I am upset with Teacher Magazine for donating seven pages of garbage to John Gatto in “The World According to Gatto” [March] and promoting his books of babble. Please do not send me any more.
When I subscribed to Teacher Magazine, I was pleased with its objectivity, even regarding material with which I disagree. However, you seem to be taking a turn to the left. “Let’s Talk About Sex” [February], which discusses an open approach to teaching about birth control, is clearly leftist and without much research base. In fact, abstinence-only programs work. The number of births to unmarried teenagers dropped in the end of the 1990s for the first time since records have been kept.
Jefferson City, Tennessee
I am not a teacher, but I read “Big Mac Attack” [February] about Macintosh computers in schools. As a user of both Macs and PCs, I have to say that asking children to use Windows machines borders on cruelty. It is more difficult to get PCs to do what you want, and the maintenance is considerably more arduous. Moreover, they are a poor value proposition since Macs can do double duty if required; install Virtual PC, and you can run the occasional piece of Windows software that you need. I like Macs not only because they are reliable but because Apple is always on the cutting edge—as seen, for example, with its “AirPort” wireless technology. People often argue that PCs prepare kids for the real world. Why crush their spirit and creativity early? And why assume Windows will always be with us?
I’ve used both Macs and PCs and can see the benefits each offers. Apple’s Macintosh may be the superior product in terms of design, components, and usability, but, sadly, Mac fails in price. Macs have always cost more than PCs, and I would suggest the primary reason for that is competition with the lower-quality PC. Next, consider the software. Again the Mac loses. Quality software is what enhances productivity, and there is no shortage of alternative products for the PC. Again the cost issue comes up. Because of the competitive range of software available for the PC, there are always lower-cost alternatives available to the user, unlike the Mac.
The Mac has had its day in academic institutions. It will always have loyal followers, but schools must teach on the platform used in industry, and that’s the PC. Those responsible for purchasing equipment have a duty to achieve the best value for the money.
Glasgow, United Kingdom
High-Tech at Home
I loved February’s Perspective [“Technical Difficulties”] describing how neither technology nor anything else will “reform” the educational system. Your descriptions of rigid grade-level structures, artificial segmentation of time, and lock-step curriculum were right on. More flexibility and students assuming more responsibility for their education while teachers act more like mentors is equally good.
What you call for is exactly what homeschooling offers. We’ve enjoyed its benefits for 14 years with our five children. If schools ever change as you and I want them to, they would be more like homeschooling.
The optimal educational environment for the implementation of technology discussed in “Technical Difficulties,” sounds a lot like homeschooling: no grade segmentation or artificial time partitions, customized curricula, and students who are more responsible for their own learning.
In the four years that I have homeschooled my three children, I have used Web- based distance courses, courses entirely on CD, live simulcasts with scientists, speech-recognition software, and many other technologies. And we are just a typical homeschool family.
Homeschooling has already been a force for education reform by giving families of moderate means an option besides public schools. Perhaps we also will be a force for technological change by showing, through innovation and investments, how technology can truly transform learning.
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A version of this article appeared in the April 01, 2001 edition of Teacher as Letters