Is Tech Funding Racist?
January 29, 2011 Leave a comment
This thought has dogged me since this news item appeared on NPR.org yesterday: Ohio Case: The ‘Rosa Parks Moment’ For Education? You’ll find it helpful to read the article before proceeding here. [You’ll notice the line the Rosa Parks bus ran on was the Cleveland line – sadly ironic in this context.]
To see my gut-level reaction as a dad and sometimes-educator-cynic, scroll down in that article and check out the “Most Recommended” comments, complete with typos I overlooked in my haste to comment yesterday morning. You’ll see I find the behavior of the Ohio school district particularly outrageous, especially in the light of how I’ve experienced our local legal system’s failure to serve society’s mandate to educate all our students to the highest level possible.
But being an ed tech guy, it didn’t take long for my curiosity to grow about whether tech funding in Ohio follows the local property tax education funding patterns common in so many states, a funding pattern that allows segregation and socioeconomic Balkanization to persist in so much of twenty-first century America. So this morning, while my kids waited for my participation in our weekend buttermilk pancake ritual, I took a look at Ohio’s EETT competitive awards in their last round.
Fully expecting the other outcome, I was delighted to see that the Ohio EETT competitive awards, however paltry in this economy, were granted exclusively to urban schools, most of which were over 90% African American in student ethnicity. It would appear that our state level ed tech colleagues in Ohio are indeed fulfilling their EETT mandate.
However, we all know that EETT-C awards do not fund infrastructure, they do not fund network administrators, they do not fix leaky roofs in classrooms, server rooms, and computer labs. The larger picture remains one of grossly inequitable opportunity persisting in most of America. I entered this field precisely because I believe technology to be the great social-leveler of modern time. One Laptop Per Child truly captured my imagination as I entered ed tech; the idea of a child in the African bush networking with another in Brooklyn, NY, is now real, and it is changing the world.
Technology has been a social equalizer since humans began making stone axes and hide scrapers, with early adopters enjoying clear competitive advantages in every Darwinian sense. We see headlines of technology at work in Tunisia and Egypt [and again here] today as young people demand opportunity to control their destinies and our government organizes its bully pulpit resources in support of those movements. Why is it that we can wrap our collective imaginations around flattening the world between nations, but we remain essentially blind to this critical social need to extend equal opportunity, fueling the collective good, when it comes to people in the next town, or even the next neighborhood over? Are we humans truly that navel-oriented?