Last year, News Corp purchased Wireless Generation, a company which makes teaching assistance software, and hired former New York schools Chancellor Joel Klein to head it up. In a June interview with the Times, Murdoch seemed almost giddy at the prospects made available by his new acquisition:
"You can get by with half as many teachers. The teachers can be a lot better and a lot better paid." As well as cutting back on teacher numbers, there would be a big reduction in textbook budgets. Mr. Murdoch joked that he hoped to put textbook publishers out of business.
As we reported in last month, Wireless Generation was awarded multi-million dollar no-bid contracts to provide these very systems to the New York school system. Interestingly, almost as soon as Gove had taken over the Department for Education, the government announced the abolition of BECTA – the quango which oversaw IT procurement in schools.I don't see any reason why Murdoch's threat to end textbook publishing should be taken as a joke.
But since he obviously doesn't know the first thing about schools or teaching: I present to you, Rupert, a list of all of things a computer can't do that a teacher can:
- Give a hug to a five-year-old who scraped her knee.
- Give notes to a 17-year-old who slept through the last lecture class because he was up all night working to support his family.
- Coach the JV girls basketball team to a 3-14 season, but make the #12 girl on the squad feel like she was the deciding factor in those three wins.
- Direct the seventh grade talent show, and watch as the other kids' jaws drop when that shy girl who always wears her hair in her face belts out a show-stopper.
- Take the high road when, during a call about a seven-year-old's behavior problems, a parent breaks into an obscenity-filled tirade that ends in tears.
- Teach a third grade class that putting away materials properly is the most important job an artist has.
- Find a way for a kid with cerebral palsy to play kickball.
- Command respect.
- Counsel and console a first-year colleague who swore she'd never raise her voice in her classroom, but just did.
- Volunteer to lead yet another committee on yet another state-wide initiative with yet another professional-development goal.
- Bag everybody's jacket, hat, backpack, and mittens separately to prevent another outbreak of head lice.
- Break up a fight before it starts between two two-hundred-and-twenty-pound football players over something so stupid that neither can remember exactly what it was.
- Stand on conviction.
- Share in the pride an eighth-grader feels when she finally figures out what "x" is.
- Make pain au chocolat sound so good that it's worth learning French just to order it.
- Help a 15-year-old see that he has something in common with Hamlet.
- Move a class of six-year-olds around a mound of puke and out the door.
This may be hard for a dried-out, soulless, money-grubbing bastard like Rupert Murdoch to understand, but:
Everything in the list above is important - even if it can't be measured by a bubble test.