Digital Bootstraps for Analog Problems - Page 2
This isn’t a partisan issue, it’s a greed issue. Many of these well-meaning “edupreneurs” are Democrats who are reliably liberal on stopping climate change, or banning genetically modified foods. But when it comes to the nation’s schools and cherishing the fact that every public school serves every child who comes to the door as they are, conveying important ideas about citizenship, diversity, democracy, and a common good to the nation’s children, “edupreneurs” miss the rainforest for the money tree. Our open, publicly-funded public school system, deeply woven into the fabric of our open, freedom- and innovation-loving society, is the gem in the crown of America that people from around the world for decades have tried to replicate. Certainly it’s our bricks-and-mortar universities, and not mediocre for-profit online colleges, that are still the envy of the world. Close the door of equal opportunity to children, especially poor children, and we turn our backs on our legacy as the land of opportunity.
Is the answer to reject technology, to do as 19th century Luddites did and smash laptops, the equivalent of mechanized looms, in order to save schools? Emphatically no, and here’s where I think many miss an important point about Marks’ misguided piece. The internet provides the same frictionless means to disintermediate middle men as it provides opportunities to insert middle men. And today’s education middle men are testing companies, textbook publishers, online learning companies, teacher certification companies, and standardized test prep companies, sometimes all rolled into the same conglomerate — taking a giant, profitable chunk from states and school districts even as money that goes to classrooms where kids are gets cut.
So here’s what I’d like to see: flip this state of affairs. Disintermediate high-tech middlemen selling silicon snake oil. State departments of education could start acting in the public interest and creating FREE and OPEN SOURCE websites where best practices in teaching, outstanding examples of curriculum, test prep materials, tests themselves, teacher certification, syllabi and other resources are made available to teachers and any student who wants to improve herself. With the millions saved from not buying an international conglomerate’s tests, curriculum, online school materials, test prep, or online teacher certification, there’d be plenty of money for small, intimate classrooms, plentiful well-trained and well-paid teachers, and every child who needs wrap-around services would have them. With the money saved from eliminating the middle man, we’d have plenty to invest in after-school enrichment, high-quality daycare, remedial help, special ed shadows, children’s dental or medical care, fully-funded music/art/sports programs, nutritious real vegetables (not pizza-like vegetables) and gifted and talented education.Continued on the next page