Larry Cuban in yesterday’s Washington Post:
What technology enthusiasts, however, forget, neglect, stumble over — pick a verb — are the multiple purposes of tax-supported schools in a democracy. They and many others futurists err — my choice of the verb — in equating access to information with becoming educated. Even worse, these very smart people ignore the crucial and historical purposes public schools have served in a democracy.
Tax-supported public schools have been and are social, political, and moral institutions whose job is to help children and youth acquire multiple literacies, enter the labor market well prepared, vote, serve on juries, contribute to their communities, think for themselves, and live full and worthwhile lives.
A century ago, these purposes for public schools were obvious; now they remain in the shadows. Few policymakers, philanthropists, technology futurists have challenged (or are willing to challenge) the swelling embrace of online instruction, including “blended learning,” that promise transforming schools into information factories.
Access to information does not guarantee an education. And Cuban is right that we’re not vocal enough in challenging the current zeal for “personalized” instruction and learning via technology. Old wine, new bottles.
But what I think “futurists” like Seymour Papert (who is quoted at the outset of the article) are suggesting is not the end of the public school as more children gain access to computers and information but the end of the current structures of the public school. I’ve seen enough great schools to know that we can dramatically change the OS with judicious use of technology and at the same time create the good citizens Cuban desires. Why some feel the two are mutually exclusive escapes me.