Exhibit A from the I Told You So files this week (h/t commenter Indyanna, who tipped me off via e-mail today), “At Waldorf School in Silicon Valley, Technology Can Wait:”
LOS ALTOS, Calif. — The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.
But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.
Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.
. . . . .
“Engagement is about human contact, the contact with the teacher, the contact with their peers,” said Pierre Laurent, 50, who works at a high-tech start-up and formerly worked at Intel and Microsoft. He has three children in Waldorf schools, which so impressed the family that his wife, Monica, joined one as a teacher in 2006.
[W]here advocates for stocking classrooms with technology say children need computer time to compete in the modern world, Waldorf parents counter: what’s the rush, given how easy it is to pick up those skills?
“It’s supereasy. It’s like learning to use toothpaste,” [Alan] Eagle said. “At Google and all these places, we make technology as brain-dead easy to use as possible. There’s no reason why kids can’t figure it out when they get older.”
That doesn’t mean the Waldorf School approach is cheaper–in fact, I”m sure it’s quite the contrary. I get it that the “gotcha” here is the fact that so many of the parents in this particular school are highly placed in the tech industry–but I bet that the majority of educators are thinking along the very same lines, and would choose schools like Waldorf if they can afford the price of admission ($17,750 for K-8 and $24,400 for high school! Yikes.)
As I have argued here before, we know what works. And as Jonathan Rees constantly argues, technology is being used primarily now to cut corners rather than to improve education. There are precious few innovations in education at any level of the curriculum that amount to more than a hill of beans beyond good teacher training, reasonable teacher:student ratios, and permitting teachers the liberty to innovate and solve problems on their own.
The ruling class has always known what works, and they’re still willing to pay the price for it. Why isn’t it ever good enough for the masses of middle class and poor children in the public schools?