The latest cargo-cult plan to help Africa
So this is why Africa is so far behind! They don’t have tablet computers. Surely this will finally unleash the latent genius there. Big mistake though: they should be dropping in iPads.
It’s understandable that Africans would have the cargo-cult mentality. What is a bit surprising is that Westerners, in their urgent desire to help Africans, take on the cargo-cult mentality themselves.
But now that I think about it, isn’t the American (and now European) drive to democratize Muslims also a cargo cult? That is, we “airdrop” elections into their countries, and think this will magically make their countries become like ours.
It seems that the greater the desire of Westerners to Westernize non-Westerners, the more the Westerners become cargo-cultists.
(Update: I made the same point about democratization as a cargo cult back in 2005, here and here. The first linked entry also explains the term cargo cult.)
The story Gintas sent is from the UK Register
Negroponte plans tablet airdrops to teach kids to read
- end of initial entry -
Nicholas Negroponte, the brains behind the One Laptop Per Child initiative, is detailing a new plan to inspire the world’s poorest children to teach themselves to read using tablet computers.
The design for the tablet is simple. At its heart is a solar powered battery, built into the back of the tablet which can be charged on a windowsill and then clipped onto the screen to activate the device. In some cases power can also come from a hand crank, or be transferred to the tablet, via twin USB ports. They are water resistant, very durable and can be dropped from 30 feet without breaking.
Speaking at the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco, Negroponte said that within a year his team would be dropping tablets into remote villages by helicopter—without staff—and letting children teach themselves how to use them. He cited Professor Sugata Mitra’s research into minimally invasive education as an example of how people who cannot read or write can teach themselves language and computing, if given the right technology.
In 1999 Mitra installed an internet-connected computer and keyboard into a hole in a wall in an Indian slum in Kalkaji, New Delhi. Within 25 minutes the illiterate children who gathered to use it had found a way to get online, and were browsing web sites, and Negroponte said this showed the possibilities for self-taught literacy.
“In the first year we’ll go in and meet with tribal elders and aid organizations, people not involved with education, but then we let the kids learn,” Negroponte told The Register. “Then we’ll take tablets and drop them out of helicopters into villages that have no electricity and school, then go aback a year later and see if the kids can read.”
Aaron S. writes:
Lawrence, what struck me about this story is that in addition to the element of helping other races (the less “fortunate”), it contains two other bits of pure catnip for the liberal brain: autonomy, particularly in education (“self-taught”), and environmentalism (It uses only the sun! Or better yet, turn it with a crank!). With this kind of initiative, the possibilities for self-deception are endless. I don’t think it would be possible to speak reasonably with a committed liberal on this. It has all the hallmarks of being a sacramental act for them.
Sage McLaughlin writes:
What’s funny to me is the conceit that the proliferation of electronic communications, and of portable computers in particular, has contributed at all to the improvement of literacy, even in the West. From where I sit, it seems the spread of smart phones and iPads has been accompanied by a deterioration in young people’s respect and appreciation for the written word. Anybody who actually frequents online message boards ought to come away with the conclusion that our first step in establishing literacy in such places as New Delhi (or Los Angeles) will be to cut them off completely from the internet.
It’s enough to make me laugh out loud.
Indeed. All they share via the texting and social media is the most inconsequential personal chat. Consider Amanda Knox, a typical social media devotee. She couldn’t stop sharing with the world her trivial momentary thoughts, and this was part of what got her in trouble, as the Italian prosecutors construed selected bits of her plethora of brainless statements as incriminating.
Beth M. writes:
I don’t know if this will work with primitive African tribes, but I’m all for giving it a try here in America. There are school districts in the USA spending almost $20,000 per child per annum once you factor in construction bonds, pension plans and all the rest, and yet the schools are so out of control behavior-wise that middle-class people won’t send their children there.
Why not give every American child a sturdy laptop loaded with educational software, and shut down the public schools entirely?
I vote “Yes.”
Actually, it only takes 30 to 100 hours of phonics instruction to teach a child to read, depending upon the child’s age, level of intelligence, etc., so it might work fairly well. The current system is unsustainable due to high costs, poor results, and the breakdown of American society. The public schools were designed in another age, for another people, and don’t fit the needs of American society today.
But the children “surfing the web” in India may just have been looking at pictures and pressing buttons. They certainly didn’t teach themselves to read in 25 minutes.
Ken Hechtman writes:
Aaron S. writes:
Lawrence, what struck me about this story is that in addition to the element of helping other races (the less “fortunate”), it contains two other bits of pure catnip for the liberal brain: autonomy, particularly in education (“self-taught”), and environmentalism (It uses only the sun! Or better yet, turn it with a crank!). With this kind of initiative, the possibilities for self-deception are endless. I don’t think it would be possible to speak reasonably with a committed liberal on this.
Try me. Nicholas Negroponte’s scheme is techno-messianic nonsense of the worst kind. He’d get better results just hiring a million Africans who already know how to read and paying them a salary to teach 20 million Africans a year who don’t. If he was as serious about third-world literacy as he is about self-promotion, he’d know how the most impressive results ever achieved in the field were accomplished. The Indian state of Kerala reached universal literacy when it was as poor as Africa is now and they did it drawing letters in the sand with sticks:
At the Janaranjini preschool in the state of Kerala in rural southern India, children aren’t building castles in the sand. Instead, as they sit cross-legged in front of a thin layer of sand, they are learning the fundamentals of reading and math.
Three-year old V. S. Madhav twirls letters of his native Malayalam—the language of Kerala—into the sand with his left forefinger while his classmate, 4-year old Neethu Saji, writes Arabic numerals more quickly than her teacher can call them out.
“I also learned like this. My father also like this,” says N. Revindhran. Mr. Revindhran is a volunteer at the public library that runs this preschool, locally referred to as a kalari. “This is the ancient model [of schooling],” Revindhran explains.
Education in Kerala represents a success story that many nations might wish to emulate.
Kerala, located in the southern tip of India, is an agrarian state with a per capita income of only $265. Yet its literacy rate of 91 percent puts it closer to the United States than to any other Indian state. (The national literacy rate in India is 65 percent.) …
D. in Seattle writes:
Speaking of effectiveness of computers to help kids learn, here’s what the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) computers have actually been used for in Nigeria. Yes you guessed it—to surf porn, as described in this brief article from 2007.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 03, 2011 09:55 AM | Send