“Time to rock ‘n’ roll! Hurry up or you’ll miss the school bus!” my mother would say to wake me up for school each morning during my middle school years. This seemingly natural phrase, however, may soon be replaced by mothers yelling at their 10-year-old sons and daughters to “Hurry up and turn on the computer for school.” These words leave many of us puzzled.
Legislation that would allow for the expansion of cyber schools in the state of Michigan recently passed in the Republican-led State Senate last week. The bill contributes to the state’s ongoing effort to expand public education options. Michigan state law currently allows for the operation of two cyber charter schools, which have a total combined enrollment of 1,400 students. The new legislation would lift the cap on the number of cyber charter schools permitted, thereby encouraging this second-rate education service to replace traditional school models.
Many feel that increasing cyber schooling is a wise decision. There are currently long waitlists to enroll in cyber charter schools, which indicates that parents are seeking more opportunities for their children to engage in this type of educational experience.
As the digital age sweeps through society, many believe that cyber school education would allow Michigan to keep up with the latest technological trends and advances that are responsible for reshaping society and education. Proponents of the bill believe families should have more choices and opportunities for how and where they choose to engage in the public educational system. In their eyes, cyber schooling provides a less expensive means for delivering education to children and simultaneously serves those opposed to the traditional schooling model.
I, however, always imagined motherhood consisting of me walking my children to the bus stop on their first day of kindergarten, and I wouldn’t want this notion to be replaced by a mere physical object. Expanding cyber schools in Michigan would cause more harm than good for students.
Is Michigan really going to push education forward in a positive matter with an attempt to conform to the digital age? I think it’s shameful that so many individuals are in favor of replacing real “live” school settings with online-only courses for adolescents who are just beginning to understand and learn about the world in which they live. The physical interactions that occur each day among teachers and students are vital to a child’s successful academic achievement. These communication opportunities provide students the chance to enhance their social skills while being able to effectively learn and promptly ask questions each step of the way.
Furthermore, cyber charter schools provide little financial and academic accountability. There is limited evidence of their effectiveness, especially since there are limited formal rules and minimal supervision that occurs with online schooling. Students who are unable to grasp the information quickly are at a disadvantage since they don’t receive constant attention from a teacher and can’t ask for immediate clarification. It’s questionable to say how successful children will be in the long run if their knowledge is based solely from online education. There is also concern regarding the funding of these new cyber charter schools. Surely, the Michigan government will have to tap into citizens’ tax money to improve online education. That just seems wasteful and unnecessary.
While we are all in agreement that society is changing and evolving in the 20th century with technological advances, children and their education should not be used for experimental purposes. Education is too valuable and crucial for survival in this generation, and it should not be designed with the intention of having it become more efficient, cheap and quick.
Perhaps providing a mix of online only and physical school attendance is one solution. Children will still receive face-to-face communication with their teachers and be able to socially interact with fellow classmates. In addition, children will have the ability to learn certain material on the Internet. It’s important to put constraints on what type of information can be taught online since certain subjects may be better taught in a classroom setting.
Children should not be subjected to spending all day “learning” in front of a computer screen. It’s necessary for them to experience learning in the traditional school model to enhance their intellectual and social capabilities. While it’s important to acknowledge the power of digitization in the 21st century, we shouldn’t allow technology to undermine the traditional forms of education that have proven so successful for our nation thus far.
Caroline Syms is an LSA sophomore