October 10, 2018

Dear Campus School Families,

The Nobel winning economist Herbert Simon made a keen observation about our information saturated world: “What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

I think about children and the necessity of attention – this is how children learn about themselves, others, and the world, and helping children pay attention and notice things is a significant part of the work of elementary school teachers. This is one reason why a reasonable restriction of the flow of information into a child’s life is necessary, for they must be given the space to be attentive to their inner and outer worlds.

And then I think about parents, and the demands on their attention, which can often be overwhelming, especially in light of the sheer volume of information that now flows into our lives. The challenge, therefore, is to be intentional and mindful about how we allocate our focus so we avoid the poverty of attention that Simon notes. Children surely deserve our attention and are susceptible to a lack of it.

I saw the new documentary on Fred Rogers this summer and the hallmark of his approach to children was to both take them seriously and provide them with a wealth of attention. He was also a master of information flow – he introduced children to subjects in a slow and measured manner, never overwhelming them with too much information and always creating a space for reflection and mental and emotional processing. The resurgence of interest in Rogers in our information saturated world is a testament to the value of his approach, which remains a good model of how to truly and powerfully attend to children.