Friday, March 10, 2006

Baude's Response

I asked: "What plausible reason is there to think that giving a seventh-grader a free laptop is going to improve the learning process in any way?"

Will Baude responds:
Now, I do not mean to argue that a cheap laptop is a better buy, from an educational point of view, than a pile of books. But it seems hard to deny that computer-users, even children, are likely to learn things from their computers. When I was in middle- and high- school I used the internet to learn about the interactions between objectivism and libertarianism, a lot of arguments about the moral character of Shakespeare's Hamlet, how (not) to flirt with girls, lots of poems, and more. Now it may well be that these things (and gossip about celebrities, which he mentions and derides) are not things that Mr. Buck values particularly highly, or not things that it makes sense for the state of Illinois to subsidize the acquisition of, but it seems hard, and indeed quite odd, to deny that they constitute learning of one sort or another.
A clarification: I don't mean to say that it is impossible to learn anything from computers. I meant to say that dollars spent on free computers for seventh-graders are not likely to be an improvement on the books or other materials that those dollars might otherwise have purchased. From Baude's first sentence above, I think he agrees with me on that point.

Another thing to for Mr. Baude to keep in mind is that he is a brilliant and well-read individual, and the fact that he personally has used computers for intellectual enlightenment probably doesn't generalize to the average seventh-grader. There are some wonderful educational materials on the Internet, but as an overall matter, the signal-to-noise ratio is very low, and I suspect that the average seventh-grader will have more of an appetite for the noise.



Blogger Sean said...

When I was a 7th grader, I would have used my laptop to look at pornography. I bet Will Baude either (i) did the same or (ii) was using a computer in a setting (e.g., the school library or in front of his parents) which made it impossible.

4:20 PM  

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