Q: Is there any hope at all of public schools teaching children without the continual use of computers? We refused to sign the computer access papers for two of ours, and yet the teachers are putting the kids on computers every day throughout the day. We will go argue our case. Again.
A: Probably not. With four kids of my own in Virginia’s public schools, we have stood firm on some things related to computer usage, such as not sending in devices with our kids (they don’t have tablets or smartphones—even my middle schooler—and share an old computer in the main area of our home with strict time limits on usage). We’ve also asked that assignments for those in the younger grades be turned in handwritten rather than typed/printed from a computer (believe me, they need the practice in hand writing!). We even have a set of encyclopedias that we send the kids to instead of allowing them to look up stuff on the computer.
And yet, we’re not Luddites. We do see the value in computers (hey, my husband and I are on them constantly for our work), but we also see the dangers from overuse. The problem today is that many educators have jumped on the electronic devices bandwagon whole hog without waiting to see if the benefits outweigh the pitfalls (including shorter attention spans and less reading ability). A more cautious approach would benefit our kids, but with many parents clamoring for their children to have the latest and greatest educational tools (and let’s face it, many times, computers and tablets are more sexy than old-school methods of learning that have a more proven track record).
So I think we as parents must shoulder some of the blame for the current atmosphere of any-learning-done-on-the-computer-is-good, so let’s do more of it. Perhaps one day the pendulum will swing more toward the middle and there will be less of a push for screens in education, but that day is not today.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel completely. There are small things you can do, but unfortunately you are not going to win the bigger fight to keep your kids off computers completely at school. In my opinion, it’s smarter to have your own rules at home, enforce them, talk with your kids about Internet safety, help them navigate computers/Internet in a safe way, and stop worrying about it. If it still really bothers you, you can always homeschool your children and limit access as you see fit.