"WHAT WILL AMERICAN EDUCATION LOOK LIKE IN THE NEXT CENTURY?" asks author
Edward Miller. "For one thing, you can forget about the 'Three R's,'
student-teacher interaction, and make way for 'Multi-Tasking',
'Materialistics,' and 'Mind Management.' " where computers will create the
learning environment, sans the teacher.
"Unleashing the Killer Application: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance
was the subject of a recent meeting of school text publishers who are
looking at a current $640 billion-a-year market, and wondering what is in
store for books in 2000 and beyond."
It is not only the publishers who are worried about where technology is
taking us, but thoughtful parents and teachers who are caught in a dilemma
of what will comprise future learning modes. Will they be real or virtual?
Many parents "fear that their children won't get into the best schools or
classrooms," states Mr. Miller. "A recent survey indicates that many
Americans believe that computer training has out-classed the study of
history, literature, foreign languages, science, the arts, and even physical
education. In their place, business and industry looks forward to employees
who are able to do many things at once. Productivity suffers when employees
are undone by information overload or the demands of multi-media, hypertext,
and inter-active office."
Employers are more interested in processing their accounts than they are in
developing thinking individuals. Profits are their motivation, not
education. This corporate Orwellian approach to education must be seriously
When learning - anything - children tend to concentrate on one task or
object at a time. That is how they learn to appreciate nature, science, and
the arts. "A butterfly in the hand" is worth more than any
computer-generated imagery, as neurologist Frank Wilson states in the
preface to his latest book: The Hand "How its use shapes the brain,
language, and human culture," no manipulation of a keyboard can match.
"Children glued to a computer terminal are not outdoors," neither are they
in direct contact with their immediate environment. They are not learning to
read, write, and solve mathematical problems, sing, dance, act, or how to
play a musical instrument. They have, instead, become passive slaves to the
television and computer screen - thereby avoiding the process of becoming
effective and productive members of their communities.
If we - as parents and teachers - allow business to have its way with
general public school instruction, the writing is on the wall where the
tangible field trip - that alert all the senses - will eventually be
replaced by virtual reality field trips on CD's. Instead of hands-on arts
and science experiments children will become passive observers of life.
There will be no need of the classroom teacher because computer programs
will become surrogate teachers with the ability to score tests, spew out
computer-generated lesson plans, student guides, and report cards - all
efficient, cost-effective and depersonalized.
"Teachers are often seen as the stumbling block in efforts to digitize
education" states Miller. In many instances, the classroom teacher has a
better grip on how children learn than many educational psychologists - who
along with their business cohorts - have painted a rosy and subjective
picture of how computer literacy can advance the learning process.
>From daily experience, teachers are in constant touch with a child's actions
and emotions, ready to step in with a personal observation, a soothing
touch, or a voice of reassurance; something a computer is incapable of
Unfortunately these teachers rarely speak up at a faculty or PTA meeting in
fear of sounding old fashion. They are feeling the enormous weight and
expense of wiring up their schools; monies deliberately taken away from
essential classroom realia, materials and supplies, and replacing books in
the school library with computer stations.
In the rush toward the information super highway, we tend to forget how
people learn to develop a culture. A machine can never replace the
awareness, flexibility, sensitivity, and originality of the human spirit.
Neither can it replace the human inter-action of a teacher reading or
discussing a story with his or her students; or reacting to the spark in a
As with the introduction of the Underwood typewriter in the late 1800's, let
us hope that electronic computing will eventually settle down to become
another tool - not the be-all many of its proponents claim - but a valuable
information and distribution source for the next century.