Thursday, July 17, 2003

Michael Lopez has a bad feeling about this.

Specifically, he's worried about the trend these days to make sure that our schools are full of whiz-bang technology, such as giving every kid a laptop.

Now, I'm worried about this, myself. I like to wander through Circuit City or Best Buy every now and then, and I see the pricetags on laptops. I know that at my current rate of earning, it will be 2138 before I can own one. The USS Enterprise, under the command of Christopher Pike, will be drawing near its fateful mission to Talos IV before I own a laptop. But we can give one of these things to every kid? Well, how about giving a laptop to every aspiring writer, while we're at it?

And as much as I love computers, I want to teach kids to love actual, physical books first. And judging by how some kids I went to school with treated their books, I shudder to think of how much schools will have to spend to repair and replace broken/stolen laptops. But at least kids will have a new set of excuses for not getting their homework done:

"My ISP had server problems, so I couldn't do the research."

"My dog ate my power cord."

"How was I supposed to know that Windows would crash the night before the paper was due?"

Michael also discusses a disturbing meme, when he cites a twelve-year-old girl singing the praises of her free laptop because now she'll have job skills for "the real world" -- setting aside that she won't be in "the real world" for another six to ten years, of course. I've long been bothered by the idea of education-as-job-training, and it really got annoying in college, when the refrain was constantly ringing throughout the lecture halls and classrooms: "Why do I gotta know this? I'm majoring in Chemistry! I'm not gonna have any use for the English Novel from 1750-1900!"

That's part of what's behind the "Here comes the real world" stuff that high school students always hear. The other part is the even-more nauseating platitude that was constantly shoveled my way:

"These are the best years of your life!!"

Oh, really? In all seriousness, I wanted nothing more than to hit everyone who ever told me this right between the eyes. And that didn't just include teachers, but other students as well. (Funny how the students saying this were always the Class President, Head Cheerleader, Valedictorian Starting Quarterback types. You never heard this crap from the lips of the struggling C-student from the broken home. Nosiree, Bob.) My response was always thus: "So, given the average life expectancy of an American citizen these days, upon graduation from this Place of Magical Wonder I have something like sixty years of crap to look forward to? Are you really telling me that barely one-fourth of the way through my life, the best part is already over and it's just wandering through the Doldrums from here on out? Am I to believe that further education, a career, marriage, raising children, and everything else to come isn't as good as hanging out in high school?"

Or, more bluntly: if, when you're in your mid-70s and winding down your life, you can honestly say that your best years were over by the time you were eighteen, I'd suspect that at some point along the way you made some questionable choices.

(I seem to be in a bad mood today. Hmmmmm.)

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