Are Things Really ‘Better’?

(well, this blog certainly is. It’s better. Than all of the other things. All of them.)

Coming off a week in which I finally hit my arbitrary target of ten views a day (thanks almost entirely to Singaporean people reading my old Geographical Pickup Lines post), I’ve been thinking about improvement today. And it has dawned upon me that things don’t ‘improve’ any more, they just change.

Technology is perhaps the obvious example of this, as minor changes in operating systems or bug fixes for issues a mere four out of the seven billion humans on this planet have ever heard of aren’t going to make our lives tangibly ‘better’. Yet they are still branded as ‘improvements’ or ‘updates’, the sort of dressing-up of a menial event that would make Goebbels himself weep with pride.

I’m seeing this at my school where, after eighteen months in the old Sixth Form building, we have now moved to a new, first-floor building, that vaguely resembles a minute aircraft hangar and is full of shiny ‘new’ computers with touch-screen controls for screen brightness and keyboards that sense when you’ve accidentally put caps lock on and turn it off again. It’s like Metropolis in here, complete with sweating workers slaving away at identically individual work stations for ten-hour sessions.

But despite the theoretical benefits of a new room to waste our free periods writing blog posts in when we should really be studying for those exams we have in three months, I’m not convinced by the practical usefulness of the room: fancy keyboards are fine, but are they enough of a payoff for the transitionary period?

In the old room, we knew where we were: there was that spot where you could play Halo and not get in trouble, that desk where you could eat lunch and be covered from the teacher’s view by a combination of desks, students and pillars that was eerily reminiscent of this scene from Sherlock, and that teacher who’d always show up at a certain time every week, and wouldn’t care if you were playing Flappy Bird as opposed to working.

Add this to the tangible drawbacks to the new room, that the printers now operate on a biometric finger-scanning system to prevent using your own computer to print infinitely without using the school’s printer credits, and the fact that the computers all face different ways, so there’s no clear lunch-easting corner, and the impending annoyance of younger students being allowed into this sacred room of Sixth Formers at lunch time, and suddenly the new room isn’t so much ‘better’ as ‘painfully worse’.

But my complaints are menial, and are limited to the nature of the facilities provided to me for extra work by my school; imagine having to overhaul an entire company because of one, supposedly unsafe, working habit that’s never injured anyone. I’m not saying that we should only ever attempt change as a reactionary thing, when the existing system fails us in practically harmful ways, but I feel that if we are going to change a system or process to pre-empt a problem, that problem needs to be present, or at least obviously soon-to-be present.

There’s some ideological inconsistency with my school here, that they tell us they’re treating us like adults, and so surely those who choose to spend their free periods playing games by themselves should be allowed to do so as it is an exercise of their adult free will, and their grades in the summer will suffer, like an adult’s performance will suffer if they do not put the work in. The new room appears to be an attempt to force us to do work in a practical sense, with inconvenient-to-eat-behind computers, while maintaining that this ‘New Library’ is an extension of their theoretical policy of treating us like adults.

However, I can’t really complain; I’ll be out of here in three months, and my criticisms are of the ultra-privileged variety, that the free, specialised venue for doing additional work may be slightly more ideologically-inconsistent with my selective school’s broader attempts to prepare me for a Russell Group University than that school’s previous free, specialised venue for doing additional work.

In relation to yesterday’s post, perhaps I am a massive prat after all.

Links:

Geographical Pickup Lines!

The Nazi Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda

Sherlock!

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