Vital Signs

Computer Cult

Forget Back to Basics, language immersion. New (and newer and newer Math, the seven types of intelligence. Learn by Doing, the Great Books, discovery learning, arts-based education. Core Values, self-esteem, and even phonics. American parents have found a new savior for their children's imperiled education; the computer.

All across the country, parent-teacher associations and ad hoc parent groups are feverishly raising money and/or jawboning education budgets to install banks of computers in the public schools, wangling space away from other school uses to accommodate such installations, systematically hooking up every classroom to at least one computer, and diverting textbook and other monies to purchase software. PTA meetings resound with the clamor for "computer literacy," "21st century information skills," and the like. With a spirit not unlike that of their stoic pioneer ancestors, these parents have accepted what appears to be the inarguable, lowered their heads, and pressed their shoulders resolutely to the new wheel.

Whether this craze for getting schools "on line" will pay off in better educated students is almost never debated. Parents have been instilled with a raw terror of their children being left behind by the economy of technological imperialism—which, after all, is not a futuristic scenario but a palpably brutal ongoing process. Anything promising to lessen...

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