Saturday, October 5, 2013

Billion dollar Boondoggle

At the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District), one of the biggest districts in the country and maybe the world did perhaps the most stupid thing ever perpetrated in any school district since the inception of all districthood.
The super- intendent, I used the word carefully to demonstrate his total lack of managerial skills, pushed though a massive boondoggle that will cost the district one billion dollars.

Let me premise my future remarks with a short background on the current thinking and educational mindset.  There is a philosophy that presupposes that education should be equally accessible to all and in theory that is nice sentiment.  Practically however the reality of providing equal access has never been achievable and will never be societally viable.  Access presupposes availability and opportunity and those two aspects will never be in balance when there are cultural differences, intellectual variables and financial gaps between the rich, the middle class and the poor.  In addition there are the natural inclinations toward wanting to learn or not and the level of interest innate in all of us to some degree or another that makes “forced or mandatory” educational practices ineffective and counterproductive.

In light of trying to create a completely equal footing for all students LAUSD phonetically now knows as loused (meaning to be infected with a small insect of sorts commonly known as a louse)  LA School District purchased thousands of I-Pads and distributed them to each and every student or will distribute them throughout the coming year.  The cost of this endeavor will most likely exceed 1,000,000,000 dollars (that’s Billion with a B).

Being in special education I see the value of certain technological advances that actually help specific students to learn better but the idea that an I-Pad will level the learning field and fill the gaps of opportunity, natural ability and socioeconomic position is nothing short of retarded and I mean that in a literal sense, the superintendent and those that came up with this hair brained scheme should be summarily fired and held responsible for wasting the tax payers hard earned dollars.  My suggestion is to make them work for ten years in a SED (severely Emotional Disturbed) classroom without aids and without the ability to quite…They can use a few I-Pads if they want, let them see firsthand how much learning takes place and what an advantage it is to have that technology.  They better learn to duck.

Technology has taken precedents over learning and has in many ways overshadowed the very processes needed to ensure learning.  Technology is great in the hands of those who understand it, know how to use it and value the opportunities it provides, but it does not teach, it does not ensure learning nor will it make teaching or learning any easier.  For the most part technology in education has muddled the process and confused the very nature of what learning is supposed to be. Learning is simply understanding the past, preparing for the present in order to advance toward the future.  There are a thousand ways to accomplish those goals and none of them require technology.  Learning is not dependent on technology and LAUSD should have known that prior to spending one Billion dollars.

There is another problem not related to the issues with technology, don’t get me wrong I like the advances and the opportunities and the ease of access of information and dissemination of knowledge but the real issue is the size and budget of these large districts and for that matter any District, the redundancy of programs and personnel, the oversight and supervision that supersedes common sense to such a degree that a well qualified Principal has to get permission on how to run his school, making him or her nothing more than an extension of the superintendent.  Let the principals run the schools and fire all the superintendents.  Disband and disperse all district personnel and let each individual school run independently letting the community of that school, the teachers and parents make the rules, decide what to teach and balance their own budgets based on attendance, ADA.

LAUSD has a budget larger than most small countries and with it the bureaucracy and waste associated with too many hands, too many decision makers and too much money.  Education can be saved by letting each school decide what is best for its students, letting the teachers and parents of that school make the important decisions about what should be taught and how to teach, getting education back to the community rather than the over-bloated  districts or state or federal government. 

I’m a teacher but I can’t afford an I-pad for my own kids. My kids learn just fine and in fact learn more because they don’t have an I-Pad to play with, they learn because that is the kind of culture our family has.  We have a culture of wanting to learn, wanting to expand our knowledge, a culture based on mind development not technology dependency.

Please join with me in an attempt to minimize the negative influences of over-bloated districts.  I’m looking for ideas and like minded readers who believe that the time of the district is over.  It’s time to create legislation that will allow a community to insulate their school from district influence allowing them to work autonomously and directly for the student they represent.