A few thoughts on computers, day care and television that came to mind on a serene spring afternoon as I sat watching clouds do impressions of various animals, some species of which have yet to be identified:
On a recent broadcast of his CNN talk show, Jesse Jackson took every possible opportunity to equate equal educational opportunity with having “every school in America connected to the Internet.”
President Clinton has called for computers in every classroom and Internet access for every student. In California, where taxpayer revolts have forced the downsizing of public education, computers and Internet connections are being funded by private initiatives.
The question no one seems willing to confront: Is there evidence that children with computers score higher on measures of achievement than children without computers?
The answer is: There is no such evidence. The very great possibility is that the rush to judgment concerning computers and Internet access may create classrooms that are high in technology and low on educational substance. If there’s one thing America’s kids don’t need, it’s to be used as guinea pigs in the yet another education fad.
The Great Day Care Debate - whether day care is good or bad overall - will probably never be resolved. One study says this, another says that, which allows the “experts” to adopt whatever positions suit their fancy.
Yours truly, for example, is convinced it is generally better for children below age 3 to be in parent-care. Then again, I know of a lot of kids who have been in day care since infancy and seem to be doing just fine. Therefore, I am quick to add, “but better doesn’t mean a child in day care from early on is going to have significant problems of any kind.”
It’s most likely there are advantages and disadvantages inherent to every single child-care category. None is perfect, none is disastrous. Day care does, however, have one unarguable advantage over parent-care. Given that television is on some seven hours a day in the average household, as opposed to hardly at all in a licensed day-care facility, putting a child in a licensed day-care center means his exposure to the mind-numbing effects of the boob tube are cut by probably more than half.
Given recent evidence to the effect that a responsive social environment is the single most critical variable in “successful” brain development, this advantage is probably highly significant. In other words, if you’re going to stay home with your children, make it worth their while by keeping the television off.
A major player in the computer industry recently told me the following: Take two children born today. Give one a computer at age 3, and as he grows, always keep him supplied with the latest technology. Don’t allow the second child access to a computer until a month before he enters college - August, 2015. On the day these two begin college, they will be equally computer-literate. Furthermore, if the first knows programming, it won’t take long for the second to catch up in that area, either.
What my friend didn’t say is that by age 18, the second child is likely to be far and away more enthusiastic concerning computers and their possibilities.
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