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.

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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