learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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Learning.now is a weblog that explores how new technology and Internet culture affect how educators teach and children learn. It will offer a continuing look at how new technology such as wikis, blogs, vlogs, RSS, podcasts, social networking sites, and the always-on culture of the Internet are impacting teacher and students' lives both inside and out of the classroom.
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Ron Paul and Hillary Clinton on Education and Technology Policy

As part of my ongoing series covering the positions of the presidential candidates regarding education and technology, I wanted to share some of my latest policy discoveries, this time coming from Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Rep. Paul has just given an interview with technology blogger Mike Arrington. As you may recall, Arrington put out a call for questions to ask of the candidates, and he incorporated some of the questions I suggested regarding edtech, digital literacy and the digital divide. He hasn’t asked every question to every candidate, but when he does, I want to make sure all of you see the responses.

In the Ron Paul interview, Arrington asked one question regarding education and technology. Here’s their exchange:

MA: Fair enough. Lets talk about education for a moment. There are some statistics that suggest the U.S. is falling behind in terms of the per capita basis in encouraging youngsters to study math and science and go into technology fields. Do you think the government has any place or ability to help bridge the gap when it comes to technology education.

RP: Well the federal government has no legal responsibility or authority to do so. If you happen to belong to a local school district and they’re not doing the job, yes you can run for school board and emphasize certain things. That’s generally how the system has worked over the many years of our history. But what we need is more competition in schools. This is similar to the question “well they’re not doing well in spelling”, but lo and behold if you have home schoolers and private schoolers they do very well in spelling or in arithmetic. Why can’t we do the same way with technology? We need more competition. We need more local control. We need the families and parents in charge and I think we would solve a lot of these problems. But if it’s a reflection of a culture where people are lazy and they don’t want to study — I don’t happen to believe that’s the way we are.

I think it’s the meddling in our school system, more concerned about all our money going to Washington and then coming back, with worrying about “No Child Left Behind”, and living up to regulations and lack of funding because we don’t have as much money. I think that’s where the real problem lies.

Paul’s response should come as no surprise, given the fact he’s always been an advocate of shrinking the size of the federal government and allowing the market to sort things out. It would have been interesting, though, to hear his thoughts on how the market might get more involved in addressing issues like technology literacy and the digital divide.

Meanwhile, a few people have asked me why I haven’t passed along responses from Sen. Hillary Clinton. So far, Arrington hasn’t been able to organize an interview with her yet, so my edtech-related questions will just have to wait. However, her campaign website offers a small amount of information that’s worth passing along. For example, her policy position page on innovation and competitiveness makes reference to improving diversity in the high-tech workforce, as well as improving broadband infrastructure:

Support initiatives to bring more women and minorities into the math, science, and engineering professions. Increasing the educational attainment of women and minorities, particularly in math, science and engineering, is critical to our future as an innovative nation. Women comprise 43% of the workforce but only 23% of scientists and engineers. Blacks and Hispanics represent 30% of the workforce, but only 7% of scientists and engineers. Unless women and underrepresented minorities develop strong math, science, and engineering skills, the average educational attainment of the American worker will decline. Hillary Clinton proposes that the federal agencies adopt criteria that take diversity into account when awarding education and research grants. She also proposes that the federal government provide financial support to college and university programs that encourage women and minorities to study math, science, and engineering.

Support initiatives to establish leadership in broadband. Under the Bush administration, the country that invented the Internet has slipped to 25th in the global rankings for broadband deployment. In order to accelerate the deployment of sophisticated networks, Hillary Clinton proposes that the federal government provide tax incentives to encourage broadband deployment in underserved areas. She also proposes financial support for state and local broadband initiatives. Various municipal broadband initiatives are underway around the country to accelerate the deployment of high speed networks. The initiatives are useful for education, commerce, technology development, and the efficient provision of municipal services.

Meanwhile, her official site also has a section on education, but unfortunately, there are no references to either technology or the Internet. In the past, she has shown support for the E-Rate program, and one could surmise that she would not change that position if she were in the White House. You might also try to glean some assumptions from the fact that her husband was a strong supporter of the E-Rate and bridging the digital divide while he was in the White House. But assumptions, of course, don’t translate into actual policy positions, so it will be interesting to see if she addresses them more directly on the campaign trail. If you hear anything, I’d sure love to find out about it. -andy

Filed under : People, Policy


I think Hillary is wrong. I believe just minorities shouldn’t be given special consideration just because they are female or black. Everyone is equal and needs to work to get where they want to go in the United States. My son happens to be a white male. He should have every opportunity to succeed and be able to access financial aid the same as others. It’s about people working hard, and being raised with ethical and positive values—not the color of their skin that should be considered when giving out opportunities in the science, math, and engineering fields.

I like Ron Paul’s ideas better than Hillary’s because I prefer local ideas for local schools. That even includes broadband nationwide. Cities need to compete for jobs and tax payers (home owners) and greater access to broadband is a key element to help expand any city’s economy. Federal plans tend to be too one size fits all, like NCLB, which worries me.

I agree with Ron Paul. When are we, as individuals, going to take responsibility for our own lives instead of expecting the government to do it for us? Sen. Clinton’s plan has consequences that extend far beyond education. She’s splitting us up again. I am an American, as are my Black, Asian, Hispanic, etc. friends. I am certainly not implying that we should abandon diversity within our culture. We should, however, be treated identically by our American federal government, and, as Americans, we need to remember that in order to be a self-governing nation, we must stay educated and maintain personal responsibility.

Hillary’s plan scares the crap out of me. Her plans for everything in general entail taking money from workers and giving it to other special groups. Hmm, that’s not Constitutional. I work in schools as a campus technician. Tons of funds are burned up paying for extra help for spanish speaking students. Teachers are squeezed between meeting those needs, and trying to progress the rest of their classes. An alternative would be for working spanish families that want their students to do well in school, to pay tutors, like other working families do if and when their students need tutoring. Otherwise the entire student population is dumbed down, learning less altogether, so that ‘no child is left behind’, meaning, no Spanish child. Socialistic/collectivist programs like Hillary’s have already encroached on the individualist concepts established in our Republic. (and we are a Republic; not once in the Constitution is the word ‘democracy’ used! - do they teach that in schools??) Ron Paul’s grasp of our true foundations elevates the individual, reminding us that we are born with inalienable rights, it is not that groups obtain rights for groups from the government to be funded by other groups. Frustrated teachers confide in me almost daily about the ridiculous federal mandates that they must teach to the test, to score points for federal monies which don’t even amount to much. Parent organizations on the other hand, are quite zealous in raising funds to purchase technologies and anything else the teachers wish for and have purchased wireless mobile laptop labs, desktop computers, projectors, etc. Involvement by parents and the local communities is a much more sensible approach to the education of the students in those communities. I’m voting for Ron Paul who in no way condones socialistic, collectivist, group rights. He’s right on in asserting, as did the writers of the Constitution, that each person in this country possesses individual rights and does not have the right to be supported by a government taking from others and re-distributing resources.

For those of you favoring Ron Paul and his methods as well as this ridiculous No Child Left Behind Act, I strongly urge you to read Elaine M. Garan’s In Defense of Our Children. It’s a marvelous book that even the biggest simpleton can understand. Perhaps this book will change your mind about the contradicting policies that this No Child Left Behind Act contains. I strongly urge those of you who speak about the Constitution and this country’s forefathers to read over our constitutional rights as citizens of the U.S. and then go on to read Garan’s book. It’s an easy and quick read. You’ll be surprised at who’s actually running the show. Many of you will be shocked at what you learn.

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