Letters To The Editor
Computers are clearly here to stay in the schools, offices, and homes of America. Chips and floppy discs have entered our vocabulary; computer literacy is a new curriculum goal. Across the country, colleges and universities are training teachers in computer education and offering consulting services to schools. Many require that students own personal computers.
But an examination of computer use reveals no plan, no emerging pattern. Some school systems introduce them in pre-school classes, others at the junior high-school level. Some use computers for drill, some for problem solving, some for writing, some for graphics. There is no consensus on language; Logo, Pascal, Basic, and Fortran are all on the national "menu." The range of educational software is staggering and, by and large, mediocre.
This curriculum area, unlike others, is being developed willy nilly as it goes along. Compared to a scope and sequence in mathematics, or language arts, for example, it reveals little planning or forethought.
Educators are responding to public pressure. Everyone wants more computers in the schools, but for different reasons. Parents see future job insurance, children see a chance to have fun and play games, industry sees a burgeoning marketplace, and recently the federal government joined in the fray with the "Apple Bill."
This understandable response to public pressure has led educators to bypass the normal thought given to curriculum planning. After all, no one wants to be regressive. We must remind ourselves that we educators have expertise in child development, curriculum development, and pedagogy unique to our training and experience. We must ask ourselves some hard and open-ended questions about the appropriateness of computer instruction. When, where, and how should it be introduced? What are the strengths and limitations of this technology? What must be sacrificed in an already crowded curriculum to make room for this new area? Is it worth it? To what end?
I find it disheartening to see that educators are following rather than leading. The tidal wave of enthusiasm for computer in-struction reminds me of our recent romance with teaching machines. They too were to "revolutionize the schools," yet alas, most of these machines are now stored in closets.
It saddens me that school people are so slow to remind the public that there is expertise in education just as there is in medicine or law. Everyone was once a child yet we distinguish between lay people and developmental psychologists. Most of us have been ill at one time or another, yet we don't consider ourselves physicians. We have all been to school, but that doesn't make us educational experts.
Peggy Ruth Cole Principal The Ethical Culture Schools The Fieldston Lower School New York, N.Y.