Posts Tagged ‘changing demographics’

To have and have not — persuasion

February 27, 2008

Who has and who hasn’t?  You never can tell. 

The latest neatoday (dated March 2008) for members of the National Education Association arrived in the mail today.  The cover article — “Mind the Gap” — addresses the technological gap present in society.  When it comes to computers and innovative gadgetry, there are clearly haves and have-nots, especially in individual homes.  For instance, the opening paragraph of the article describes a family in Virginia with three children who each have their own computer in their bedrooms, and then proceeds to describe a young man in Mississippi who has no Internet or computer access at home and must therefore drive 40 miles every day to research colleges and apply for student loans at a community center. 

I’m no dummy, this technology gap means I cannot, nor have I tried to, safely assume that any of my high school students have computer access; I can, however, recommend that my students utilize their study hall time (at least 88 minutes every other day) to access the Writing Center at our school, where there are computers galore (at least 90, though should our Writing Center Director read this, she can surely correct me).  The article goes on to describe what communities and individuals are doing across the country to help narrow this tech gap, and I applaud the efforts of those identified in the article like Andrew Rasiej, “who advises members of Congress on the use of the Internet in politics and policy, [and] is an advocate for universal Internet access.”  However, I can’t help but see a double-edged sword to lofty policies offering DSL or high speed in every pot.

Universal Internet access, while great and useful and an aid to students who would otherwise not be able to access MySpace or read my blog, at the same time, what might such universal access mean for the Internet Service Providers?  Sure, the Internet is supposed to be free, but really what boon might such a policy be to Internet related corporate entities.  Maybe I’m just shooting off at the mouth here and there would be no finances filling the coffers of Internet’s big business, or maybe I’m just stuck on my own agenda of attacking the gaps in education at an earlier age.

The school district where I teach is, admittedly, technologically wealthy.  The grants that have been written to provide teachers and students with the smart board technology, computers in every classroom, on-line attendance and report cards, and Writing Center could undoubtedly fill a room.  Because of our technology, we are assumed by those inside and outside our corporation to be a wealthy school district.  However, our demographics are changing, and we are preparing ourselves to face the reality of our increasingly socio-economically diverse population while continuing to provide all our students with the diverse offerings we have always provided.  I think this district realizes that technology is not always the answer, the gap should be bridged earlier, and that is why they are offering all day kindergarten at more schools next year than the current offerings, and their goal is to phase in all day all around by 2010.

The offerings of all day kindergarten for next year were decided based on the greatest need for early intervention as measured by the schools’ free and reduced lunch percentages.  One school identified as a participant in the program faced percentages of nearly 40 to 50 percent free and reduced lunch.  That’s around half of the student population and their families attending that school qualifying for free and reduced lunch.

So, next time you find yourself at the polls, wondering if you should vote for or against the raise in taxes or millage that will provide for your school, don’t assume that just because the school has written the grants necessary to provide bells and whistles for the children that they are a rich district.  Consider all the information available to you, for the future of your community counts on it.