Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Problem with Public Schools...TOO MUCH technology?

A raft of new responsibilities fall to schools when the institution of the family steps aside in this kind of way. Every school has its fair share of the stories like the one the New York Times recounted in a recent piece on cyberbullying. When the parents of a girl found lewd text messages from another student on her phone, her parents asked the school principal to investigate and address the case, even though the offending activities were undertaken outside of school time and off school grounds. It seems the offended father felt uncomfortable approaching the other father because he knew him socially. Time was, this would be an ideal opportunity for the two fathers to ‘get to the bottom’ of the situation. Now, the school is beseeched to help, and at great risk. Imagine what happens if the school finds differently from what the offended parent expects or hopes.

Speaking of technology, the television is the oldest, but not the most insidious, gadget to corrode the family. As more and more gadgets offer private and individual entertainments and distractions, students spend more and more time in an electronic world of their own making--and with less and less parental oversight, a world much more pleasing than doing school work. Every teacher has had plenty of students report, as if it was a great and good thing (and why wouldn’t they, nobody or nothing tells them it’s not) that they have their own TV, often with a game unit and their own computer in their bedroom. Add the ever-present cell phone, and it’s not hard to see how the practice of reading or math or any other school activity loses the competition for a youngster’s attention.

Don’t miss, by the way, the irony of schools giving students family-corroding laptops that contribute to this electronic distraction and make the educational process more complicated. But what else could schools do? In a society infatuated with technology, and convinced that technological solutions will always be good and helpful, schools have to cover themselves by getting more of the electronic salvation supposedly available in the latest device. More computers shows the school’s commitment to doing everything possible to educate Johnny and his peers. (Bill Gates says so.) Foregoing computers is construed as derelict--a technological stone left unturned. You don’t have to strain to hear the questions that would arise. “Why isn’t the school getting more computers?” To say, “Because they’re not good for education” would simply sound non-sensical in a culture so enthralled by the latest gadgets, devices and programs.

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