Editorials 2020-April-03

Editorials & Columns
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No looking back

IN the late 1990s, a group of well-meaning parents observed “No TV Day” each year. The TV was regarded as the “idiot box,” and children needed a break from it.

But one parent pointed out that our children were growing up in a world that was not only dominated by TV, but by other ever evolving technologies. The parent asked, “Are we preparing the kids for their world or ours?”

Today, the supposed “bane” of civilization is the smartphone especially when connected to the internet. And yet imagine if there was no smartphone/internet in this pandemic. It would be pretty grim. For example, the number of real news sources is likely to dwindle, and it could be difficult to refute rumors or outright misinformation. The likely result is pandemonium.

True, the internet allows fake news to spread faster, but they can also be disproved faster. Moreover, many individuals now appreciate the importance of verifying and/or double-checking information that concerns human lives.

Which brings us to education. Home-schooling and online learning are already available even before Covid-19, but the pandemic is now showing us that these options are not only viable but quite possibly superior, as Matthew Hennessey of The Wall Street Journal noted recently. High-quality online educational materials have sprouted in the past decade, he said. “All you need is a laptop, headphones and a quiet corner of the house, and your kid can study everything from calculus to ancient Greek.”

Hennessey says he and his wife are homeschoolers themselves, and they have known about these options for a while:

“It’s possible for a teenager to do college-prep work in a comfortable, low-pressure environment free of vaping, bullying, emotional warfare, peer pressure and the other social dysfunctions that thrive wherever the young congregate.

“Parents may be anxious about spending so much face time with grumpy, hormonal teenagers. But most adolescent attitude is socially acquired. After a few weeks of homeschooling, parents may find they like their kids much better. As the attitudes adjust, they may see academic progress too.”

The local economy is basically on life support. It cannot possibly generate even half of what the CNMI government needs to pay for all its annual obligations which include PSS. An expansion of online classes and home-schooling should be on the to-do list of PSS and the central government.

“This moment has been a long time coming,” Hennessey wrote. “Our lives are far different today than 25 or 50 years ago, but schools haven’t changed much. In many places they’ve incorporated iPads, smartboards, class websites, and the like, but those are merely tools; the educational blueprint is essentially the same as it was in 1900.”

For the CNMI , the goal now is to significantly reduce the costs of public education while improving its quality and making it more relevant to the lives of our children who are growing up in a world where the internet and telecom technology are rapidly changing human society and the way we live.

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