ever found that NOT Googling something has led to positive results?

P.S. Here’s a clue to the name of the seventh dwarf: a little mystery is nothing to sneeze at.

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