My high school English teacher, Mrs. Picquet, taught me how to think.
Not that I’d never thought about anything before, but she really taught me how to do it well – how to make connections among different ideas, how to question the texts and issues presented to me, how to understand rather than memorize. She also encouraged me to write, to think on paper in poetry and prose, to create new works instead of only reading those of others. She believed in me, and her confidence made me believe in myself. Even though she’d been teaching English for probably twenty years or more and had taught hundreds of students, she still found ways to make me feel unique and valuable.
I saw her for the last time four years ago, just before my high school graduation. Now I am preparing to graduate again and begin my new job as a technical writer for an airline. I am ashamed to say that at twenty-two years old, with only a bachelor’s degree, I will be making as much or more money than Mrs. Picquet at an easier, less stressful, and more prestigious job. In another four or five years, I might be outearning my high school principal, another educator whom I greatly respect.
Why? Because of my inherent goodness? My dashing good looks and charming personality? Unfortunately, no. Unlike public schools, which sometimes struggle to secure funding even for basic facilities, my airline turns a profit year after year, enabling it to pay good salaries even to its entry-level computing professionals. Although a writing major, I also have a working knowledge of computer programming, and will write instructions for my company’s internal software.
My fate illustrates the American culture’s devotion to what Neil Postman, chairman of the Department of Culture and Communications at New York University, calls the “god of Technology” in his essay “Virtual Students, Digital Classroom” (140). The explosive growth of computer technology and the Internet over the past decade has deluded many Americans into believing that technology is the answer to most if not all of our problems. It is the Information Age, they say, and once we have enough information at our disposal, we’ll be able to make the world a better place. People who know how to use – or better yet, create – information technology are the priests of this new religion. These geek-priests faithfully bring the god of Technology to the people who wait quietly to receive their silicon wafers.
This belief in the near-omnipotence of technology has carried over into the sphere of education. Indeed, Postman claims that “nowhere do you find more enthusiasm for the god of Technology than among educators” (140). In his 2000 presidential campaign, then-Vice President Al Gore offered a rosy vision of classrooms where every child, regardless of socioeconomic status, was connected to the Internet, as if Internet access were the one barrier between our children and Enlightenment. Schools are racing to install new computer labs for their students and upgrade old ones, put computers in every classroom, and train their teachers to use them. Family PC Magazine publishes a list of the 100 “most wired” high schools in America, and many schools on the list advertise their achievement like a car company might advertise its latest victory as Motor Trend Car of the Year.
Is it wrong to admire and harness the power of computers? Are computers inherently evil? Should they be kept out of the classroom? Not at all. But we need to look realistically at their limitations and consider what we are sacrificing to worship them. Despite their value to both education and business, people can still do many things that computers cannot, and we cannot allow them “to reduce the function of teachers to that of ‘coaches’ in the uses of machines” (Postman 146).
Computers can check a paper’s spelling and grammar, but they cannot teach someone style or help clarify an idea. They can give a grade, but cannot pat someone on the back. They...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document