Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Kolvenbach and the Digital Divide

At first, I had a hard time figuring out how Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.’s “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education” fits in with our class discussions so far; we have talked extensively about home and homelands, and it seems an essay about social justice at Jesuit educational institutions is a bit out of place. However, on page 31 he writes:

“[Silicon Valley] is the headquarters of the new economy that reaches around the globe and is transforming the basic fabric of business, work, and communications. Thousands of immigrants arrive from everywhere: entrepreneurs from Europe, high-tech professionals from South Asia who staff the service industries as well as workers from Latin America and Southeast Asia who do the physical labor - thus, a remarkable ethnic, cultural and class diversity.”

This of course ties into our conversation on Tuesday when we talked about how the United States is a land of immigrants, and Luke made an interesting point. He said that oftentimes American citizens associate themselves with their ethnicity and the countries of their ancestors, even though their ancestors may have come to the United States a century ago or perhaps even longer ago than that. America lacks a unifying ethnicity, and I think this makes our country unique and exciting.

But, where then does the American identity come from? While Kolvenbach does not specifically make this claim, reading his essay can lead one to believe that today America’s identity comes from its center in the world’s technological and economic revolutions. The “digital divide” as he calls it is, on the one hand, revolutionizing worldwide communication and commerce and bringing together different people in different countries in ways that our ancestors could never have imagined. Yet, on the other hand, this divide is also deepening class divides as the marginally poor who do not have access to today’s technologies are falling even further behind. Yet, technology also has the capacity to greatly help those in need, a reality which Kolvenbach emphasizes and calls for at the university level. Educators can use technology in their fields to conduct research pertaining to social justice, such as health issues and AIDS, and can then use their research to promote social justice to students. The technology revolution that has come to define the United States can be both dividing and uniting, depending on its application.

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