In a posting on LearnBoost Rafael claims that technologists care about education, but don’t care enough to actually do anything to solve the problems of education. He’s completely right, and he’s also completely wrong. He doesn’t even try to think of a single reason why this is the case. I will tell you those reasons.
This is why you see these passive signals of techies caring about education via the repeated upvotes on communities like Hacker News. Techies care a little bit, but still it’s not enough to drive change. Another way of putting it: there is a lot of demand for change in education but not enough people supplying that change. So we keep repeatedly celebrating the few education innovators.
Let me tell you something Mr. Rafael. I care a great deal about education. If I could pick any job in the world, I would pick to be a technology teacher in a high school somewhere. Now, why aren’t I currently employed in that dream job of mine? It’s not because I didn’t try. The reasons I am not a high school computer teacher are the same reasons that technologists don’t care about education “enough”.
Reason number one is money. Technology skills are very rare, and very valuable. Almost all of my college professors worked in the private sector during the summer because that’s where they made their real money. Even with all the extra benefits from the teacher’s unions, a teacher’s salary isn’t even remotely enough compared to what I can make at even a normal tech job. If you want technologists to help with education, you have to pay. The reality of the world is that corporations have a lot more money than schools, so that’s where technologists go. I don’t know how well a school would handle a brand new computer teacher being paid more than the principal.
If it’s just a matter of money, I look like a greedy tool, so let’s look at the other two issues. The first of which is lack of freedom for the teacher. Most teachers do not have freedom to teach as they please. They have to follow curriculum. They have to teach a certain way. No decent technologist can tolerate that. They would demand to teach the subject matter they want in the manner of their own choosing. A technologist would chafe if they were told what to do or how to do it.
Even worse, many schools will not hire you to just teach technology. I looked into it, and most schools will hire you has a math or science teacher with the opportunity to teach one or two technology courses, if that. That just isn’t going to cut it. I have no interest whatsoever in being a math or science teacher, grading papers, or other bullshit. I want to have a classroom full of computers, and other stuff, and I want to be the complete dictator of that room. The school exists only to put students into and out of that room.
That ties into the last problem which is the bureaucracy of the school as a whole. You see plenty of stories all over tech sites about a kid being suspended for having his boy scout knife in school, or some other nonsense. Back in my high school I got reprimanded for installing the flash plugin on a school computer. Technologists are nothing if not infuriated at the moronic policies and limitations that are placed on students and on the school computers. I imagine I, and other similarly minded folk, would be fired almost immediately by some cowardly principal who always follows policy to the letter.
If you want technologists to help with education, you have to pave a path for us. Because our technological knowledge is rare, we have great power. We are holding all the cards. Therefore, you have to grease the wheels if you want our help. Even if we want to help you, we can’t as long as the walls of bullshit are still in our way. Even if you can’t offer us as much money, you have to eliminate the bureaucracy and idiocy. We won’t tolerate moronic school policies whether they are applied to us or to students. We’ll probably show up at the school, tell everyone they are stupid, wave the middle finger around, and be sent home, if not to prison.
We would love to come and help you, but I think it will have to wait some time. Call us when you’re really ready for technological egos to roam your halls.
I have your dream job bad in a lot of ways it is amazing. The biggest problem is that I’m an elective and as such I am always worried that I will not have high enough enrollment. Worse yet, my perfect class size , 12, is smaller then the minimum class my school wants to run, 15 or more. I’m not sure what the right answer for ed is, but I’m sure more pay and smaller classes are part of it. I’m just not sure how to pay for those things.