August 2, 2012

Technology and Education Then and Now

Marc Comtois

The family and I recently spent a long weekend in Washington, D.C. and we visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The "America on the Move" exhibition included a 1939 Dodge school bus from Martinsburg, Indiana, which served as a platform for explaining how technology (the bus) affected education.

In rural areas, the introduction of school buses changed the character of the communities they served and the lives of the children who rode to school. Students who had once walked to a local, often one-room, schoolhouse now rode a bus to a larger consolidated school where they were taught in separate grades. Progressive educators viewed buses as a step toward modernizing rural education....[and] favored larger schools, arguing they would provide students a better, more standardized education. Some rural citizens feared consolidation would bring higher taxes and a loss of involvement in their children’s education. One midwestern farmer said his local school was “the center—educational, social, dramatic, political, and religious—of a pioneer community.” But declining rural populations and better roads spelled the end of one-room schools. In 1920 Indiana had 4,500 one-teacher schools; in 1945, just 616.
I'd say that everyone was right, to a point. At the time, most rural students did benefit from the standardized education (much as did their more urban peers) they attained via a more efficient school consolidation model and better trained, more professional teachers.

Rural folks were correct in that taxes probably did go up to meet the increasing costs of professionalized (and eventually unionized) education. I also don't think that--while the school does still serve as a neighborhood center of sorts (at least in a populous 'burb like Warwick)--many would argue that parental involvement in school has declined precipitously since then.

Fast forward to today and the problems and debates we have with education have less to do with the implementation of a standardized education model than with the very nature of the standards themselves. Indeed, technology continues to play a key role in this contemporary push/pull as, for example, it is the internet upon which ideas such as distance learning and "flipping the classroom" are built and which could lead to, ironically, a less centralized, more student-centered, personalized--versus standardized--education.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I would like to thank this blog for encouraging open discussion on the topics of education reform, taxes, and the role that unions play in them without fear of retaliation. Bob Plain has a lengthy post up today on RIFuture explaining why he has banned me from his blog for statements on these topics. In his post, he accuses me of libeling NEARI and threatens to turn over my personal information if requested. He provides no examples of this supposed "libel," and in fact, every factual assertion I made (putting aside matters of pure opinion or metaphor) is readily supported by AP, Projo, and GoLocal news articles and court documents, so any libel suit would be completely frivolous, as any attorney could confirm. Thank you for holding yourselves to a higher standard. Our society depends upon a free exchange of ideas, even ideas we might not happen to like. Plain concludes by bemoaning the lack of "conservative" commenters on his website - I hope no one continues to wonder why.

Posted by: RightToWork at August 2, 2012 3:15 PM

Patrick - I would like to respond to a comment you left on RIFuture. You defend Bob Plain by saying that he did not accuse me of libel and then provide quotes as evidence that he did not. But one of your quotes is not complete. Here is the complete quote by Plain:

"A statement not nearly as libelous as it is ridiculous but not at all a risk worth (sic) given it meets both thresholds."

So he did say that my comment met the threshold of libel.

He is legally incorrect on that point because I was simply speculating about future actions of the NEARI based on their widely documented past behavior and harassment campaigns, and this is not libel.

Plain can do as he likes on his blog, but his whole "libel" argument was a wafer-thin justification to remove me as a commenter. If he is truly concerned about libel, then why has he left up the "offending" comments? And if that were the case, he should be FAR more concerned about some of the statements that he and his contributors make about various corporations and Republican politicians.

Posted by: RightToWork at August 3, 2012 12:17 PM

As to the posts above, I think there are times when convictions are allowed to override the First Amendment. This seems more common among liberals, although I cannot say they own it.

A good example is the current Chick-Fil-A flap. Apparently the owner has religious convictions that do not admit of gay marriage. His problem is that he mentioned them. There is no showing that this extends to his willingness to serve customers, nor who he hires. So, he is being roundly condemned as a "bigot" and threatened with denial of a business license in several cities.

