Generation Y is now filling the core of the American work force.
With so many young people jockying for jobs, competition is fierce. What we’re seeing locally is a shift in high school education toward technology instruction.
I suspect that, like me, most readers grew up using chalkboards in the classroom. Chalk was a tool that cost 25 cents. Now schools are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in teaching tech.
For example, Amherst educators just spent $250,000 this spring installing huge wireless network upgrades. The plan is to one day have every student using a digital device to participate in classroom lessons. The Lorain County JVS already uses a very similar strategy.
Oberlin tried several years ago now to get tax funding that would have given every student a laptop and make all curriculum 100 percent digital. The levy failed (one of the only Oberlin ballot pushes in recent memory to do so).
The new McCormick Middle School under construction in Wellington is also is also expected to incorporate high-tech networking into its design.
There’s been a huge push in the last few years toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields because those are the economic growth sectors of the future.
But it begs the question: How much cash should taxpayers put forward for tech education?
The answer is as much as possible, but with qualifications.
On the one hand, the United States is slipping behind STEM-savvy international competitors and it’s showing. We won’t be the economic superpower for long if we keep allowing Japan, South Korea, Russia, Canada, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian nations to outpace us.
On the other, we don’t want to waste good cash on weak ideas. There are a lot of questions about the best way to invest in tech education. The problem is that the trends move a lot faster than public policy.
For instance, a lot of schools want to eventually have a one-to-one model where every child uses a smartphone or tablet to interact with lessons. But what if tablets are just a fad? That’s what Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly hinted at recently with comments that the tablet market has “crashed.”
Our other worry is that there will be such an emphasis on tech that reading, writing, and arithmetic don’t get their due. Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee has been put into place to make sure literacy is a top priority, but we’ve seen communications skills gradually slip over the last decade.
Though some of our local students are very strong in language arts, many seem to think cell phone and IM jargon is good enough. Not to throw them under the bus (pun intended), but we even see sloppy e-mails coming from school employees.
The bottom line is that tech is good. Computers are awesome. Digital is the pathway to the future. But what good is that future if the fundamentals aren’t there to support it? To throw in a sports metaphor, all the special teams plays in the world won’t do our Comets, Phoenix, and Dukes any good if they don’t know how to run regular routes.
Tech should be in our schools and their budgets shouldn’t skimp on it. We just need to be very careful that in our fervor we don’t budget less time and attention to foundational skills.