Thursday, October 31, 2013

Digital Utopia: The Education Reform Racket

Decades ago the longshoreman-turned-philosopher Eric Hoffer asserted, "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket." Nowhere does this observation apply more forcefully than in American public education. From the second half of the 19th century until perhaps the 1950s, reformers such as Horace Mann helped to improve U.S. public education. Alas, decades of progress have come to a standstill. Nevertheless, sensing the public craving for progress, thousands of would-be reformers happily peddle iffy but costly nostrums. Tiny exceptions aside, much of "reforming education" is now a lavishly funded racket.

The poster child for this profligate fantasy is distributing: gratis fancy new computers to millions of indifferent, often intellectually challenged students. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Americans schools in 2013 are expected to spend some $9.7 billion on technological fixes. It does sound alluring -- older Americans surely remember writing term papers on typewriters (or by now antiquated cursive) and trekking to libraries to look things up.

Unfortunately, the personal computer is not a miracle drug and nowhere is the boondoggle more obvious than in Detroit.  (more...)

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