Necessity is the Mother of Invention

-By Nancy Salvato

General Motors recently filed for bankruptcy. Mark Steyn writes in National Review, “GM has about 95,000 workers but provides health benefits to a million people: It’s not a business enterprise, but a vast welfare plan with a tiny loss-making commercial sector. As GM goes, so goes America?” Fortunately, maybe this is not the case. Arnold Schwarzenegger, faced with a $24 million budget deficit, has “terminated” textbooks and is embracing digital booksProject Gutenberg. I’m just finishing “John Marshall and the Constitution; a Chronicle of the Supreme Court by Corwin”, an excellent read. The nicest feature on the device is that it allows me to bookmark or highlight while I’m reading. I can send my research to my email and use it when I write my commentaries. I have been wondering when a version of the Kindle will be adapted in the schools.

The Mainstream Media is struggling. Like California, they are going to have to reinvent themselves in order to survive in a digital world. Many New Media writers have long recognized the internet for what it is, a vast compilation of real time news and commentary. If the mainstream papers take a bailout, they will be compromising their credibility…which is already in question, thanks to the extensive research done by New Media writers.

Online colleges make use of online libraries, filled with relevant, current research from reputable, peer reviewed journals, and are slowly phasing out the necessity for textbooks. They are replacing them with streaming videos, podcasts, and other forms of media. Brick and mortar institutions are experimenting with online learning. While there should be no expectation that more traditional institutions of learning will be phased out, they will have to adapt to technology in order to stay relevant.

The music industry made the transformation several years ago, when they found CDs were being pirated and downloaded for free. Now, songs can be purchased for less than $1.00 which is changing the meaning of hit singles and has forced some musicians to better vet what would have sold as an entire album just a decade ago. People can be choosier about what passes for quality and not purchase a complete CD, if it doesn’t appeal to their sensibilities.

It’s easier to engage kids when using tools they enjoy. However, the reality is that the transformation of how generations of people are learning and engaging has already taken place. It just makes sense to use computers instead of pencil or paper. It’s faster and easier. Yet, we haven’t even scratched the surface of how these tools can be incorporated into our schools. Students can email their homework to their teachers and parents can sign off on it to assure the teacher that the work was done by their kids. No more, “the dog ate my homework” or copying a friend’s homework ten minutes before class. All students can engage by texting their answers to teachers’ discussion questions for a quick progress monitor. There are many more ways (too many to list in this commentary) students can learn and show what they’ve learned using technology.

Our children’s education is a warranty for the well being of our country. The more efficiently we enlist them in constructing their knowledge, the more it is likely that they will grow up to become contributing members of our society. The auto industry can take a lesson from the “Kindergarten Cop”. They should figure out how to fine tune an industry which has too long existed “status quo”. Now, that would be economically sound thinking.

Nancy Salvato is the President of The Basics Project, ( a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (C) (3) research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country. She is also a Staff Writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets, where she contributes on matters of education policy.

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