I spend little time on RIF, but I find it hard to believe that opposing opinions are really desired. I would never think of making the effort to post there.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at August 3, 2012 1:41 PM

Since I posted with reference chick-fil-a, I recieved this from RIF
"If you don't have any solid plans for the weekend yet, one idea is to show up at the GOP fundraiser with hate-spewing, gay-bashing Allen West ...since West is a Chick-fil-A supporter, I thought maybe we want to hold the same-sex kiss-in in front of Capriccio's from 4 to 6 pm tomorrow afternoon."

This statement does not actually appear in the article linked to it. Perhaps they do not think their "alerts" are matters of record. A review of new articles actually "published" would not reveal it.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at August 3, 2012 2:32 PM


Thank you for your nice remarks about A.R.

If you are amenable and you remember what it was, would you mind e-mailing me the comment that got you banned on RIF?

Posted by: Monique at August 3, 2012 4:59 PM

Monique - You're welcome. If anything, I consider this blog a bit overly tolerant of individuals who post repetitive off-topic content, but I think it's far better to err in that direction than going down the path of censoring "unpopular" content.

It was actually a series of related comments. They are all still viewable at:

Bob Plain's thread on the subject is viewable here:

Posted by: RightToWork at August 3, 2012 5:36 PM

Got it - thanks!

Perhaps you were banned for your avatar ...

Posted by: Monique at August 3, 2012 10:20 PM

Dan, I too think your banishment from that other blog was unwarranted. Keep up the good fight.

Posted by: David S at August 5, 2012 5:30 PM


Is that blog privately owned?

Posted by: Phil at August 6, 2012 8:02 PM

Yeah, I get your point. That other blog has every right to boot Dan/RTW. For whatever reason. I get it. I was just saying that the offense that Dan/RTW did was just kind of a stupid one. Isn't stupidity its own punishment? No one needs to rub it in.

Posted by: David S at August 6, 2012 8:22 PM

I'm not sorry I was banned for stating some widely reported facts about the union leadership. It showed what RIFuture is really all about.

Posted by: Dan at August 6, 2012 10:13 PM

I'm with you DavidS - Dan has every right to express his stupidity, and he does it so amusingly well.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at August 7, 2012 1:16 PM

OTL - Businesses across the United States should be jumping over themselves to hire you as a consultant. All they have to do is run ideas by you and if you think they're "stupid," they should double down their investments. E.g., Marxism, which disregards human nature and has failed miserably everywhere it has ever been tried, is brilliant according to you, Rhode Island union-progressivism which has led to a 11% unemployment rate is also brilliant, but low-tax, business-friendly states like NH and VA, which are leading the pack with booming economies, have it all wrong, etc...

Posted by: Dan at August 7, 2012 2:36 PM

Are you still riding public transportation and/or driving on public roads and working in public buildings or otherwise using public facilities? None of which you seem willing to pay for.

Are you really stupid enough to believe in the infinite growth required of corporate capitalism, which must constantly expand like cancer until it kills its host? Can you give me an example of infinite growth which does not destroy itself and surroundings?

We are 4% of the world's population using 20% of its resources and we're going to export our system to the rest of the world? How is this possible.

If you judge systems by how they work in Russia you must condemn Communism and and Capitalism. You may want to consider Oscar Wilde's dictum that, "Anything is possible in Russia except change."

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at August 8, 2012 11:15 PM

P.S. I never called Communism brilliant, I do say I prefer it to corporate capitalism.
I would use brilliant to describe religious and ethical systems laid out for us by ascetics like Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus to name a few, who all council moderation and naught in excess.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at August 8, 2012 11:29 PM

OTL - "Infinite growth" is not a requirement of free market systems, any more than it is for collectivist systems. Markets are simply a more efficient method of resource allocation. What we have seen so far is sustained growth due to technological improvements and human population growth. Mother nature and markets both have ways of keeping populations in check, so don't be too concerned about that. As for technology, it gave us cars but it also gave us recycling, nuclear power, etc. Don't be such a pessimist. This century has been better than the last, and the one before that, and the one before that. Individual empowerment and decentralized stochastic tinkering are largely responsible for this steady improvement in the human condition, not "expert" planning.

Posted by: Dan at August 9, 2012 11:36 AM
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