Monday, February 27, 2006

Separate and Unequal: The Socio-Economic Digital Divide

This piece on unequal technology in Florida schools highlights what I have been saying for awhile: there is a distinct socio-economic digital divide in the United States that will end up leaving lots of children in the dust and unable to function in the new emerging ultra-tech economy.

And even if there are some great teachers like those in Holyoke and Athol, MA (featured in this report from local public radio station WFCR), who are trying to introduce blogging, and thus introduce the Internet and more to students in their communities, what will happen to those students after they complete those programs if their families are too poor to afford a home computer?

yeah, I've heard the old saw about kids going down to the public library to use computers....but, seriously, how many kids have the incentive to use the public library if their parents don't care about the public library?

Lots of assumptions are made about kids on the less affluent side of the digital divide--that they can buck their parents when it comes to learning technology, that they will be strong and self-motivated to do so, that they will be able to bully their parents into buying them computers....all I can say to this is that if you have never been poor, never lived in poor neighborhoods, never worked with poor people in low income jobs, you really have no clue what it's like to be poor. If you and your working poor family are also relying on food stamps and state-funded health clinics, no matter how much you love your children, no matter how much you may want them to get ahead, you won't be purchasing a computer any time soon...

and sometimes it's better to discourage a poor child than it is to encourage him or her to look beyond her world...mainly because you, the parent, can't bear the shame of not being able to provide for their future.

More and more, in our high-speed, ultra-tech world, we are seeing some kind of social Darwinism--survival of the wealthiest. In an economy that is becoming further and further polarized between service sector and tech sector jobs (with little to no manufacturing), what will happen to those who never got the opportunity to learn anything about technology? Can we expect that, once they have graduated from high school, individuals will have to take on the additional burden of a secondary or training school in order to get the skills necessary to get the most basic tech-centric job?

Talk about a cruel and unusual economy...and one that could escalate third world conditions in what is supposed to be the most wealthy country in the world.

Think about it....

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