Nerd Alert: Moore’s Law and Unschooling.

I’m sitting here dyeing my hair and waiting for my hair color to develop…because why pay $50 at the stylist for a color I love when I can pay $10 for a freakish color that turns my hair a weird reddish shade (no matter which color I choose!) and then pay $70 to go back to that stylist to have her correct it…anyways, that’s beside the point because I came across a great article today that I want to share, over at I, Cringely.

He has a blog over at PBS, and his tagline is “Survival of the Nerdiest”. Love it! Here’s a bit about him, so you can decide if you find him a realiable source or a dillusional lunatic (kinda like me!).

When it comes to information technology, I know what I am talking about. Thirty years in and around the PC business have earned me wisdom, if not wealth. It’s not that I am so smart, but that my friends are smart. The best and brightest in Silicon Valley talk to me all the time. It’s my job to sift through their thoughts for valuable bits to share with you.

And so…

He started out talking about Moore’s Law, exponentially growing processing speed in computers, and the massive cultural shift this technology is creating in our society.

Then he went in a direction I wasn’t expecting, at the end of the 6th paragraph.

we’ve reached the point in our (disparate) cultural adaptation to computing and communication technology that the younger technical generations are so empowered they are impatient and ready to jettison institutions most of the rest of us tend to think of as essential, central, even immortal. They are ready to dump our schools.

In response, I’d like to add, the schools label these bored, understimulated, empowered but unchallenged kids as ADHD and put them on medication. (This theory is mine, not Cringely’s, but I like it just the same!)

Cringlely goes on to highlight the growing chasm between how technology is viewed by the public educational system and the kids (and now, parents) who have grown accustomed to using it every hour of every day.

He summarized the school’s attitude towards technology like this:

in the last five years more and more technical resources have been turned to how to keep technology OUT of our schools. Keeping kids from instant messaging, then text messaging or using their phones in class is a big issue as is how to minimize plagiarism from the Internet. These defensive measures are based on the idea that unbound use of these communication and information technologies is bad, that it keeps students from learning what they must, and hurts their ability to later succeed as adults.

Obviously this is his opinion rather than a statement from the public school’s themselves, but from my experience a valid point.

On the contrary, he summarized the shifting attitude in society at large:

we’re moving from a knowledge economy to a search economy, from a kingdom of static values to those that are dynamic. Education still seems to define knowing as more important than being able to find, yet which do you do more of in your work? And what’s wrong with crimping a paragraph here or there from Cringely if it shows you understand the topic?

I notice this shift, especially with my other unschooling friends. Curriculum is not the end all, be all, apex of academic accomplishment with us or in how we measure our kids. What we allow our children to do is explore knowlege in their own inquisitive and unique way. My kids have 53485394587 questions a day that they ask me, and when I say, “I’m not sure about the answer, how can we find it?” I am met with a chorus of ‘Google it!’ or ‘Let’s go to the Library!’ or ‘I’ll get a book!’. It isn’t what we know right now, but that we know HOW to know it that is the focus. So, I think this is a valid point he raises, too!

This is, of course, a huge threat to the education establishment, which tends to have a very deterministic view of how knowledge and accomplishment are obtained – a view that doesn’t work well in the search economy. At the same time K-12 educators are being pulled back by No Child Left Behind, they are being pulled forward (they probably see it as pulled askew) by kids abetted by their high-tech Generation Y (yes, we’re getting well into Y) parents who are using their Ward Cleaver power not to maintain the status quo but to challenge it.

This is an unstable system.

Unstable because now the very parents that were schools biggest advocates are now a generation that are at odds with how the school system is going. And guess what these ‘Gen Y’ parents are doing about it? Homeschool. Charter School. Early enrollment into college, skipping the last couple years of high school.

The University of Phoenix is supposedly preparing a complete middle and high school online curriculum available anywhere in the world. I live in Charleston, SC where the public schools are atrocious despite spending an average of $16,000 per student each year. Why shouldn’t I keep my kids at home and online, demanding that the city pay for it?

Because that’s not the way we do it, that’s why.

Well times are changing.

I’ll end with how Cringely starts:

It is a war not about technology but because of technology, a war over how we as a culture embrace technology. It is a war that threatens venerable institutions and, to a certain extent, threatens what many people think of as their very way of life. It is a war that will ultimately and inevitably change us all, no going back. The early battles are being fought in our schools. And I already know who the winners will be.

I don’t just know who the winners will be, I know who they already are.

Hat tip: War of the Worlds, The Human Side of Moore’s Law.


6 Responses

  1. This looks like a fascinating article; there is a lot of food for thought here. I suspect there are people out there whose jobs depend on maintaining the status quo in education — a specific scope and sequence, controlled by experts, which determines how and when knowledge is dispensed.

  2. I wish I could be as certain of who the winners will be. There is still a lot of power being held by those who resist this change.

  3. It’s true, Theresa…the power and resistance grows bigger the more successful and popular ‘alternative education’ is. But don’t you already feel like you’re ‘winning’ (I hate that term–this isn’t like a big game or something.), providing the kind of education you are already? The victory for me has been that instead of waiting around for this educational shift to happen, I’ve been able to shift it myself. 🙂

  4. I’ve always felt that technology makes the public school system feel powerless. Technology is so common, so unrestrained in our homes and daily lives. The kids already know how to use it before they get to school. In an effort to control it, the schools regularly ban it. Anything that thwarts their plan to teach us word processing in a step by step manner shall be banished forever! MUWAHAHAHAH!!!

  5. Yes, I do feel like I’ve won, in a way. But so many folks can’t (or think they can’t) do what we are doing. I feel bad for them.

  6. […] Our society has kept up, mostly, with our Blackberries, ipods, and plasma screen TV’s. But education has not. We’re still educating kids as if they have no access to information 24/7. […]

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