Future or past?

My jaw dropped when the Ehlert said 75 percent of the district’s computers were either outdated or “non-functioning.” Over the past few years the system has been eligible for more than $30 million for technology. You guessed it, we only tapped a little less than $900,000.

The findings point to a total lack of management and direction in the technology department of the Bibb County school district. And imagine, a Bibb high school wanted to hire the former director to manage its technology.

I know there are some who would say, “I did alright and there wasn’t a computer anywhere around.” That was true, then. Look around today. We have computerized combines harvesting crops. Auto mechanics troubleshoot engine problems by plugging into the vehicles computer. They are everywhere. Technology is driving the world’s economy, and if we are going to prepare students to work in that economy, they had better be able to use a computer proficiently.

As pointed out earlier in the same school board meeting by Superintendent Romain Dallemand, 62 percent of jobs will be designed for folks with some type of secondary education by 2018. Only 10 percent of the jobs will be available to those with a high school education or less.

It was good, back in the day, when we calculated using the slide rule and went to the library and buried our head in physical books. Those days are gone. We have new tools and new expectations. If we keep teaching the way we taught 40 years ago and with the same tools, our children will be incapable of competing with their peers here and abroad.

I cherish the way I learned and I’m sure you remember that favorite teacher who opened your eyes to the world around you. They did it using blackboards, sometimes an overhead projector and every now and then, a 16 millimeter film. But that is not the world our children will live in.

I consider myself computer proficient, but I wonder if I can keep up when I see 10-year-olds doing things faster and smarter than I can. Toss a hand-held device to a teenager and ask them to do something on it and their fingers get to moving instinctively.

The estimate from Elert Associates to bring the district up to today’s standards — and as you know, technology is improving at the speed of sound — will cost $35 million. Fortunately, the district may qualify for $24 million in E-Rate funds from the federal government, leaving the district’s portion at about $11 million. Still a pretty penny.

We don’t really have a choice. We can rock along as we have been (how’s that working out for us? We have a grad rate of 44.7 percent) or we can do the job that education is supposed to do. Our teachers shouldn’t be forced to handle today’s education issues with tools invented more than 300 years ago.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at (478)744-4342 or via e-mail at crichardson@macon.com.

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