Even More Reasons for School Choice: My story about the advantages of technology in communication, and education

Just another reason for the application of School Choice was discussed by Doc Thompson as he addressed the issue of the woman from Akron, Ohio that got caught lying about her residence in order to send her children to an “excellent” school.

While residents of “excellent” districts want to keep the status quo, it is nearly impossible for parents that have fallen on hard times to encourage their children to reach for the stars if they are stuck in bad circumstances. School Choice and the options that come with it would help this woman, and thousands like her.

Listen to that interview here:

I have a nephew that is something of a genius; school comes very, very easy for him. When he was younger his parents moved a lot, but for a few years he went to Lakota, and at Lakota he thrived, naturally. He’s a man now, but some of his best memories were of Lakota.

One of his worst experiences were when his family moved to Detroit, and he had to go to a Detroit public school. And in that school, being “smart” wasn’t so cool, or tolerated. Needless to say, he had a very rough time, and violence came his way often.

If there had been a nationwide School Choice program, my nephew could have stayed with the teachers he liked while he moved all over the country with his parents, and he could have avoided the cultural difficulties involved in changing demographic regions. On the other hand, it would work the other way too.

For those of you reading this that aren’t so technically savvy to understand how modern teaching methods are possible to be able to replace the traditional teaching methods, let me bring some personal experience to the matter.

As I’ve talked about, my oldest Daughter is married now, but she has dated the same guy since she was 14 and she met him in England. About a year before she met this young man, she and I had a long discussion after coming off The Spaceship Earth exhibit at Epcot Center in Florida. That is a neat exhibit because they constantly change it to reflect the emerging technology, so it’s always leaning forward, technically.

One of the changes was a room that displayed with cleaver animatronics an English kid talking to a Japanese kid online. She said to me, “Dad, do you think that will be possible?” I wasn’t sure, but it seemed like science fiction even to me, who had been following the technology closely, this was in 2003. Internet carriers were still charging by the hour for many services, and international service seemed to be a technical and costly barrier that would never be overcome.

Yet, one year later a new PC game came out, which I knew was in the making, called Star Wars Galaxies. It is a MMO and allows anybody with a computer to play the game with thousands and even millions of other players in real time. I gave that game to both my daughters for their birthdays, which were only 5 days apart, along with computers to run them and both my kids jumped into the world of Star Wars for the next 4 years. Naturally they met friends and did activities online within the game. A lot of my family was concerned that so much online activity would lead to some sort of sexual promiscuity. But I watched my kids closely and the activity within the game kept their minds busy with things more exciting than sex.

My oldest daughter became good friends with a guy from their online group who lived in England, just outside of London. That friendship went on for a year, again online, and they eventually wanted to meet.

The kid came over to our house a few times a year for about 4 years and the relationship matured to my delight in a traditional way. Sex wasn’t an option, because they lived over 3500 miles apart. So they started the way couples should start, as friends. And that friendship endures to this day.

Now many people who criticized me about that relationship were concerned that my kids weren’t doing the “normal” things. That my daughter wasn’t “dating” in the traditional way, or running around at school events, and all the things that society believes are important. What I witnessed was that both my children had increased their processing abilities; they’d play that game while they did their homework, and maintained online friendships. Living with me, it was impossible for them to not get outside and do some physical exercise, so that wasn’t a problem, and they still maintained relationships at school, so they weren’t anti-social kids, quite the opposite.

But the computer allowed me to solve a growing problem that I had to unravel as a parent. It was becoming obvious when my kids turned 13 and 14 years old that they were going to look a lot like their mother, so there would be lots of boys wanting to clamor all over them. I did not want to deal with 17 and 18 year old boys desiring to come to my house and pick up my kids and take them someplace that I did not have control. So I hoped to put all that off for a while by keeping their minds interested in other things so their biological concerns could be put on the back-burner.

The result was, no trouble with boys trying to get my kids into their back-seats of cars, and my kids were able to develop healthy ideas of relationships by taking away the physical pressure of being in the company of a young boy. And because Star Wars is about big ideas and is good science fiction fun, my kids with other kids learned about the basic necessities of living, food, economics, science, and emerging technology.

As time went on, my kids had webcams and were able to speak real time to their friends and really didn’t care that they weren’t physically in the presence of other kids, because their reality had expanded beyond the conventions of society. And I am very proud of them and how they turned out. It was a good decision to buy my kids that game and set them in a direction that continues to this day, because such a thing takes away the barriers that hold kids back.

My daughters both had oversea relationships. One worked out, one didn’t, but what they learned was far more valuable than dozens of dates where the pressure for sex would have gotten in the way of really getting to know the boys they were dating. It also allowed my kids to tell their classmates in school that they had boyfriends from England, which seemed to put them on a different level with the other girls who suddenly didn’t have to worry that my girls would steal the boys they were interested in, and it dramatically improved the relationships they had with those little girls.

The reason I just told that whole story is because all it took was for me to think out of the box a bit and try something different in raising my girls. I used the technology to help me solve some tough cultural problems that would have been troublesome. And the same options are available for all aspects of education, and those options are available right now.

We should not live in a country where parents have to lie and spend time in jail because they want their kid to go to a nice school. And Schools should not be able to have monopolies that drive up costs. And kids should be learning in a way that will truly prepare them for the world they’re getting ready for. The traditional way of education is holding us back socially. It is obvious to me that the traditional institutions are not being kept intact because it’s what’s best for our children, they are being held together for the adults involved, jobs, political influence, property values and sports which can be a gateway for kids to get scholarships and save their parents money. If education was truly for the kids it would be adapting to the options that are in front of us, not clinging to an outdated infrastructure that is costly and inefficient.

If you want to see that world that kids want to be in, just visit your local Gamestop store. Technology is here to stay, and learning must occur much quicker than it has in the past. Kids today are just tuning out the adult world anyway because the world they’re really interested in is on Xbox, or Playstation and the friends that play online with them every day. The world we all grew up in is changing fast. Whether that change is good or bad will depend on how we adapt to that world.

The solutions to most of the problems in public education can be solved in competition. And the best way to get competition is to embrace School Choice and the technology that comes with it.

Rich Hoffman