Education for a distant past

Today's all about the spectrum of ideas out there, I guess. On the same day that I read this wonderfully sensible post from Tom Whitby:

"Now that we have seen how the needs of society have structured the needs of skills for students, and now that we have seen how the needs of education have structured the changes in methodology to address those skills, we now need to consider the best way to deliver access to information for curation, analysis, understanding, communicating and creating. For that direction let us consider what tools are used by Industry, Business, Banking, and the Arts. If the answer is TECHNOLOGY, why is there any debate about why, and how much technology should play a role in education? Yes, good teachers can teach without technology, but to what end, if the student will need to master technology to compete, or even exist in a technology-driven environment?

It is time that this debate ends. There are no choices for educators to make here. If we are educating our children to live and thrive in their world, we cannot limit them to what we were limited to in our world."

...I also happen upon this from a school right down the road from me:

(to the question in their FAQs) Do you have a computer lab?

"In keeping with classical education philosophy, we do not believe that learning to use a computer is foundational to a child's education. MHA seeks to provide children with the tools of learning, versus "skills," so that when and if they need to use a computer, they will be able to learn to use it on their own. Most children learn to use computers in their own homes. Time spent in school learning to use a computer would detract from time spent in other educational endeavors which move a child closer to becoming a true scholar. "

By "true scholar," do you think they mean someone who can live in an ivory tower somewhere, away from the demands of modern life? Is the plan for their students to automagically become so successful that they'll have people who can go online for them to do their banking, filter their content for them and apply critical thinking and analysis to it for them, maintain their social connections for them, craft their public reputation for them, et al. - immediately upon graduation?

Seriously, though, I agree that having a computer lab is less than ideal and I admire the philosophy of focusing on learning skills, as there is no way today to tell what our students will need tomorrow. But why apply this philosophy only to computer use? Why do they teach math, or history, or anything? 

Being able to use a computer skillfully is a necessary part of a successful modern life - as Tom Whitby deftly expresses in his post, this debate needs to end. Any so-called educational institution that is lacking in the how-to, when-to, and why-to lessons for its students is doing them an immense disservice.

And this, from the same FAQ entry, is not a substitute for purposeful educational experience:

"However, we do not discourage the use of computers for research or writing papers, and in fact it is sometimes required. We also allow older students to bring their own laptops into the school if they wish to use it for taking notes or doing homework during study halls."

So, their students are totally welcome to use computers - the most powerful tool of self-expression and the gateway to the most important collection of human knowledge and experience the world has ever seen - as typewriters. And their older students are free to use them to do "homework." Two quick questions: what kind of homework which would benefit from computer use does this school feel it can assign without giving execution instructions, and how old do their students have to be before they can start to figure out how irrelevant their education is?

But hey, they're not a completely backwards institution. At least they don't offer APs!

/rant