My family and issues of adoption are the twin passions of my life. But coming in at a close second is education, and, specifically, the way children learn. That’s why I was so thrilled to read A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute, in the New York Times on Sunday, October 23, 2011. The article discusses the number of Silicon Valley computer executives who are sending their own children to non-computer-driven schools such as Waldorf, to learn skills the old-fashioned way.
The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.
But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.
Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.
My daughter, Olivia, calls me a “dinosaur,” because I refuse to buy either of my children an electronic hand-held game or i-anything. My own ancient cell phone is viewed as a museum piece. Nevertheless, I stand by my belief that, for children, a book is better than a screen, and a crayon preferable to a mouse.
Today, a blog titled “Tech Execs Send Kids to Anti-Computer School” by Amy Graff appeared in “The Mommy Files” on SFGate.com, the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle. Graff asks:
Is there irony in all of this? These tech execs don’t want their kids on computers yet they’re working for companies that are encouraging our children and schools to adopt technology? The Silicon Valley giants have long sold schools on the future generation of technology, and now many schools feel that a computer lab is necessary, even if they can hardly afford to pay for books.
And here I will add, “Books? Do schools still use books?” My children attend our local public school and never once has either brought home a textbook. Photocopied pages from a math workbook that exists somewhere, perhaps on a teacher’s desk, and books to satisfy a computerized “reading goal.” But textbooks? None that I’ve seen.
In a world where so many people have so little, ranting against computers in school sounds ungrateful, I realize. But I hate to think that “public school kids” like mine aren’t given the same opportunity to learn as the kids of execs at Apple and Google—with real pencils, real paper, and real textbooks.