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Funding for Technology Classes? 81

Posted by Cliff
from the proper-priorities-for-education dept.
SelfTaught asks; "My school district recently built a brand new football stadium and athletics field-house, both with state of the art electronics; yet when asked about implementing a computer science class district officials reply with, 'This is a property poor school district.' Apparently property poor school districts have 20 foot plasma scoreboards and multi-million dollar athletic training facilities. As a pubescent high school student, I'm not very happy with the way my district spends the money my parents pay for my education. How can I encourage my district to provide more technology classes? If I can't get technology education in school, then what would be the best way to teach myself?"
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Funding for Technology Classes?

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  • Nationwide trend (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rts008 (812749) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @07:51PM (#16171059) Journal
    I feel for you, this has been one of my pet peeves for years now.

    But, look at the bright side, our (USA) sports celebrities are the highest paid in the world.
    (Just overlook the fact that academically we are falling behind faster every year)
  • by GuyMannDude (574364) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:07PM (#16171179) Journal

    How can I encourage my district to provide more technology classes? If I can't get technology education in school, then what would be the best way to teach myself?"

    Well, you'll need to define what "technology classes" you want before you get the school board or most of us to listen to you. Do you want an "Intro to PowerPoint" class? Programming classes? Computer hardware classes? Actually, 'technology' could mean anything, not just computers. What are your goals? Be more specific.

    My school district recently built a brand new football stadium and athletics field-house, both with state of the art electronics; yet when asked about implementing a computer science class district officials reply with, 'This is a property poor school district.' Apparently property poor school districts have 20 foot plasma scoreboards and multi-million dollar athletic training facilities. As a pubescent high school student, I'm not very happy with the way my district spends the money my parents pay for my education.

    BTW, whining about money spent on athletics isn't the best way to get the school board to listen to you, although I'm sure you'll get lots of sympathetic responses here. High school football is a really big deal to most kids and parents so it will always be funded at a much higher level than classes. Forget about trying to take money away from athletics and put it into education. Your best bet is to make a compelling case for why your school needs a class on X and bring it to the school board. If they are convinced of its importance, they'll find a way to come up with the money. Trust me on this: complaining about something that is very popular will cause people to stop listening to you.

    I'm not trying to be hard on you, but saying you want money allocated for something specific (scoreboard) to be divered to something nebulous (technology classes) just isn't going to work. You need to say exactly what classes are necessary and then provide compelling arguments why they are needed so badly.

    Good luck, Kid. I'm not a fan of technology in the classroom at all, but I don't want my personal opinions to get in the way of advising you. If you want to fight for this, fine. Just be a bit more cautious about how you go about it.

    GMD

  • Ha! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zogger (617870) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:12PM (#16171213) Homepage Journal
    Same crap when I was in high school, exactly the same, back when we had pet saber toothed badgers and rode sliderules to school, both ways, uphill in the snow. This is the US, where professional sports rule, and the schools are the tax payer funded farm teams, even though they will never admit it.

    Here's the sucky part-it isn't fixable. It's been tried. Bread and circuses (the gladiator games, etc) is an established technique that keeps the plebes occupied and ye overlordes in power (helps them anyway), so it isn't going away, the fix is in. It's just not, so no sense beating yourself up over it. Work around it. The best you can do is self education as much as possible, and work with any understanding teachers (there should be a few who "get it")and groups of friends (rocket club, computer club, whatever).

        As to getting your hands on tech..you own a computer, or can you get a box full of odd parts? Swell. A car (any old junker is fine) with an engine and transmission and probably a comlicated electronic system? Swell. Some radios and other odd electronic stuff? Swell.

    and etc.

    Now, go tear that crap completely apart and put it back together again *better* than it was before. Not just the same, *better*. See what you can come up with, little tweaks and twists and mods and enhancements. You won't get any grades on it, but you for sure will get an education that is practical. You'll learn to think in steps and sequences, you'll get discipline and focus. That is what is important. It will carry over to about any other job you might get.
  • What is even worse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:12PM (#16171215)
    Is that these stadiums and facilities are off-limits to anyone but a few select school students.

    It opened my eyes when I was in Europe, that when the school gynastic grounds were not in use (after school, weekends), the people of the community could use it. More often than not, they were not even "school grounds" officially, but community grounds that the school happened to be nearby and would thus use for their athletes.

    I know there will be cries about pedophiles and such, but as a society, we tend to segregrate ourselves away into our niches anyway behind fences, gated communities, security guards, and what not, so much that it has gone into a completely unhealthy territory.

