John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 06.23.06
Fool's Hollow, Quebec


Quebec's Educationist Shuck & Dive Squad

Q: What glows and stinks like dead fish in the moonlight?
A: The so-called school kids' Laptop Initiative bulldogged by the Eastern Townships School Board (ETSB).

Their cheers sound akin to George Bush's War on Iraq sloganeering: "We're winning! We're winning! Mission accomplished!"

Yeah, right.

If you don't factor in the following:

  • The more than 2000 Mac G-3s the board still has not paid for have been found motherboard-defective.

  • This means that local school boards get to choose just where in their barebones operating budgets to chop an additional fourteen percent to pay for replacements.

  • And not just this year, but for the next four years. (Hello, friends of education, it's the year 2010 and guess what? Your four-year-old laptops are…old toast.)

    The ETSB is carrying over a $2.48 million deficit in its $66 million budget, due to the laptop program, but , Hey!, Fund raising prospects are "excellent."

  • Plus, the new contract the ETSB has with Apple is "really neat," according to board chairman Michael Murray.
Let me be clear, I thought the concept was a mistake from Day One and I haven't changed my mind.

After reading the news report of the budget-slashing the other day, a colleague e-mailed this perceptive comment:

" It is the worst fiasco I have ever witnessed and I can't think of a corporation on the planet that would not have had the CEO's head on a platter for such an ill-advised plan."


Swell, you're so smart, you say, but what would you have them do in this digital information age?

I've used computers for two decades. I love what you can do with computers, I adore the educational and creative possibilities.

But first, I want kids to be able to read and to think, to learn to love books and create images in their heads.

I want them to learn to write simple declarative sentences, and to spell all the words correctly. And then learn to string the sentences together in an understandable narrative. It reinforces critical thinking, eh?

I want them to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide without the aid of an electronic device.

I want them to learn not only about Wajiristan, but where it's located on this tortured planet we call home.

These same educationists have adopted a 10-year plan to combat Quebec's shameful teenage school drop-out rate. Part of it focuses on "early literacy and numeracy intervention."

Sweet Suffering Jesus Murphy, folks, it's reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Laptops come later. Get your priorities straight. Get back to basic learning and cut the hype.