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Guest Column: Why digital convergence will harm children
April Few
April Few

Kershaw County School District’s new Superintendent Shane Robbins has been selected as one of the 12 school district leaders to serve on the National Council on Digital Convergence (NCDC).

The NCDC was founded just three years ago and uses a framework called Modern Teacher, which was only developed last year. What evidence is there that this digital convergence system is proven effective? There is none. Yet they want all schools in Kershaw County to use this poorly-informed system of “teaching.”

Digital convergence focuses less on instilling knowledge and a love for learning and more on training students in “twenty-first-century skills” such as communication, creativity, and collaboration. Teaching these “skills” is not education, but rather behavior modification. Pavlov and Skinner made a career describing how these processes trained animals. Is this what parents want for their children? The digital convergence system relates to attitudes, responses, behaviors or actions easily scored on a machine. Education involves much more requiring well-trained, experienced human beings to assess and score student achievement.

On the Modern Teacher website, it says the system is research-based, but where is the evidence for that? I would guess most parents want a proven-effective method, not something that was literally developed last year. Parents should be very concerned about this push to digitize every facet of the classroom. Children are not lab rats for experimentation. They are innocent children with souls and unique abilities, which a computer simply cannot assess.

What about the fiscal impact? What programs will be suspended or cancelled to finance this complete overhaul of education? STEM classes? After-school and extracurricular activities? How would Modern Teacher and the NCDC benefit from each school implementing this product and each child using their framework?

Robbins says, “This will help us prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workplace.” A workforce development system is much different than a genuine education. Pigeonholing students through the use of adaptive testing narrows a child’s options and limits their future.

I believe Dr. Robbins is mistaking a system for a method. There is a big difference. A system of education is very attractive; more so, sometimes, than a method, because it is bonded to more calculable results. Though a system is highly useful as an instrument of education, a “system of education” only produces a mechanical action instead of the vital growth and movement of a living being. The proposed system is not evidence-based and is totally experimental. When will the experiment on children in government schools stop? When will we return to a proven, effective method of teaching?

If Dr. Robbins has his way, children will be on computers or tablet-style devices the entire school day. Parents are constantly told of the negative effects of too much screen time. According to a report published in the Journal of American Medical Association, exposing young children to too much screen time can have negative effects on their development, including issues with memory, attention and language skills; yet we want to promote this in our tax-funded institutions of learning.

Parents will no longer be able to opt out of classroom material, primarily because they won’t know what is being shown to their children. The teacher, now reduced to a facilitator, may not even know what the students are seeing as it is entirely online. Every key stroke is logged, and every reaction. In the future, can we anticipate children hooked to devices that monitor the child’s reactions? Did that math problem make them agitated? Did the picture they were shown of two men kissing cause an uncomfortable reaction?

And what about teachers? Will districts save money by hiring people without teaching credentials to simply facilitate learning via technology? Teachers become obsolete and their profession is destroyed.

The recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act offers a pile of money for states to implement this type system. Politicians and education leaders of all backgrounds have adopted the view that the focus of education is to endow students with “in-demand skills” required by jobs that will exist in a government-managed economy. They argue the best thing for students is to set them on career paths at an early age to be trained for their future job. This is Marxist in theory. Parents, taxpayers and freedom-loving Americans need to stand up to this attempt by the government to control the economy. But most of all, Kershaw County parents and teachers need to say no to digital convergence!

(Guest Columnist April Few is the communications director for United States Parents Involved in Education and resides in Lugoff, S.C. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Chronicle-Independent, Camden. S.C.)