Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gears - Middle School - By Jeffrey J. Thivierge

You know what really grinds my gears…?

Middle school.

I know what you’re saying to yourself…. Isn’t this guy on the wrong side of 35 years of age?  What could possibly irritate him about middle school?

Let me break it down for you.

First, let me preface this by saying that this is the first year of school that my daughter has lived with me, so although she’s a teenager, I still feel like a “new” dad, complete with the “new-dad” smell.

My daughter is enrolled in Westbrook Middle School, where every 7th and 8th grade student will be issued a brand new MacBook Air for educational purposes.  If their parents attended the information session and sign off, their child can even bring said computer home with them for “educational” purposes.  (We all know that no child would ever get on Facebook or any other non-educational website with this purely educational tool.)

During the open house to discuss this laptop program, we were told that because there were so many 8th graders, not every student would get a social studies textbook.  I know that property taxes vary from city/town to city/town, but in Westbrook, they are pretty ridiculous.  I pay an extraordinary amount in property taxes only to find out that every child in the 7th and 8th grade gets a new MacBook Air, but not a social studies textbook to take home every night.  (My wife looked at me at that point to ensure that my head was not exploding and blood was not shooting out of my eyes.)

A few nights ago, my daughter had a science worksheet to complete for homework.  It was relatively simple and would require her to look back into her binder of handouts and notes to fill in the blanks of this sheet.  Apparently, that’s waaaaay too much work for today’s teens.  She was getting frustrated flipping back and forth, looking for the answers, so she did what any kid would do…She asked the magical Google machine. Google is almost always right and cuts the research time from three minutes of reading through the book for the answer to .017 seconds, depending on the speed of your Wi-Fi.  Meanwhile, while I was on number three of her sheet, looking through her book to ensure the answers from the Interwebz were correct, she was nearing the end of her assignment and actually getting frustrated when the answer wasn’t coming up in her search.

Don’t read too far into this.  I love technology as much or more than most people.  It just troubles me that the children of today can literally whip out an iPhone, iPad, or laptop and get the answers to their questions in a matter of seconds instead of researching through the book to find the answer.  My degree isn’t in education, but I have taught and I’ve been in school most of my life for one thing or another.  One of the things that I do know is that most of what is learned is through the exploration and searching for the answers to your questions and problems.  

The laptop program is great, but at what cost?  Are we teaching all of our students how to research, or are we teaching them the art of Google?  The art of Google is something that can wait for high school or college, when they really need it.

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