The Demise of Public Education?

It is increasingly difficult to keep up with technological advances; let alone advances in new digital media (NDM).  Having to constantly stay knowledgeable of the latest NDM means that people without access to computer technology, let alone the training to use it, will not be able to progress economically.  This issue also plagues teachers and public education in general.

Cultural economic disparities will become more pronounced as technology moves forward; and NDM becomes increasingly sophisticated.  However, Seiter makes the point that this disparity along social classes does exist and should not be ignored, “One crucial flaw in the claims about the greater democracy of online communications is that it ignores the operation of social distinctions” (Seiter 39).  Distinctions of social class are prevalent online.  This reminds me of the social class system that existed (and still does), for example, in Britain today; monarchy, royal family, noble classes, Parliament.

Public education is not a good breeding ground for learning about NDM or computer use; beyond how to navigate on the Web or use a mouse.  The lesson to be learned is that the computer is not the “pill” to magically educate students.  It takes a trained teacher, good curriculum, facilities, and family support to adequately educate students.  Seiter concludes as much:

School credentials have become more necessary on the job market, even as the public school system has failed. Decisive choices about schooling are made earlier in children’s lives. Demands originating in the corporate world for skilled, technically competent workers constantly necessitate discussions of youth and digital learning, and influence our descriptions of best practices (Seiter 48).

The case for traditional learning; reading, writing, verbal skills (argumentation) are even more important today.  The use of computers, though prevalent, does not guarantee to a fledgling gamer or social networker entre into a good paying job.  Studying at public schools (high school and college or university) can provide the necessary background to compete in the job market.

Basically, the forms of knowledge have not changed.  As Michael Peters warns:

When we talk of the knowledge economy, we must realize that knowledge has a strong cultural and local dimension as well as a universalistic dimension . . . the other half of the equation that often gets forgotten in development talk. We should speak, then, of knowledge cultures (in the plural) and cultural knowledges, just as we should acknowledge alongside the knowledge economy, the economy of knowledges. (Seiter 48)

The forms of knowledge he’s referring to are; reading, writing, verbalizing (argument)

I personally believe that there is still a need for good English teachers; for example, to teach ESL students and to teach freshman composition.  Today’s teacher needs to stay knowledgeable with the latest methods of using digital technology; blogs, web sites, audio and video presentation, social networking because NDM technologies change so rapidly.  I think there is opportunity for composition teachers to incorporate NDM into their program writing programs.

The YouTube videos made me think that the Internet and NDM are creating a new dialect of English.  It is a dialect that is used in the social networking communities; for example, MySpace and Facebook.  Take the term “friend” for example.  In the traditional context this word means an acquaintance or someone you have met, in person.  From a social networking context “friend” still means an acquaintance, but not in the physical sense; maybe an acquaintance only through “cyberspace.  In order to develop this social networking “dialect, the users of Facebook must have literacy skills: namely verbal communication skills.  The foundation for these literacy skills was established in school; traditional school perhaps, not a “high tech high.”  As Raymond Williams reminds us, about literacy in nineteenth century England: “the acquisition of literacy, then as now, almost always involved submission to a lengthy period of social training—education—in which quite other things than literacy or similar skills were taught; in which, in fact values and norms were taught which became, very often, inextricable from the literacy.” (Seiter 49)  Even though Williams quoted this over one hundred years ago the need still exists today to have an educated population; educated in communicative literacy i.e. reading, writing, and verbal (argumentation) literacy.  So, in a social sense it is the “community” that teaches values and norms: in fact values and norms were taught which became, very often, inextricable from the literacy.  I think a solid education, a public education, will only be possible for our students if we stay current with NDM and the associated technologies.

1 comment for “The Demise of Public Education?

  1. November 3, 2009 at 10:58 am

    I really like how you mention that basic skills, like reading, writing, math, etc. are still important components of any curriculum. I agree with you that English teachers cannot become obselete, but they do need to incorporate NDM into their classroom in order to be successful and effective teachers. It’s interesting how you bring in the point that English instructors are still necessary to teach ESL. While I don’t disagree with this, I wonder if it’s possible for new technology like “The Rosetta Stone,” to replace a second language instructor for not just English, but any second language. While I don’t think technological programs like this have the same impact as a teacher, I do think that they offer some competition for intstructors teaching a foreign language.

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