Award-winning author and clinical psychologist Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair spent two days on The Holy Hill following Spring Break, engaging in conversations with the faculty and student leaders about the effects of technology on young minds and on community before speaking to the entire School community on March 19.
Steiner-Adair’s visit is the third guest for the school year invited to help spur discussion and conversation about healthy relationship-building within a boarding school community, noted Assistant Head for Student Life Doug Dickson.
“Dr. Steiner-Adair addressed this important concept from the perspective of how the pervasive use of technology, and the smartphone in particular, may be impacting our ability as human beings to form lasting and meaningful relationships with each other,” he said.
On Monday, Steiner-Adair met exclusively with the faculty for a presentation and discussion on on research and data about the impact — both positive and negative — of the increasing use of and dependence on technology by teenagers and young adults. She expressed concern that technology has made it increasingly difficult for today’s students to find true sanctuary, even within the private confines of their own dorm room, because the outside world is constantly buzzing and pinging their phones. More important, however, was the changing notion of a school community’s duty to students.
“It is not our job as educators to prepare them for a vocation in eight to 10 years, because we don’t know what those jobs will be. We can’t prepare them for a future of jobs we can’t predict,” she said. “The most important job is to prepare them to move into an age of increasing artificial intelligence with the tools of humanity, such as compassionate decision-making, support and guidance as they develop ethics and values and empathy.”
South Wallace ‘20, a junior from Charleston, S.C., said there were important takeaways for the students. “Dr. Steiner-Adair's presentation held up a mirror to our entire community about social injustice here that happens because of some twisted elements of internet culture. No matter what you thought of the presentation, what we surely can take from today is using it to start a conversation about mental health, cell phone usage, and how to make it easier to put EHS in a positive light.”
Dr. Steiner-Adair focused her meetings with faculty and administrators on how to begin now to rethink educational efforts and policies around technology over the next several years, noted Dean of Residential Life and Advising Lucy Goldstein.
“Dr. Steiner-Adair is a big proponent of collaborating with students on solutions that make sense rather than handing down rules from the top,” Goldstein said. “We will let her ideas and research guide us as we experiment with ways to connect in real life at least as much as we connect online.”