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Computers in education? Pish posh.

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Had to listen to some Fundamentalist Montessorians at a parent-teacher thing a few days ago.

Digression alert. . .

The word "fundamentalist" is quite a weasel-word. It was coined by religious folks a few years ago who wanted to get back to the "fundamentals" of the Bible following the movement towards kinder-n-gentler more new-agey Christianity. In actuality, though, they're doing nothing of the sort. If you ask 'em, for example, if a rape victim should ever be forced to marry her rapist to keep from disgracing her family, they'll suddenly revert back to some of that unbiblical modern moral relativism. There are folks who do indeed want to bring back all of the Old Testament laws (including the aforementioned rape-law) called "Biblical Reconstructionists", but they're pretty few and far between. The modern "fundamentalist" is generally a person with neoconservative politics and Biblical pseudo-inerrecist religious ideas, insisting that the Bible is without error but getting weasley with things like the again-aforementioned rape law.

So when I use the term "fundamentalist", I'm referring to one who holds a doctrine to be without error whether the doctrine contains errors or not. In this case, it's the works of this Montessori woman who came up with a way to teach kids. She now has a bunch of private schools teaching her method to greater or lesser degrees.

We send Maggie there because she's a bright kid who wasn't getting enough learning at Kinder-Care, and it was the only "real school" we knew that would take three year-olds.

We went to a pretty dull parent-teacher meeting a few days ago to meet up with the new school's principal. He belted out lots of talk about mission statements and five-year plans and leveraging synergy and other terms that are as meaningful as tits on a boar-hog (which is Texasese for "really freakin' meaningless").

During Q&A, Shelly asked if there were any plans to introduce computers for the younger kids. She was then met with some Montessori-speak about how younger kids need to be able to deal with a 3D paradigm rather than 2D and how the images on the screen aren't tangible enough for little kids and how computers make kids susceptible to "increasingly clever" sexual predators and kids can get around that net-nanny software and kids need to learn how to write with pencils and computers discourage that.

Here's a news-flash, folks.

1. Books are one-dimensional

I could take an X-acto knife and slice apart a couple of copies of War and Peace, and tape 'em together into a paper ribbon three miles long and two millimeters high, and you could still read it. Moreover, it would lose NONE of its context or scope.

Yet kids seem to be able to grasp the concept of books without them having be three dimensional and/or tangible. Any kid more than about two months old knows the difference between a 2D picture and a 3D object. By the time you're old enough for school, that concept is cemented into your head about as firmly as it's gonna get. Giving a kid a videogame on a 2D screen ain't gonna mess him up a bit.

2. Writing on paper with pencils isn't all that important anymore

If you gathered up every single word you wrote today and put 'em into two bins labeled "typed" and "handwritten", you'd likely find that the vast bulk of your words would be in the typed bin. I'm not saying not to teach kids how to write, but writing long stretches of text in longhand isn't done anymore. Teaching kids to type is MORE IMPORTANT than teaching 'em how to print.

Read the previous sentence again. It's a fact. Live with it.

3. You can make computers completely impervious to sexual predators.

It's quite difficult to do, however. It requires a special technique known as "don't hook the friggin' thing up to a network, you pinheads". This may still require a bit of monitoring, as the average five year-old is skilled at running 10base-T cable and reinstalling any TCP-IP drivers that have been removed from the machine.

Maggie's old Kinder-Care had computers. They ran simple games that taught 'em how to click and drag with the mouse, how to use the arrow keys, and how to type (because, if you haven't noticed, the alphabet on the average computer keyboard is a tad scrambled and requires a modicum of practice to use). Maggie is now more proficient at computers than any of her grandparents, and no internet predator was able to get near her because the computers weren't networked. Weird.

In any case, the whole argument really reduced to "Montessori didn't teach kids computers, so neither will we". Of course, Ms. Montessori died in 1952, but that certainly wouldn't have anything to do with it.

Doesn't bother me all that much, really. Thanks to the Civilgrrl downsizing, Maggie now has a computer in her playroom (which she has re-dubbed "Maggie's Office"). Thanks to the Flash games on noggin.com and pbskids.org, she can click and drag without any trouble. She's figuring out the arrow keys. She's gonna get typing tutor software on the machine, and I'll teach her MS Word as soon as she's mature enough to read the menus.

And if doing so means that she's gonna be typing up her own stories while the other Fundamentalist Montessorian kids are still learning to perceive a 3D world of wooden blocks, that's the other kids' tough luck.
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Did you challenge them on their stupid idea?

I've sat in on a few entertaining meetings where some official makes a sweeping statement like that and some suitably confident audience member destroys the whole argument and leaves them with no good reason for their original statement.


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Oops, I actually didn't do that on purpose, it just seemed like the right way to agree with johnhatten at the time....

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3. You can make computers completely impervious to sexual predators.

It's quite difficult to do, however. It requires a special technique known as "don't hook the friggin' thing up to a network, you pinheads". This may still require a bit of monitoring, as the average five year-old is skilled at running 10base-T cable and reinstalling any TCP-IP drivers that have been removed from the machine.

Haha, I loved that part. If I can have 5 year olds running around wiring up my house, i'd be set.

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When I was a kid, we had Math Blaster and Bag-o-saurus and a bunch of other stuff I don't remember.

I remember agonizing months and months over learning how to write cursive. What was the point of that? Cursive is retarded; almost no-one can actually read it.


"That's the way it's always been done, that's the way we'll always do it!!"


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They honestly don't want to teach the kids computer literacy? I would imagine the logical ability to fit a solution to a rigid and inflexible problem is a highly valuable skill. In my public school career all my mathematics courses taught me were how to game the teachers to get enough partial marks to pass a course.

This, of course, didn't work well when I reached university where partial marks were, errr, not so forthcoming -- even if the assignment is out of 50 marks, you get either 0 or 50.

Logic and understanding and problem-solving; these are skills that are more valuable to a child than anything that the arts-wankers at most private schools can provide.

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