Interview with Catherine Canavan-Dysthe

  1. What has remote school taught you about real school? 

Remote school has shown me how much I undervalued the structure that was provided for me. Even though it was at times a nuisance I now realize how inept I am at time management. But that also makes me wonder if school should have been teaching me that skill, and maybe if this quarantine experience will be a good wake-up call to what I’ll be experiencing in college.

2. In Feed, there’s major irony in the fact that although young people have access to information constantly, they seem stupid. They aren’t able to think critically or be curious. Talk about the abstract skills that you learn at school and the learning process. Do you think that these skills and processes are important in shaping independent, dynamic thinkers? What role does school as we know it play is shaping a strong generation of leaders and thinkers?

I think when streamlining a process there are inevitably parts that don’t mesh with everyone, and while school does a lot it also fails kids in a lot of ways. The brainless “learning” methods like memorization echo how in Feed actual research was replaced with a quick search in the moment as opposed to actually stored knowledge. School provides great opportunity, but it is those that surpass those bounds that tend to go the farthest from what I’ve seen. The kind of person that excels in a high school environment is not necessarily equipped for college or a career because excelling in high school requires less initiative.

3. Consumerism and its implications are central to the plot and theme of Feed. Already much of the education system has converted to online platforms (ei. Google Classroom, Canvas, EdX, etc). What are the benefits of this? What are the dangers? 

During corona the benefits of online learning have been shown to be invaluable. It’s great to be able to receive work remotely so as to not fall behind. But pacing seems especially difficult for teachers when everyone is operating on their own schedule. I think this experience may cause more online integration for classes to be more prepared for similar situations, but will also reinforce our appreciation for school. I think social deprivation is tough on everyone. 

4. In Feed, many of the teachers are holograms. Talk about the importance of the relationships that teachers have with students.

I miss my teachers so much. I picked my classes because of them and doing those classes online is really hard because I rely on good teachers to keep me engaged in the subject. No AI could ever emulate someone who is really passionate about a subject. I think electronics have a purpose in education, but not an essential one. School is in place to teach us how to operate in the real world, with people, and relying on AI to teach students how to live in a human world just seems ludicrous to me.