Will Technology Fix Our Schools?

Peter Greene, a teacher in PA is by far the best and most original thinker and blogger on the crises of education in America today I have ever read.  And I’ve been reading stuff on education for a long time. Even my masters’ thesis was on the track record of what was then called “Compensatory Education” back in 1980-81.

Greene explains why the answer is No, in very common-sense and reasonable explanations of what actually happens in a classroom and the debates and behind-closed-doors negotiations between MegaBuck Tech Corp and Apple and Microsoft for required license upgrades, and plus the machines (which cost around a grand apiece) only are going to be supported for about three years and afterwards would be up to individual teachers to try to keep alive, while the others fall to pieces.
Textbooks — good ones, that is– don’t require batteries, won’t fail if you drop them hard or put on top of a loudspeaker or in the sun. And are seldom stolen for gain, and their pages are always in order unless somebody engages in wild and crazy vandalism.

Please read this column of his and follow him or bookmark or “Hi-Fleegle” him or whatever the new hi tek buzz app is this week.
(btw- this is one of two or THREE such posts just day from him!)

A typical quote so you can see how original Greene is:

“Technology Is More Expensive Than You Think” 

“Remember when we were all excited because instead of paper books, we were going to use electronic versions of texts. Instead of having to buy new copies of High School Handbook of Tedious Grammar every five-to-ten years at a cost of Good God They Want HOW Much For This Dollars, we would have awesome digital copies that would never wear out. It was going to save the district millions.

“But then it turned out that the company was going to make us license the e-copies of the text every three years for You Can’t Be Serious Dollars, and the savings from going to to e-books were going to be somewhere between Modest and Non-existent. And that was before it finally sank in that netbooks or chromebooks or tablets or whatever we were using would only survive a few years before either needing to be replaced or being abandoned by the company that provided them. So actual savings turned out to be negative dollars.”


(Parenthetically – I am not a Luddite. I had opportunities to learn about computers going back to the late 1950s, when an electro -mechanical calculator that took about 60 seconds to chug through a single long division problem – and your fingers better not get caught while it was working it out) to remote Time Share BASIC by WATS line to the mainframe at Dartmouth College. And learned BASIC COBOL FORTRAN Logo Pascal Vanilla Pilot IDL Linux 6500 family Assembly and machine languages, as well as English Latin French Spanish Hebrew and learned a few words in many others. And how many brands and models of word processors, spreadsheets, drawing and painting and image manipulation software, and database software … Not to mention games….

It’s annoying as hell when you take a long long time learning how to do or use something, and just as you begin to get really good at it, people declare that it’s obsolete?

With computers it’s always like that. Now with human languages it’s different — what you learned five or 20 years ago is still useful, even though expressions do change. (It’s no longer ok to call an adult with the phrase “garçon” or “boy” but the grammar still works. It is like riding a bike – you can get that sense of balance. And it’s largely free – you don’t have to pay someone a fee to speak Chinese or Arabic. And if you learned only Classical Arabic, it still can be helpful for street Arabic in any country. (Or so I understand….)

I was about to write, “The thing I like about human languages is that they never become obsolete.” But even that’s not true. The ones we study in school – English, French, Spanish, German, Latin, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, are all ones who have a bright future, yes, and are not likely to disappear any time soon. Even Latin of course lives on in new forms all across Europe, tho nobody speaks the old or even medieval forms in day-to-day conversation. (Pig Latin oesday otnay ountcay.)

But remember all the native tribes, languages and cultures that existed on every single continent, at various levels of technology and social developments, who were wiped out completely, with barely a place name recalling their very existence. Here on the East Coast of the USA, in Washington DC and vicinity, the physical DNA and RNA patterns may linger on (male explorers were not going to turn down a rare opportunity for inter-racial nookie, no matter who of their fellows they were secretly buggering on those multi-month-long expeditions… But the languages of the Paspahegh or Kiskiack Indians are utterly lost by virtue of the Amerindian Geonocide.

We have no idea how they lived or what they thought.

We know very little even about any of the tribes mentioned and fought with or against Julius Caesar in modern day Western Europe. We cannot decipher the language of the Etruscans or even the earliest civilizations of the Indus River (today’s Pakistan)– one of our very earliest settled, irrigated, urban center civilizations. (Mohenjo-Daro) and many small languages today are down to just a tiny handful of speakers, all elderly…

Other languages have been almost obliterated in living memory. Much more recently than the ancient Roman or Chinese or Japanese Empires, entire languages and cultures have been wiped out. When I was a young child in the 1950s, the US government forbade the speaking of native American languages in the reservation schools…

So indeed, genocide is possible, and has happened many times. And our ancestors and our governments are directly guilty of it.

Published in: on August 29, 2015 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/will-technology-fix-our-schools/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: