"Sensitiveness to immediately exciting sensorial stimuli characterizes the attention of childhood and youth. In mature age we have generally selected those stimuli which are connected with one or more so-called permanent interests, and our attention has grown irresponsive to the rest. But childhood is characterized by great active energy, and has few organized interests by which to meet new impressions and decide whether they are worthy of notice or not, and the consequence is the extreme motility of the attention with which we are familiar in children, and which makes their first lessons such rough affairs. Any strong sensation whatever produces accommodation of the organs which perceive it, and absolute oblivion, for the time being, of the task in hand. This reflex and passive character of the attention which, as a French writer says, makes the child seem to belong less to himself than to every object which happens to catch his notice, is the first thing which the teacher must overcome. It is never overcome in some people, whose work, to the end of life, gets done in the interstices of their mind-wandering."
Have the marketers, technology having wildly increased their capacity to create immediately exciting sensorial stimuli, created a culture in which we all belong less to ourselves than the objects which happen to catch our notice?
Is this regression to the child-mind the source of the temper-tantrums that characterize the style of contemporary politics--unable to focus our attention long enough to maturely address problems, we lose ourselves in anger (the most intensely sensorial of emotions)?
If these are real problems, then should we be careful not to let intense sensorial stimuli into our classrooms in order to combat these cultural forces? Does the school have anywhere near enough power to combat the war on attention being waged by branding or marketing?
Or, am I being an old fogey: should we see this quickness with which our attention shifts as the appearance of simply another form of intelligence, not its dissolution?
(By the way, isn't this another argument for more attention being paid to physical education in schools: sports being a way to channel the intensity of sensorial perception into organized social life.)