Let's begin with a warm-up test on what the OLPC should be about. Choose the right answer out of each pair:
- Developing Countries parents want their kids to take pictures and write down their thoughts
- D.C. parents want their kids to learn English
- I'd say music creativity is essential for every kid to to be educated in
- I'd say grammar and spelling is essential for every kid to be educated in
- the biggest challenge to development is widespread corruption
- the biggest challenge to development is that children don't get to explore, experiment and express themselves
The main problem that our Matter of Education has to deal with is to actually give chances to kids to achieve their giftings beyond what their current educational system can offer. OLPC, and/or other such initiatives are to be the "bridge" that have-nots can take to get what the "haves", well, have.
To solve learning inequity is our community's duty.
Humor me for a minute and let me take the easy ones out of the way. Writing and language arts are life skills. Those who struggle with these will find their inability to communicate according to convention makes them less effective trainers, leaders, teachers.
OLPC, as currently exists, incorporates Language Arts training? No. Should it? Yes. English is the de facto lingua franca that connects ideas and ideals in our world in our day. The role that Latin has in the previous sentence is the role that terms and expressions in the English language have in every other language now, especially in matters relating to science, technology, manufacture, business.
If you don't depend on it outright, your speech and notes are peppered with it. Besides parent, teachers and administrators want to have better English training for the kids and even themselves. Is it part of the current OLPC? No. Should it be? Yes.
This is clearly my favorite trainable skill. Just as in the more popular field of risk management, it is unlikely that corruption will ever be totally eradicated. Even in such paragons of development and civilization as Scandinavia and the Netherlands it will rear its ugly head from time to time. The real issue with corruption worldwide is that it is arguably the number one factor that establishes, serves and protects injustice, abuse, exploitation, and ultimately poverty and all its children.
Aid for development that is not fighting corruption is often its very life, what makes corruption thrive. The canonical water well project with ineffective accounts, where most pumps end up sold away and the last one turns out to be "owned" by the village chief, not only denies water to the village but also reinforces patterns of successful dishonesty, without even gaining any goodwill for the donor country.
I believe that we can agree that corruption has to be fought, by all means available, especially education. Yet, if the general trend I have perceived is anything, I suspect there isn't much support for doing it with the XO. One argument that will be parroted is that this is the One Laptop per Child, and corruption is a grownup thing.
Refuting this notion is easy. First, corruption is everybody's problem. Next, corruption breeds in untruth, sheepish compromise, and bullying/abuse scenarios, and none of these is age-dependent. We clearly can and should develop suitable training resources on the XO to learn to recognize truth and also to prevent bullying, a real problem in many places.
To learn to stand up with what is truth is harder. I haven't yet found anything that beats experiential education done right, which sadly is quite high maintenance.
The XO is for grownups too
Early corruption avoidance should be addressed among kids. Yet the most important point is to recognize, accept and implement grownup-directed training and content in the XO - of course besides better and more for kids themselves.
This, among others, for the very obvious reason that the home XO might be the only twenty-first century educational tool that will enter many a hut, cabin or hovel, and quite a few community leader's homes. And hopefully, the XO will be the one that is not held hostage by the corrupt shackling a people.
Finally, this is simply something that needs doing. As such, it is really deeply irrelevant if the OLPC has right now corruption management as an educational goal, because it doesn't matter how many of those green thingies a country buys or is given, doesn't matter how much international aid it gets, neither whether missionaries, teachers or volunteers move in.
What matters is that we turn this training into a priority, fast track OLPC project. As long as corruption is not addressed an its endemic rule broken, there is no chance a people will develop and become what it can become, respect the environment and hold its own to protect itself, treat its sick, raise its young unto righteousness, and generally make true that having faith in better times ahead is real, rather than empty, meaningless fiction.
Yamand├║ was teacher in several countries for over 15 years and wrote a book on Uruguayan Education.