I have not read a book in months. When I was working for Uncle Sam there was always plenty of reading time on the Metro on the ride and from work and sometimes in between. Occasionally, I would have time to look at the local newspapers at home before or after hours in the office. Now I play with my iPad that also does allow me to download books and other written essays if I am so inclined. But there are many other diversions on this tech tool that I seem to find entertaining in keeping up with family and friends, following whatever may be the most happening news event anywhere in the world, or around the corner.
My work world and family time we’re not always like this. Nearly forty years ago when I first began federal service, my initial work assignment in the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped was to respond to literally thousands (over four years) of inquiries and comments concerning the issuance of new regulations for the Education of the Handicapped Act, as well as routine inquiries or requests for assistance in getting adequate services for students with disabilities at the local and state education agency level. Similarly, Senators and their staffs would pose questions about regulatory development and what this would mean for constituents back home. I think that for most federal bureaucrats I met at that time, this was a task they considered far beneath their specialized academic or professional training and work experiences. For me, it was a job that I needed after some limited professorial experience and completion of a doctoral degree at the George Washington University. Answering mail the old fashion way with hand written drafts, paper and typewriters was obviously more tedious and involved layers of internal control by higher level career supervisory personnel and short term political appointees. I think I learned more about this new federal education program and the political and programmatic aspects of its implementation during these years of service. As the law evolved and states began to implement these federal requirements, I became involved in onsite monitoring of special education program in over thirty states and traveled to other jurisdictions such as the Virgin Islands and Indian reservations and schools administered by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Many would consider this on the job training for a freshly minted doctoral graduate who also had some classroom teaching experience in this area. With our boundless technological reach for online resources and social media, I am not sure that we learn by doing so much any more.
We can now find out about most things through the Internet. It can make us faster learners and contributors on any number of subjects. My early work experience at the Department of Education was strictly “old school” but it was a way of learning and connecting with colleagues and friends at that time in a much more interpersonal way. I am thankful that technology now helps me stay connected with family and old friends near and far, and text messages and cell phones enable us to be in touch whenever and wherever we want. But I worry when I go to restaurants and watch families checking for messages or sharing online media when they are gathering socially. I am sure there must be more things going on I their lives that transcend social media.
And I should get back to reading more books!