Planting Ourselves in the Real World

Bona Verba from the Headmaster

Cincinnati Classical Academy’s Postman Pledge initiative, drawing inspiration from the insights of renowned philosopher and media critic Neil Postman, aims to cultivate a lower-tech environment in the homelife of CLASSICAL families. This commitment encourages families to reflect on the pervasive influence of technology in their lives. The ultimate goal is to foster genuine moments of community, friendship, and connection in the real world. Rooted in the success of last summer’s 400-Hour Outdoor Challenge, in which 326 students actively participated, the Postman Pledge initiative gained momentum with the realization that the role of technology in students’ homes needed thoughtful consideration in order to effectively reinforce our school’s low-tech educational environment.

Neil Postman (1931-2003) was an educator known for his insightful analyses of the impact of media and technology on society. Postman argued that as societies transition from print-based cultures to visual and electronic media, there are profound implications for the way information is presented, consumed, and understood. In his seminal 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman critiqued the influence of television on public discourse, asserting that the medium’s emphasis on entertainment and visual stimulation had a detrimental impact on serious and substantive communication. He argued that television’s format, with its focus on short, attention-grabbing segments, undermined the depth and complexity of ideas, reducing public discourse to superficial entertainment.

Postman was concerned about the way technology could lead to a society that values entertainment over substantive content, where serious issues are trivialized, and critical thinking is undermined. His work serves as a cautionary reminder to critically assess the impact of technology on culture and communication, urging society to be mindful of how the medium shapes the message.

Since the publication of Neil Postman’s influential book, the landscape of communications technology has undergone exponential growth and transformation. The advent of the personal computer, the proliferation of smartphones, the emergence of social media, and the advancements in virtual reality and artificial intelligence have significantly reshaped the way information is produced, disseminated, and consumed in contemporary society – especially by children.

These emerging digital technologies have unleashed unprecedented challenges. For children, they raise concerns about the potential for increased distraction and superficial engagement, pulling them away from both the natural world and healthy, human relationships. Postman’s warnings about the impact of media on society remain relevant in this era of rapid technological evolution, prompting continued reflection on how these advancements shape our children’s understanding of the world

Our hope is that, in contrast, CLASSICAL stands as a beacon for embracing a low-tech ethos that centers on the comprehensive education of the whole person: head, heart, and hands. Recognizing the home as the primary site of a child’s education, we understand the crucial role of community support in embodying these principles creatively.

Introduced by dedicated CLASSICAL families last fall, the Postman Pledge signifies a shared intention to create a lower-tech environment, aligning with the timeless wisdom advocated by Neil Postman. This commitment by CLASSICAL families reflects a collective acknowledgment of the need to nurture real-world connections and disengage from the potentially isolating influence of excessive technology.

The pledge itself proposes that families refrain from providing smartphones or access to social media to their children for one year. More than a restriction, it serves as an invitation for participating families to cultivate moments of genuine community and friendship. Activities such as singing, hiking, visiting museums, and attending plays are some of the way participating Postman Pledge families are creating rich, meaningful experiences firmly planted in the real world.

The Postman Pledge is not just a commitment but an embodiment of timeless wisdom, an invitation to collectively grow in community, anchoring all the richness our students receive through their school experience within the warmth of the family home.

So far during this inaugural year, CLASSICAL families with younger children, spanning from kindergarten to seventh grade, have been navigating the “rule” of the Postman Pledge in ways that suit their unique circumstances, fostering an environment that nurtures our students’ growth and development.

As a group, Postman Pledge families have participated in a hike on the Great Oaks Trail at Winton Woods an exploration of the Cincinnati Art Museum through an art scavenger hunt, led by CLASSICAL art teachers, Mrs. Hofmann and Ms. Calvino. Exciting upcoming activities include maple tapping at the Cincinnati Nature Center, a Day of Service, birding tours, a visit to the Cincinnati Freedom Center, creek explorations for tadpoles and salamanders, and a family cookout to wrap up the school year.

As we look forward to building stronger connections among CLASSICAL families, the Postman Pledge remains an embodiment of timeless wisdom. Inspired by the insights of educators like Neil Postman, our mission to educate students extends beyond the classroom, inviting families to anchor the richness of their school experiences within the warmth of their homes. For inquiries or questions, Mrs. Hannah Keegan, the Postman family leader, is available to facilitate the CLASSICAL journey toward a community-focused, lower-tech environment.

Torches Up!
Mr. Michael Rose

PS. The following is the Postman Pledge in full:

As CLASSICAL parents, we strive, along with our children, to know the truth, seek the good, and love the beautiful. We recognize that this happens through a deepened understanding of the natural world and through the fostering of virtues through cultivated familial and communal relationships. We also recognize that technological developments in the culture undermine our capacity to inhabit the world and engage in social life as richly or fully as we ought.

Therefore, we pledge for the next year not to allow our children to have smartphones or use social media. We also pledge to conscientiously limit our family’s use of electronic technologies in general and to cultivate the habits of attention and presence that allow us to grow in love of one another and of the Truth.

Knowing that we were created for deep bonds of community, we pledge, finally, to foster friendships among our families in the natural, traditional ways human cultures have always done.

Michael Rose - Headmaster

Mr. Michael Rose

Meet the Headmaster

Mr. Rose has taught various courses at Brown University, Cincinnati Moeller, and The Summit Country Day School. As a part of his degree work in education, Mr. Rose’s research interests included the Great Books curriculum, the Paideia teaching method, and the “effects of emerging digital technology on student reading, writing, and researching.” Read More