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The Arts and Play as Educational Media in the Digital Age


Robert Albrecht and Carmine Tabone

The digital revolution we are now entering as educators is an unchartered sea pregnant with wondrous possibilities but laden with a minefield of unforeseen consequences. A pedagogy that overlooks or downplays the disruptive and often dangerous influence of digital media on childhood development is necessarily a very shortsighted one.

More than just highlighting our misgivings about digital media, however, this book has a purpose far more ambitious and infinitely more useful. Based upon 45 years of work with young people in Jersey City classrooms, day camps, housing projects, libraries, church basements and community centers, the authors propose a pedagogical strategy that uses hands-on experiences in the arts as a strategy to offset and counterbalance the dominance of digital media in the lives of children.

Rather than call for the elimination of digital media—clearly an impossibility even if it were desirable—the authors maintain that children need to be exposed to non-digital, non-electronic experiences that cultivate alternative ways of thinking, feeling, and being in the world. In sum, the book does not call for an end to the digital, but outlines ways in which the arts and creative forms of play help to establish a balance in the education and socialization of children as we enter more deeply into the Digital Age.

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Chapter Two: The Faustian Dilemma: The Unintended Consequences of Digital Media



The Faustian Dilemma

The Unintended Consequences of Digital Media

About the time that Columbus was first stepping foot in the Americas, people in Germany were telling a strange tale about a disgruntled scholar who had sold his soul to the devil in exchange for bodily pleasures and boundless knowledge. As part of the oral culture of the time, there were multiple versions of the Faust story. In some accounts, the repentant scholar was able to redeem his soul and save himself from eternal damnation. In others, he could not and is promptly dragged into hell at the end of the time agreed to (usually twenty-four years) in the ill-fated bargain.

Within a few decades of the invention of the printing press, several chapbook versions were circulated on the streets of Frankfurt and in other German towns. Soon Christopher Marlowe (c. 1604) and then Goethe (1808) reimagined the story as theater, Berlioz (1846) made into an opera, Wagner (1840s) an overture, Perrot (1848) a ballet, Liszt (1857) a symphony, Murnau (1926) a movie, Benet (1937) a short story, Mann (1947) a novel, and Chespirito (1994) a television comedy. In the 1960s, Rod Serling often presented Faust-like characters in his Twilight Zone series and, in 2004, David Mamet put Faust back on stage. We are even told that there are multiple online video games based on some version of the Faust character.

Media critic and educator Neil Postman employed the story as a metaphor...

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