SOUTH PORTLAND – Technology is a fetish for us middle-aged folks. We are wowed and awed by it, certain that it’s the wave of the future. When I first met computers, I had to learn computer languages to use them, but now look what they can do.

Unfortunately, we middle-aged folks run the schools today. And we’re not doing a service to our kids, or our society, by continuing to be in awe of technology. We need to remember the four R’s.

Computers are increasingly easy to use. One major effect of giving laptops to my daughter and her friends was to hook them on Facebook, Skype and iTunes. Not all their teachers were inclined to switch teaching methods from personally interactive to technologically interactive, so the effect of laptops on classwork was not always positive. While there are great academic benefits from using the Internet and software, there is also a downside to ubiquitous dependency on computers.

In a Maine Voices column 10 years ago about former Gov. Angus King’s laptop giveway program, I raised several questions that remain unanswered: What is the appropriate age for kids to start spending time on computers? How much money and educational time should computers take away from other subjects and activities?

One concern I raised then is even more pertinent now: Computers are so fast that using them is more empirical than logical — just the opposite of what kids need to learn, especially in fifth, sixth and seventh grades. In addition, today’s software is so effective that it’s easy to figure out without instruction how to create a website, write a blog or use graphics.

An overemphasis on computers can deprive kids of the basics. When I owned a business, I recall one short-tenure employee who was a whiz at computers, but off the computer, he had no attention span for strategy meetings, careful writing, thoughtful phone calls or physical organization.

My best employees were intelligent and could speak and write clearly. Despite limited computer skills, they quickly learned enough on the job to perform well, often using macros to handle complicated computer routines without having to know the technology. Today, IT departments and easily obtainable software provide this kind of service.

A bit of intelligence and creativity are what’s needed to figure out computers these days. Our schools should not be devoting excessive money and time to teaching technology that our kids easily figure out for themselves, even though it’s important to pay some attention to it, as with library science.

Building intelligence, creativity and communication skills — that’s the new wave of the future, and we middle-aged folks who are wowed by computers, and run the schools, need to pay attention.

The path to success is not technology, but innovative content. That’s the only way to distinguish ourselves in a world that is “flat,” as Thomas Friedman put it — a world so well-connected via the Internet that anything doable on a computer can be done for us in Australia or India as easily as in the next cubicle.

This is where the fourth R comes in: the arts. Music and the arts are languages for learning how to explore ideas and develop innovative content.

They also teach essential communication and people skills through interpersonal coordination, rhythm and timing. E-mailed smiley faces are just not going to cut it.

Forget the 100-year-old fantasies about starving artists and self-expression. There are 2 million full-time artists in America, exceeding the number of doctors or lawyers, and they earn more than the median American income.

As essential as lawyers and doctors are, some people go a lifetime without a lawyer; many go years without a doctor.

But no one can go five minutes without seeing, hearing or using something that was conceived, designed, performed, written or packaged by artists. And there are countless businesspeople, scientists and politicians who, having been trained in the arts, know how to roll with the punches and innovate for success.

Do we have to wait for the middle-aged fuddy-duddies to get out of the way before our schools realize the urgency of fully embracing all four R’s and, by developing intelligence and creativity, lift our country out of the doldrums?

Computers are increasingly commonplace tools. The essentials are reading, writing, arithmetic and the arts. We need all four for a healthy future.