    The other thing that ticks me off is the continual elite treatment/sexist treatment of Football. There is simply no woman's equivalent, even though Field Hockey did make a blip every so often. I was a soccer player. Despite the sport's continuing growth here in the US, we get second rate fields, minimal funding (and the vast majority of girls' sports are similiarly ignored in many schools) in favor of Football. The soccer team/field hockey teams can be state champions and the Football team can be complete losers and they will be still be treated better.
  • The Internet? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by d3ik (798966) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:18PM (#16171267)
    I'm a few years ahead of you (class of 2001) and I share your pain. While my school did have a few computers and a programming class, it was horribly outdated. The problem with the school systems is (obviously?) the administrators. Even as they throw out all the buzzwords for the parents about how "technology friendly" they are, they will always spend more on asthetics because they relate how they run their schools with their own high school experience. When I say asthetics, that's something that they can show parents and other school administrators to show what a great school they have. That can be a football stadium, new cafeteria, whatever. If you just look at how much money goes into a football team, for instance: stadium, equipment, extra pay for coaches, transportation for away games, maintenance, insurance... it really is staggering. And what educational value does football provide? Absolutely nothing aside from a little "school spirit".

    Anyway, off my soap box about schools... what can you do about it? I seriously doubt you're going to change the culture of your school or how they spend money. More power to you for trying, and I'd be highly impressed if you did it... I just don't think it's going to happen. Sorry. What you do have is this incredible collection of knowledge known as the Internet. Pick a programming language. Almost any modern language you pick has an open source equivalent (at some level) that you can play around with at home. Even Microsoft has student/free editions of a lot of their tools. I wanted to build web applications (remember, I started high school in 1997) so I started with what I thought was the easiest and most popular web development language: PHP. Now, almost ten years later I know or have at least played with: C/C++, Python, PHP, Ruby (RoR), C# and what makes me money: Java.

    You're the master of your own destiny and being in school you typically have a lot of free time to devote to playing with new languages and getting your feet wet. My advice is to find people that are like you, I gurantee there are at least a handful at your school, and team up with them. Pick an application that you want to build and a language you want to build it in and just dive in. Who knows, you could be the next Google.

    I did exactly what I described above when I was in high school. Unfortunately all the cool software development I was doing distracted from school, so I ended up barely graduating with a 1.9GPA. It's hard to focus on worksheets and study guide busy work (all copied from the Addison Wesley material anyway) when you're going home and building all these really cool things. But using everything I had learned working at my own pace with my friends I'm now 23, own my own home and make around $70k a year. Screw school, do it your own way.
  • by fuzzybunny (112938) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:37PM (#16171381) Homepage Journal
    ...if you can. Assuming it's not a private high school, that is.

    Organize your statements, as previous posters have said--define what is "technology", have concrete proposals ready.

    Prepare possible cost breakdowns.

    Compare science programs of other schools, communities, school districts.

    Appeal to patriotism (cheap, but hey, it's America.) Sputnik caused a boom in American science education, and ChinaIndiaRussia are in the process of blowing America out of the water.

    Use sound economic logic (i.e. it's a gift that keeps on giving through alumni donations, it profiles our schools as academic powerhouses and makes it more desirable to academics, it results in statistically higher admissions to good engineering schools, whatever--do research.)

    Try to engage corporate sponsorship--write letters to companies like HP, Sun, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, etc., they have entire departments devoted to creating PR through this sort of thing. Also, corporate matching funds tend to motivate people to spend public money.

    Try to contact your school board reps directly, organized like-minded friends in a letter-writing campaign. Get your and their parents involved as well.

    Get PR--write letters to the editor of your local paper, try to get someone to cover the story with a slant. "Schools neglecting science and technology education in favor of jocks" sells papers.

    As for yourself? The truth is out there. You have a PC, an Internet connection and some equally interested friends? Start a club, start reading and hacking, and you're off.
  • Funding HOWTO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ddt (14627) <ddt@davetaylor.name> on Saturday September 23, 2006 @09:07PM (#16171521) Homepage
    I went to Highland Park High School in Dallas. Very similar situation. I would later end up one of the coders on Doom & Quake, so you can imagine my frustration at the time. HPHS is a public school but with generally very wealthy kids, a football stadium that was truly a spectacle of steel reinforced concrete and civil engineering, a famously disciplined football program, and a super-lame lab with virtually useless PC's and one programming class taught in Pascal or Basic, if I recall. As a result, I basically held my breath until Dad bought me an Apple //e, which really served as my primary education and social experience until I outgrew Applesoft and 6502 asm somewhere in my junior or senior year and started going to my Dad's office so I could learn C on his PC.

    Here's the trick. Wish I had known it then. The football budget came from donors, and that's basically the answer to your question. The stadium and the atheletic raquetball and other stuff thingy building, were named after the big donor who plunked down millions. That's the ticket.

    What I suggest you do is learn something about business development, which is the kung fu required to land great facilities of any kind, because unlike the programming language, API's, and OS du jour that will be a useful tool to you for a healthy 5-10ish years, savvy business development never goes out of style, and will actually help you land a fully funded, sweetly decked out lab, along with great courses.

    The proper approach will depend very much upon the specifics of your situation, who you know (both students and adults), and your various superpowers. If you want me to help you figure out The Path, drop me a line, and I'll see if I can be useful.

God made machine language; all the rest is the work of man.

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