A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Program

During my travels and some of the unusual positions I’ve held in my professional life, I’ve gotten to spend a few years working inside of the public school system. One of the phrases I’ve heard repeated many times by educational professionals to their students is that “education is the one thing that no one can take away from you.” The goal, of course, is to assist students in recognizing the value of the education that they are receiving, which is sometimes a considerable challenge, especially in some areas of our country.

There have been many studies of late that reveal that the United States is not doing so well in our educational pursuits…that is, our students perform below students in several other countries in critical areas. Now, let me push aside for a moment the interwoven issues of the unreliability of objective test scores, and the fact that our press for education seems to rely solely on math and science and not on literature or the arts. Permit me to just focus on the fact that, legislative titles notwithstanding, we are, in fact, leaving our children behind.

I’ve seen technology used to great effect in the realm of education, and I’m a huge fan of using whatever means are available to assist students in learning and educators in doing their jobs. Still, with the education of our children and their futures at stake (an especially important consideration for me in my new adventure as a father), I think that placing education dominantly in the hands of technology is a huge mistake.

And letting the students simply see to that education themselves? That sounds like a train wreck.

Yet, apparently that idea seems to be all the rage at this year’s TED conference.

Permit to avoid a long and verbose diatribe about how many ways I see this going wrong, and simply reinforce a lesson that America seems intent upon avoiding, but that I witness to be undeniably true over and over again, both professionally and as a father: We are the adults, and our children are just that: our children. Taking care of them…an endeavor of which their education is only one small but critical component…is our responsibility. Let us use all of the tools at our disposal, but let us make certain that we do it instead of letting our tools attempt to do it for us, and make certain that our children aren’t attempting to do something themselves that they aren’t capable of, nor prepared, to do.


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