I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Murdoch: Replace Teachers With Computers

Yes, he really said it:
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:

  • Listen.
  • 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.
  • Care.
  • 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.
  • Listen.
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.


Anonymous said...

And if anyone ever suggests completely getting rid of teachers, your comment will be relevant. If the number of teachers is cut in half, like he suggested, the remaining teachers will still be perfectly able to do everything you mentioned, while computers will be much better able to tailor questions and tasks to each individual student in a lot of ways.

Duke said...

Anon: Yes how silly of me. Of course teachers will be "perfectly able" to do all of these things. When those high school teachers who already have 5 sections of 25 students (if they're lucky) now go to 250 total kids - no problem! 50 in a First Grade class - heck, let's make it 60! 70! Just keep upgrading the software - the sky's the limit!

Any teacher who isn't "perfectly able" to handle that either is completely incompetent or just doesn't have the right Wireless Gen software loaded into her tablets. No reason we can't keep the kids zombified in front of their screens all day! In fact, let's have them watch the many fine and morally uplifting shows on the Fox Channel for recess!

Thanks for your obvious expertise and experience in such matters...


Duke said...

BTW, for those of you who actually want to learn something:


CommutingTeacher said...

Every child should have available what is offered in the best private schools. Small class sizes, almost no standardized testing, projects in the community and teachers who are free to develop materials that demand critical thinking skills. They offer the arts, time to play, and clean and safe environments. You will not see the private schools that the politicians send their children to shoving more kids in a classroom and pushing more kids into a computer monitor. All students are worthy of the skills and attention of their teacher, not just a privileged few. Just ask the private schools why they won't do this, go ahead, then ask those parents. My kids are worth what those kids get and then some.

czarejs said...

First...Duke congratulations on your very own troll.

Second...Anonymous if you don't think Murdoch and his ilk wouldn't get rid of every public school teacher you're living in a fantasy.

Third..."while computers will be much better able to tailor questions and tasks to each individual student in a lot of ways." You are living in a fantasy and you've been watching too many episodes of the Jetsons. Where are these magic computers going to come from? I'm still waiting for the door that won't lock to be replaced. It's been fourteen years.

RMF said...

@CommutingTeacher--You're absolutely right. And if we bust all the public school teachers down to the salaries those private school teachers make, we can probably afford to do it.

Anonymous said...

My wife is taking an online college course for a step increase at her job. Aside from the low price and easy commute, it's a complete waste: there's not much to the course outside of the textbook, and there's very little interaction with "prof" and "classmates."

I think NJ's gov is involved in this org.--did I read that here? Gad, folks'll support anything cheap these days, but let's remember that the most important thing about school is learning how to work with others.

Now, if you want to train a society of shut-ins, maybe computer ed is the way to go.

Ah, my gal is singing "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," so I have to log off.

Anonymous Bosch

Duke said...

Anon B: I hear you, but...

I took some on-line courses in grad school as well. One was fantastic - but the prof required interaction: on-line chats, collaborative projects, etc.

So there is a place for this stuff. But what Murdoch's saying is just dumb.

Thanks for posting a comment - I really do appreciate it.

Kristine Gallagher said...

Anonymous has obviously never tried to lead a herd of six-yr-olds around a mound of puke. Keep telling it like it is, Duke.

joeswell said...

I believe that online courses are great for motivated adults and older motivated students... but if anyone thinks that you can put 30-35 twelve year old into a room full of computers and expect most of them to "stay on task" with supervision, they must nuts. Good Online Courses are designed to elicit participation and interaction from students. Most "educational" software for younger students is filled with a lot of repetition and can't keep their attention. One more thing, unless these experts allocate enough $$$$ to buy every kid has a computer... that works... replacing teachers with computers is just not going to be successful

CommutingTeacher said...

I have to ask, why do the best performing countries respect their teachers, give them good salaries and benefits, and the autonomy to teach students as they -as educators- think will best teach the lesson? They do that because their kids are important, important enough to make sure their teachers are highly qualified, certified, and effective with administrators who are effective at identifying those high performing individuals.

I can't help but be confused at the public push to turn our schools in to Wal-mart boxes but expecting Tiffany results. I would not expect to find good running shoes at Joe's No Name Discount Shoe Shack, but I will at Nike. While teachers love to teach the public and politicians are turning it into an assembly line profession where there is nothing left to love about it anymore and children are cattle. Aren't our kids worth more? What smart, sane, and forward looking person would want to do that for 30-40 yrs? It will be a drive-by industry. Isn't capitalism great!

CommutingTeacher said...

BTW, RMF, it can easily be done by stopping the billions being fed to the testing industry. Billions and billions. They have set themselves up nicely and even set it up so that they will always be necessary. By whose standards is this necessary and certainly not by successful countries is this important.