Boston — We may look back one day soon and admit that the Industrial Revolution was decidedly pale beside the enormous impact of today's technological revolution. For schools, the Industrial Revolution was a tremendous boon. In fact, compulsory public schooling, it might be argued, came into being because of a need for industry to have an educated citizenry.
Farmers, for the most part, grew their own helpers, or apprenticed those outside the family, and very little academic schooling was necessary to be able to hold down most farm jobs.
But came the revolution and mechanization, and schools came into their own.
Now the developed nations are faced with another revolution which, instead of appearing to support schools, threatens the traditional academic skills as they have never been threatened before.
Will reading, writing, and arithmetic soon become as obsolete for some 80 to 90 percent of the population as scything and hand-harrowing have become?
Or is that a foolish question? Are schools, instead, faced with changes in syllabus and curriculum, and not with obsolesence?
Yes, the hand calculator can do the adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. But it can't set up the problem, which requires the arithmetic memory skill. The calculator only has a memory; it doesn't have any reasoning ability.
Same with the word processor; it can memorize what's written, but cannot generate the original copy.
And the computer, it can carry out the calculations, but not set up the process which it can then follow unerringly.
The challenge from technology - for schools - is to make use of it as well as to set up entirely new courses in reasoning, analysis, problem-solving, and the like.
Reading skills must include video messages as well as print.
Writing must include graphics as well as paragraphs.
Arithmetic should consist of problem analysis, more than calculations.
It is a revolution. Schools need all the help they can get from the technology which is the cause of their revolution.
Next week: Daily writing assignments