Plus Ça Change . . .
I read with considerable amusement your editor's note claiming that the latest rounds of technology are going to change human beings, and that the upcoming generation will "amaze us" (October 2005). This kind of nonsense has been claimed since time immemorial. Previously, it was claimed or hoped that the printing press, universal literacy, radio, television, the computer ad nausea would transform us human beings in ways that would "amaze us."
But what is the evidence? Do human beings behave with more love, compassion, humanity, kindness, decency, etc., than before? Are we better, more moral or ethical people than our ancestors? Not if we honestly evaluate ourselves.
Please tell us which of our new gizmos will make us more loving, caring, and decent human beings who will treasure, respect, honor, and cherish our humanity. So we will change, and everything will remain the same. Thus it has been throughout recorded human history.
Josh McHugh writes that today's students learn better through technology ("Synching up with the iKid: Connecting to the Twenty-First-Century Student," October 2005). I could not agree more. This is evidenced by the proliferation of online learning programs. These kids' need for shifting input is even greater than that of what we used to call the MTV generation.
I taught high school and college for many years and, due to budgetary constraints, was unable to incorporate technology into my classroom the way I would have liked. Now I work for a company that develops and distributes an online reading-improvement program to schools. It's based on the same guided reader I used when I learned to read but has been updated for twenty-first-century technology and students. The kids love it, and we get better results with this than I did getting high school sophomores to read Shakespeare the old-fashioned way.
I found the article "Time Out: Rethinking the Time America Spends Educating" (September 2005), by Milt Goldberg and Christopher T. Cross, very timely. Every student, myself included, needs varying times for acquiring and assimilating different subjects. This is due to many things, including initial interest, previous background in the subject, complexity, and so forth.
However, after the authors discuss the need for more flexibility in scheduling time for students to learn, they imply kids always need more time, not less. Although this is probably largely true, the danger of boring those who get it already also exists. I'm not just talking about exceptional kids who get new stuff quickly and can be turned off by the tedium of making sure everyone is on the same page. This can be true of any child who has already studied the subject.
The solution, then, is not just more time. Flexibility of time is the important lesson. Why not also reward kids with less school time when warranted?
The Rockwell Group, an architectural firm, was misidentified in "Way Beyond Fuddy-Duddy: New Libraries Bring Out the Best in Students" (October 2005), and a reference to the U.S. Department of Education should have been to New York City's Department of Education.