Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Resolving problems by creating even more; what's wrong w/ a snow day?

There are times when I think the technologically-advanced amongst our society ought to be told to “stifle” themselves, what with the way they think a computer device is the solution to everything they could possibly think of.

Is she really learning a thing?
Maybe it’s just the “Archie Bunker” within me, or the realization that the copy I generate now isn’t any more literate than the copy I produced three decades ago when I was banging it out on assorted varieties of battered typewriters

BUT SOMEHOW I am repulsed by the idea of a bill now pending before Gov. Bruce Rauner – one that purports to offer the “solution” to the problem of students missing so much school during the winter months due to inclement weather.

The dreaded snow days that cause school to be closed, and more days having to be tacked on to the end of the academic year at a time when the summer weather can make a hot-and-humid school building a very unpleasant place to have to be.

The bill in question calls for a pilot program to be operated in up to three school districts during the 2017-18 academic year in which teachers would provide class assignments via computer for those days in which the snow is so heavy or the temperatures so cold that kids can’t come to class.

In short, there won’t be any need for school to not be in session. Perhaps a “virtual” classroom is the wave of the future.

THE IDEA BEING that this pilot program would be a one-year experiment that could – if it works out – someday be expanded to the nearly 1,000 school districts located across Illinois.

Personally, I hate the idea, because it pushes us in the direction of thinking that kids are somehow better off parked in front of a computer screen in their own homes rather than having to get off their duffs and interact with real human beings.

Which as far as I’m concerned is the whole purpose of education – it’s not like much of the facts and figures we were taught remain all that relevant. So much of it is now obsolete.

RAUNER: Give that man a veto pen!!!
What we really learned was how to learn, and keep learning and updating our collection of information so that we can get through our lives.

THAT EVEN EXTENDS to the idea of use of computers within the modern-day classroom. We’re teaching kids about technology that won’t matter anymore by the time they’re adults. It’s not the computer they should be learning – it’s the things they do with a computer that matter.

I’m also realistic enough to know that trying to teach class by computer is not the least bit realistic – in part because there are parts of Illinois where Internet access is weak even if one has the money to spare.

In other situations, there are people for whom paying for a decent Internet connection at home means adding to the utility bills that already are too high. And I can already hear the conservative ideologue types complain about the idea of having to provide an Internet connection to those people who can’t afford it.

This is an idea concocted by someone who thinks it’s the computer itself that matters most in life. An idea I find absolutely abhorrent – even though I own a laptop computer and am fortunate enough to have an Internet connection at home and several other places nearby for those occasions when my own connection dies out due to technological glitches.

ALTHOUGH I’M SURE there are those who disagree. I have been in classrooms as a reporter-type person where I see too many kids think of their smart-boards (kind of like a chalk-board, only hooked up to the computer so the teacher can post things from the Internet on it) as being some sort of super-cool video game.

I doubt they learned a thing.  Somehow, I’m skeptical they would learn anything lasting on a cold-and-snowy day in January when they weren’t able to go to school. Somehow, I suspect the television set would get paid more attention than the laptop.

Maybe the solution is to bring back a 21st Century take of Miss Frances, the 1950’s television host who gave us “Ding Ding School” – “the nursery school of the air.”
What would a 21st Century Miss Frances be like?
Then again, maybe that’s where this latest screwy idea came from. Let’s only hope that Rauner winds up showing some sense and vetoing this particular bill.


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