I work at a Title 1 School. Here is what that means: The kids are poor. The parents are poorer. The school has a large low-income student population that meets the definition and requirements to receive extra funds from the federal government. Free and reduced lunch, extra computers, extra personnel- to name a few.
School just resumed yesterday after a two-week hiatus affectionately called Winter Break. Most teachers use the students’ rejuvenated writing stamina to ask the kids to pen a bit about the holiday. What did you do? What was your favorite part/ Christmas present? Blahblahblah. I just read 25 such informal essays. Out of 25, guess how many mentioned playing video games over the break? That would be 23. Which could (and maybe should) lead me to the next most obvious question? How the hell are parents who cannot afford lunch or breakfast or shampoo, in fact, affording a Playstation, XBox or other such $100-$300 gadget? I have no intention of posing that question. We cannot control parenting methods and choices of others any more than we can help a blind man to see. And since my dad has on several occasions told me that ‘you cannot reason with the unreasonable’ and ‘there are always two ways to skin a cat’ (not that I would ever want to because of being highly allergic to felines)….here is my education reform thought for the day:
If we already have many children’s rapt attention for such endless hours, how can we infuse this bazillion dollar gaming industry with some meaningful educational curriculum? Work with what we have? In some of these children’s homes, the only reading material is the pile of unpaid, mostly ignored bills on the unloved kitchen table….and apparently a perfectly functional video game system. The late great Randy Pausch used what is called a ‘head fake’ on his students to often trick them into learning cumbersome material. At this point, I would be fine with walking into a classroom full of 25 beanbag, supine kiddos as long as they were using the joystick for the joy of learning something other than how to densensitize themselves to violent combat.
There is a moral panic going on in the world over this video game business. I am not sure that we can do anything to get rid of an industry that poverty-level parents are even finding a way to feed their children. So it’s not healthy cereal that we’re feeding them for hours and hours on end? Let’s find a way to make that happen. Skin the cat. Meet them where they are…..and take them to where they need to be.