If you build, they will come...

Aren't the naysayers missing the point of the now-$150 laptop education initiative? Part of the problem in un-, under-, poor, [insert negative adjective] places, is that children miss out because they just never get to have certain experiences that many can easily take for granted elsewhere. The One Laptop Per Child effort is attempting to short circuit that problem in one arena for one segment of the world.

No one knows what will be possible if you make this type of technology available on such a grand scale. The mere exposure will change the landscape for some. Besides laughing at Bill Gates' questioning

whether the concept is “just taking what we do in the rich world” and assuming that that is something good for the developing world, too
I did note that philanthropy is having an impact on his worldview.

I think a more useful response is to imagine what _____ will kids be better able to make happen because of these odd little laptops. Maybe, it'll only give rise to a rash of third world hackers but regardless they will enrich the global landscape.

The idea was to put something immediately usable requiring as little capital as possible in the hands of the young. What's not to love in that? And, the capitalist marketplace will still be standing at the end of the day.

Things Left Out of Parenting Books

No one mentions what a bear schooling is. Yes, there's the question of whether public or private depending on your income level and your residence within any given city or neighbhorhood. But no one really prepares you for the extent to which a child's education is a massive engagement for those of us who practice anything resembling attachment parenting or just simply trying to be an engaged parent in ways that parents of the sixties generally weren't. Having an above average school-aged child in an urban setting consumes energy; make that child a boy and a minority and the weight only gets heavier. Make him intelligent, an extrovert and in need of challenges; and I suddenly understood all the choices my mother made as it related to the education of my sister and I.

In the big picture it breaks down into the system, the school, and your child. You got to monitor the school system on the political level (school board, funding, etc), be present at the school enough to know when you're not finding out about matters, checking that homework even if completed is actually understood, engaging the child so as to quantify his experience of the teachers and classmates, and the list goes on.

Given that we continue to have a child in an urban public elementary school (his third and favorite, I should interject), I think this 20061126 New York Times article "What It Takes to Make a Student" gets at why I worry about his education and his understanding of the world around him; its review of selected research reminds me why the politicians are stupid to think a better testing student is so easily attainable. The battle is against a multi-faceted moving target. A point not covered in the article, and one I wonder if is explored in any literature, asks about the relevance of nuanced but similarly important concept involving ethno-cultural factors that may eclipse class under certain settings.

How come its so obvious to me that there's not just one way to educate a child. After all private schools have long educated dumb white kids using teachers without advanced degrees; yet, they somehow emerge functionally more competent than their similarly or better endowed counterparts. What the research really gets at is that certain parents don't leave education at the school and however they supplement it in the home makes the difference....more so than any particular school. The whole rigamarole I learned can be quantified as "concerted cultivation". I'd venture to guess it's why you can have the off-the-radar successes of Sudbury Valley types of schools and other alternatives. In the end,

“noncognitive” abilities like self-control, adaptability, patience and openness — the kinds of qualities that middle-class parents pass on to their children every day, in all kinds of subtle and indirect ways — have a huge and measurable impact on a child’s future success
The expectation is a minimal success of graduation and somehow it has to be gotten. (Yes, there are cheaters but...most do finish nominally proficient.) Research coming out of UPenn's Positive Psychology Center characterizes it as tenacity, or grit. Pretty much explains me.

For the meatier version of matters, see "Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents" in Psychological Science.