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Writing for Internet Underground

Internet Underground

Building a Bridge:
How About Fixing the Plumbing?
by David Spark
Internet Underground, January, 1997

As part of his winning campaign platform, our newly reelected President plans to connect all schools to the Internet by the year 2000. Yay! Three cheers for Bill!

Wait a moment. Are we ready? I don’t mean are we technologically ready. But aren’t we required to achieve Maslow’s hierarchy of public school needs first? Shouldn’t we be concerned with issues like plumbing, less crowded classrooms, better teacher pay, and more schools? Don’t be silly, of course not. Unlike us ignorant voters, our President realizes that the Internet has the power to heal the many ills of our current public educational system. Think of it as "trickle down technology." For example, by surfing the web, students can discover the underpinning subjects that dominate school bureaucracy-asbestos, school repair, and the disparity of wages. How else do you expect them to learn-from a teacher, a book? Come on. And besides "every school on the Internet by the year 2000" makes a better sound bite than "every school gets textbooks published after the year 1950."

Our President, the man who rarely answers his own email, understands that the Internet in the classroom "would lead to an explosion in learning." That explains why teachers are so underpaid. Their students are only "bursting at the seams" when they should be "exploding."

It’s time we get the computers out of the computer lab and into the classroom. We need more distractions for our teachers. They’ve had it easy for long enough. And hey, why stop with computers? Let’s put more random stuff in the classroom. Give those teachers a real challenge. Take those basketballs out of the gymnasium, the card catalog out of the library, and the mystery meat out of the cafeteria.

Computers in the classroom sounds great, but can we pay for it? We all know school finances are bad. No need to bore you with an array of endless statistics about the depressed state of education. Mostly because I don’t know any. But that’s never stopped anybody from lying, now has it?

Time to play "Fill in the Bad School Statistics":

    • ___% of our schools are in dire need of improved plumbing.
    • Teachers’ pay is 1/___th of supermodel Claudia Schiffer’s.
    • And only 1 in ____ classrooms have a globe so that 1 in ____ students can incorrectly identify the location of the United States.

As you can plainly see, any way you slice it up, it comes up peanuts. Though not to worry, our President’s got one of those new financial calculators that can determine how a school in Detroit that’s rationing toilet paper can afford a T1 line.

The President has already budgeted $2.3 billion a year to link schools and libraries to the Internet. Critics note that "connecting" schools is only one-fifth the cost. There are other uncounted expenses like computers, software, training, upgrading, and maintenance. Again, not a problem, because our President has come up with an ingenious solution: get the computer and telecommunications industries to pay for everything. What a great idea. Why should we stop there? Let’s ask other companies to subsidize public school spending. We can start by demanding that mean old Mr. Whipple cough up a few rolls of Charmin for the kids in Detroit.

Though unlike other school courses, computer education can’t depend on 50 year old textbooks. Teachers have to rely on learning the Internet at weekend EST seminars(Repeat after me, "I feel good about myself using the web. I don’t have to feel stupid in front of my students."). Switch over to this method of training and fourth graders will soon be learning Tony Robbins’ "Awake the Giant Within You."

Computer knowledge is important for the working world. True, but when did job applicability become a criteria for K-12 education? Last year, Bill Clinton said, "Preparing our children for a lifetime of computer use is now just as essential as teaching them to read and write." Really? I find that odd. I studied computers in grade school, yet I still can’t find a single company that’s looking to hire someone with TRS-80 experience.

It’s admirable that our President wants the nation’s children to be computer and Internet knowledgeable. But to keep up with quickly evolving technology, schools will be forced to upgrade their $3,000 computers every three years. I’d advise you not to worry. I’m sure our President will figure out some way to absorb the costs even when most states are having difficulty updating $20 textbooks every 30 years.

1997, David Spark

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