Time-capsule wishes

Here's a prediction: In the future, students will be their own teachers.

Sound farfetched? It probably did when it, along with other prognostications by state governors, was sealed into a time capsule in 1959, to be opened by 2000. After all, most people didn't know what the Internet was, let alone a personal computer - technology that would allow the prediction to come true. In 1959, high-tech included TV - where "Gunsmoke" was a hit - and the phone, honored that year by a frenzied period of jamming people into phone booths.

Today, of course, it's not quite as earth-shattering a statement. That doesn't mean schoolhouses are about to disappear; on the contrary, communities are once again scrambling to accommodate booming school populations. But the Internet is daily rattling our concept of learning, and "virtual" schools are forming rapidly.

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It's an exciting prospect - one that invests kids a lot more in their own education. But technology is hardly a panacea. Among those '59 predictions was one proclaiming the educational benefits of TV. Anyone watching a group of teens gape at Channel One, a daily school program, might question that - as well as why computers are a more urgent need than, say, fixing leaky roofs.

That's the unsettling side of technology. Advances can have uneven results. They push speed - exactly what fad-prone schools don't need. And they can overlook more fundamental signs of progress. As one governor hoped, even as a US space program rocketed forward: "School books will be better written and, thus, easier to understand."

* E-mail newcomba@csps.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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