Saturday, May 9, 2009

The economic stimulus package and education

This is a response I added to another blog posting as part of a class at National-Louis University. The original post can be be seen at

Here goes:
I don't understand why you think that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is "trumped" by the Economic Stimulus bill. One website headline captured the essence of the stimulus bill: "A one-time opportunity to make lasting impact and improve outcomes" ( -- this was part of an ad that showed up on a Google search for "economic stimulus education"). That phrase, "one-time opportunity to make lasting impact" is an oxymoron in education. At best, the injection of money will make up for past cuts and chronic underfunding.

Regarding money for technology in education, as a one-time infusion, the economic stimulus will likely feed exactly the wrong kind of technology deployment. As Todd Oppenheimer repeats over and over and over in his book _The Flickering Mind_, the past thirty years of education is littered with the corpses of failed technology initiatives. One important reason they have failed is because technology has been evolving so quickly, that any purchase today will be more or less obsolete in two or three years, or the equipment will be unusable, or in need of routine maintenance that is unaffordable because the stimulus money was, well, one-time. As a case in point, my school is part of a five-year technology initiative, much like what I suspect that the stimulus package might fund. We have lots of great new equipment. But batteries on the laptops are starting to fail, bulbs in the LCD projectors and document cameras will eventually need to be replaced; we need batteries for the cameras, ink cartidges for printers, CD and DVD blanks, back-up storage, software, subscriptions, etc. etc. etc. -- all of the routine extra expenses not covered by the program for which we may or may not have money budgeted -- in any case I don't know where it is coming from. And that is if the school's money is managed well, and not spent on frivolous purchases of questionable educational value. And unless the crazy requirements of NCLB are revised, including the absurd definition of "adequate yearly progress", the technology will be directed to exactly the wrong kind of uses -- drill and kill test prep.

The problems of education in the United States are too deep for a one-time stimulus. If anything, the salivating over the economic stimulus will have the negative effect of taking the focus off of the deep problems that require long-term solutions -- solutions like smaller class size, time for lesson planning and reflection, maybe longer school days, art and music and shop programs, space for innovation in the public school classroom, recess, and so on.

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