A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

MP3 players for every student!

Last night, we went to a Good Friday service which included a meal, and I sat down next to my very Republican friend, Butch, who never has anything good to say about government (despite, or perhaps because of, having been a government social services employee for years). We don’t usually talk politics–the gap between us is too large and our friendship too fragile for this–but he started complaining about recent proposals to raise taxes to fix Michigan roads. Our roads are a bit of a mess, a special shame in the state that started and for many years hosted the automobile industry. I asked him whether he thought we should just leave the roads unfixed; his point was that fixing the roads is always given as the reason to raise taxes, but the money goes for other reasons altogether. At this point, I needed to be quiet. I didn’t have any facts at hand, and I wasn’t going to win any arguments in any case.

But Michigan is in a pretty bad way, and it will take innovative government and private partnerships to work our way out. So it was depressing to read that the House Democrats are proposing spending $38 million to provide MP3 players (using, I think ‘ipod’ as a generic term for an MP3 player) to every Michigan student for individualized education, according to the best write-up I can find, from Michigan Technology News.

It is very hard for me to believe the Dems would suggest such a chuckle-headed proposal, which has no chance to pass, and, if passed, would make absolutely no positive contribution to the education of Michigan children. This is definitely a ‘Worse Than Failure’ moment; it makes one think that sneaky Republican pirates have p0wnd the budget proposal. But alas: ‘never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity’ seems to apply here.

I don’t think this will help convince Butch that raising taxes might be needful.

5 responses to “MP3 players for every student!

  1. Natalia April 12, 2007 at 12:33 am

    I want library skills for every student.

  2. Michael H. April 12, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    If this makes you feel any better, I’ve seen this roundly criticized across the ‘net.

    It did make the article I was reading about yet another pharmaceutical company closing up shop in Kalamazoo/Ann Arbor particularly poignant, though. Le sigh.

  3. Daniel Lemire April 12, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    Kidding aside, I’d like to know what the iPod proposal was, exactly. At the very least, it might have sounded better than “how do we teach them to read?” “let us buy iPods!”. There must have been more to it.

    Podcasting could be use to drastically improve education. I can believe this. Despite everything we are taught, current teaching techniques are deeply flawed and pretty much leave learning to chance.

  4. Michael H. April 13, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Here’s an update. The spin, at least, is that it wasn’t “an ipod for every student” so much as a more generic statement about technology in the classroom. I don’t quite know if that’s really what was proposed, since there’s the kerfuffle on the side about the lawmakers paying for their own trip to Apple H.Q. But, hopefully, this was just a miscommunication.


  5. Mark Fitzgerald April 15, 2007 at 11:28 am

    It’s pathetic that we have politicians in the State of Michigan who are so amped about improving technology for Michigan students when the most basic of educational needs aren’t met. MP3 players are great…I’m assuming they were hoping to podcast or have students watch/listen to “educational” material. They couldn’t be more ignorant to the fact that students k-12 learn best through interaction. Replacing the classroom setting with technology takes away from the learning environment. If politicians believe that the Ipod will aide learning inside and outside of the classroom, perhaps they need to revisit grade school to brush up on their critical thinking skills. The only place I see Ipods/MP3’s serving society as an educational tool, is at the college level where students are crammed for time and the convenience of podcasting is a TRUE asset. If you want to bring technology into schools, bring in something that challenges the mind….OH, here’s a great idea…a science experiment. I’m sure some politician came into a meeting with some of his/her staff and thought:

    “how can we give our students a technological advantage in the 21st century? Let’s supply them with the latest technological device…an Ipod!”

    “Wow, look how far ahead of the trend we are”

    My response….”just becuase you jog every morning to Yellow Submarine on replay, doesn’t mean students are going to be humming the Pythagorean Theorem”

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