iPen gets a pasting

The UK government is to spend £300 million (double that for a rough figure in US dollars) to give every child access to a computer at home.

Some fallacies I’ve identified in the BBC report on this computers-for-all plan are:

Fallacy #1: ‘Digital Divide’

Mr Socks (to class): Who knows what plagiarism is? Why do we have to avoid plagiarism? Yes, Bill, what do you think?

Bill: It's where the rats spread the plague and if it happens again we will all be dead.

Mr Socks:

The government keeps saying we must close the so-called 'digital divide' between those children from households with and households without computers.

It doesn’t matter how often the government repeats the words ‘digital divide’ – it still won’t exist. What they are really talking about is the ‘cut and paste divide' or the 'plagiarism deficit', or something.

The main way that children do school projects these days is by shameless cutting and pasting from websites like Wikipedia. I see them doing it when I take my classes in the computer room, and when they manufacture their essays at home I moonlight as a Google-detective finding the sites they plundered.

So the children without computers are indeed 'disadvantaged' because if they did bother to do their homework, this would actually mean have to do proper research and thinking.

There are honest pupils who take pride in their learning and the originality of their projects, but a growing number of children are rats and they are going to kill us all.

● Fallacy #2: The internet is the cure to all our ills

BBC says “the government set up a taskforce to ensure all children had access to the internet outside school.”

Great! – So can we sort out the internet access inside the schools, too?

Our school network has so many websites blocked you’d think you were in China or even North Korea (and while I’m on that point – our headmaster is becoming as reclusive as Kim Jong-il … they might even be the same person for all we know).

It’s not just the pornographic and obviously ‘inappropriate’ sites that are banned (our Year 10s are monitoring these porno sites and would put Bletchley Park to shame with their determination to crack the codes standing between them and the porn).

Also black-listed are most websites related to politics! I have yet to figure out how this tallies with government Citizenship initiatives to inspire young people’s interest in how the country is run. The young might indeed become interested in politics, but they sure won't be able to cut and paste research anything about it.

● Fallacy #3: Without computers we are nothing

Schools Minister Jim Knight is quoted "There has to be a culture where families see home access [to computers] is as important as making sure their children have pen, paper and calculator at school."

Never mind the paper and calculators – my school is rammed full with children for whom the concept of even bringing a pen to school is confusing and alienating. Strangely, these kids come from families with the latest widescreen televisions, Xbox thingies, and the rascals usually have their heads plugged directly into a little digital device called an iPod.

Digital divide!

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