Column: American educational system declines, dependency on technology spreads

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By David Hurtado

Simple solutions are almost never the answer to complex problems.

In February , President Obama announced a tech push in schools across the country to help students compete with their counterparts from nations with more technologically advanced schools. To this end, tech firms such as Verizon and Apple have donated millions in the form of services and devices such as laptops and iPads. When the fall 2014 semester starts, K-12 students in the Kansas City area will each carry an electronic device as their primary tool for learning.

Having spent a good portion of my life in an educational system that cares more about test scores than actual learning, I believe more technology is the very last thing these kids need. To be fair, the intentions of some of the people backing this are in the right place. Our educational rankings would make even Marie Antoinette shed a tear. All the same, blindly shoveling more technology into public schools is not the answer.

According to an article by Businessweek, each individual iPad tablet alone will cost schools $678 per student. This does not account for the devices that will need to be replaced because of theft, damage or misplacement. Apparently, there’s sound logic behind the practice of tossing millions of dollars into a furnace and hoping something good happens. More than likely, the only good emerging from that pile of ashes will be that the young ‘uns get a new gizmo to play with.

Are people really so naive as to believe students will actually use their shiny, new gadgets for the sole purpose of knowledge? I bet my two front teeth they’ll spend far more time using them as entertainment centers than learning devices. Even if multiple layers of encryption are placed on the devices, someone will eventually find a way around for themselves and others. This is human nature; we all want what we can’t have, and we’ll stop at nothing to obtain it.

There’s no denying technology will play an integral role in the future of human civilization. Even so, I can’t help but shake the feeling that the more we come to depend on the sugar teat of technology, the weaker the human race grows. It coddles people into having an infantile like need for brightly-lit screens, without which, they develop a severe case of withdrawal. There will come a day when you’re stranded in a desolate location with nary a phone around. When it does, you will only have yourself to rely on.

I don’t claim to be smarter than anyone else nor am I against technological advancement, but I can recognize when something won’t work. We can play the blame game and point fingers like the talking heads always do, or we can focus our efforts on the issue at hand. For starters, teaching kids how to think instead of what to think should be common practice. Education is about informing students and teaching them to question their peers and the world around them.

That’s only the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. Take kids to museums so they can gain an appreciation for art and history at an early age. Encourage them to read more literature and news so they can develop their own opinions outside of the inane, indoctrinating drivel of the political parties. Show them the importance of understanding how to file taxes instead of the never used Pythagorem Theorem.

Having all the collective knowledge of humanity at your fingertips is great, but it’s a cruel irony when you don’t understand it.

Contact David Hurtado, features editor, at dhurtado@jccc.edu.

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