Saturday , April 19 2014
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THE COMPUTER AGE

By Monte Lazarus

Bengoshi@comcast.net

It’s easy to understand why education costs so much. Think about it. In most of the last century there were no readily available computers. Teachers knew the basic stuff about reading, writing and arithmetic. As kids, many of us learned – maybe secretly – to count on our fingers. The arithmetically challenged also used their toes. In those days long division was the equivalent of quantum physics today. All that disappeared with calculators and computers. That darned calculator changed arithmetic. Fingers are now employed for the useless job of punching letters and numbers on machines. Today’s clerks are usually unable to make change for a dollar bill without a machine to figure it out. If electricity should fail, all commerce will stop.

It’s not confined to numbers. Computers do to language what calculators did to simple numbers. Kids are no longer being taught how to write with pens and pencils: never mind the quill pen and inkwell that I used. Alas, the joy of dunking a girl’s pigtails in that inkwell is long gone. Today’s students “write” on computers. Come to think of it, that’s what I’m doing right now as I succumbed to the lure of the machine. It gets worse. With the advent of the “smart phone” we’re getting illiterate. Language, as we once knew it, is being replaced by texting; by “lol,” “omg,” “lqtm” and the like. Pretty soon we’ll be talking in monosyllables except, of course, for the omnipresent “like,” “you know” and “awesome.”

All of this comes at a tremendous cost. Schools must have computers, computer labs and all the advanced technology that goes with it. Teachers probably need to have advanced degrees in computer science simply to conduct classes. There’s an enormous cascading cost for all this stuff. In addition to the hardware and software the energy costs are horrific.

My solution is easy. Go back to fingers and toes. Scrap all the machines. They’re taking over our society. Call me a Luddite: I’ve been called worse! I say: Sell pens, pencils and lots of ink. Trash those iPads, Kindles, Nooks and assorted devices luring us away from the feel of paper. Get people to read real books and, heaven help us, newspapers and news magazines. We’d save all of that money we now sink into machinery and their associated expenses.

If we follow my inspired plan what would happen to our educational system compared to the rest of the world? Who cares? In education we rank only about 14th now, behind Finland, New Zealand and a bunch of others. What difference would it make if we slip a few more notches? Furthermore, if we get away from all this computer stuff my anxieties will disappear. Right now I can’t stand watching tiny fingers of five year olds whizzing across keyboards; I can’t deal with kids talking about bits, bytes and apps. My self-esteem, so cherished by shrinks, has completely disappeared as I watch tiny tykes playing video games and solving quadratic equations. Even worse, I’m dreading buying computers for great grandchildren.

Just do what I suggest. Dump the machines. But, please be moderate and don’t do all of this too fast. Wait a few more years. I’m dreaming of having one of the next generation iPads that will do everything, including writing for me: and I confess that at home we’re even thinking about that dreaded “smart phone!”


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