Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tomorrow's Workforce

Politicians talk about "tomorrow's workforce" as if children were the same kind of raw natural resource as uncut timber forests or untapped oil reserves. It is discomforting to find human beings with hearts, minds, and souls reduced to an economic imperative. At a basic level, it is true, and I understand, sometimes even vocalize, the cliché that our children are our future. Nonetheless, I cringe when either side of the aisle uses the analogy at its base.

Yet how do “we the people” look beyond the economy of the future and look at our children as people and posterity? Sometimes it seems that without the foretold economic imperative there is no leverage for pulling our elected leadership into making ethical decisions about the education of our children.

It is ethical to make efforts to seek the best interest of our children since they can’t seek it for themselves. This includes providing our children with educational opportunities, and understanding that physical access to technology, cultural perceptions about use of technology, and historical patterns of both access and use will have a long-term impact on them far beyond the rhetoric.

Rhetoric about free educations and investment in teachers is almost like the promise of “forty acres and a mule” given to former slaves during the Reconstruction period. It sounds wonderful and humanitarian, but it ends up being a charlatan’s cruel game of power and politics.

What is really needed is not fine speeches from either side of the aisle on the national level, but instead more support for creative problem solving at the local level where the infrastructural needs can be assessed and correlated; the cultural context can be examined and integrated into the process; and the historical patterns (both national and local) can be taken into account.

Davis, T., Fuller, M., Jackson, S., Pittman, J., & Sweet, J. (2007). A National Consideration of Digital Equity. Washington, D.C.: International Society for Technology in Education. Available at: http://www.iste.org/digitalequity

Taborn, Tyrone D. “Separating Race from Technology: Finding Tomorrow’s IT Progress in the Past." Learning Race and Ethnicity: Youth and Digital Media. Edited by Anna Everett. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 39–60. Available at: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/dmal.9780262550673.039

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