Response to No Child Left Untableted

C of 13 President’s response to Carlo Rotella’s “No Child Left Untableted,” New York Times, Magazine, September 12, 2013.

Putting a tablet in a student hands creates a life-long tech customer, not better learning.

Tablets in the classroom definitely add something: future tech corporation profits. Maybe if the computer could see the light of understanding in students’ eyes; perhaps if it could sense the moment of realizing the importance of caring for others to improving the human condition. Is humanity being engineered out of education?

In the 1980’s Apple computers showed up in every classroom, including my middle grades classroom. It came complete with Oregon Trail. The IIe’s were okay tools and great bribes. Since those days, schools and teachers have been perceived as worsening failures. Meanwhile, Apple has grown about proportionally to that decline in human-on-human education. Apple’s success today is largely due to the market engineering feat of the 80’s. Perhaps the decline of the teaching profession has been engineered too, but that is for another place.

In over thirty years of teaching and relatively numerous statements of praise and gratitude from students and families, I have observed that my success and others’ has been closely aligned with our abilities to care about our students and earn their trust. Perhaps one day, artificial intelligence will achieve a technological equivalent of those qualities. But why bother, when with a little emotional intelligence, humans can achieve that now?

Unless, of course, there’s a profit to be made in artificially intelligent slaves.