Reading, ‘riting and iPods

What do Michigan students need to learn? A tax-funded iPod or MP3 player is not a high priority at a time when the state faces a $600 million budget deficit, proclaims a Detroit News editorial. Actually, the editorial is phrased more forcefully.

We have come to the conclusion that the crisis Michigan faces is not a shortage of revenue, but an excess of idiocy. Facing a budget deficit that has passed the $1 billion mark, House Democrats Thursday offered a spending plan that would buy a MP3 player or iPod for every school child in Michigan.

Why? Because technology is, um, good. What would it cost? No estimate yet.

Two legislators pushing the iPod bill took an Apple-financed trip to California, reports the Detroit Free-Press.

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  1. This is just a little thing, but it drives me crazy when news stories (or editorials, in this case) refer to an “iPod or MP3 player.” That’s like referring to a “Chevrolet or a car.” The brand is a subset of the generic term, so it doesn’t make sense as written.

    Minor rant over. 🙂

  2. wayne martin says:

    There are about 2M students in Michigan schools. That’s a lot of iPods, so Apple would probably cut them a deal for a bulk purchase. For every $100 of cost, Michigan would need to write a $200M check.

  3. wayne martin says:

    From a later article on this topic:

    > Michigan’s 1.7 million public school students

    1.7M students, rather than the 2M previously posted.

    > Rep. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale, another member
    > of the House subcommittee on K-12 spending, said
    > he opposes any plan that gives iPods to kids, and
    > he didn’t like the GOP’s idea for laptops, either.

    > “When we have limited dollars, we need to invest
    > in teachers in the classroom, not mechanical things
    > in the classroom,” he said.

    This is typical of what is going on in Michigan at a macro-level. Michigan has been undergoing deindustrialization for at least four decades now. The Labor Unions dominate the car and heavy-capital industries in that state. Daimler-Chrysler is a huge money loser, and Chrysler is now “on-the-block”. Ford is being painted as the loser here, with industry observers suggesting in automobile trade magazines that Ford is likely to go out of business, rather than be able to compete against the emergent Chinese auto industry.

    Automation, in whatever form it takes, reduces labor costs. When the “managers” of a company do not understand this, they will have no choice but to increase the cost of labor–based on Union demands–with little or no productivity gains. Over time, the global competition will automate, or use low-cost labor, so that it’s products will be more competitive than the higher-priced Union-labor products.

    The issue of quality in the product should be the topic which is front-and-center, when education and education spending is concerned. This article doesn’t remotely seem to capture the essence of the problem. The legislature doesn’t seem to understand the hardware/labor trade-offs that are required for any business, much less that of the very labor-intensive public education system.

  4. The charge of idocy is probably a bit optimistic.

    My kids just love books! Can you believe it? Cheap, easily available old fashioned books. They’ve learned about ancient Egypt, expolored the solar system, seen the inner workings of the human body…..

    Kids love to learn. They need time and a decent teacher. Precious little else is necessary at school. A family issues are the biggest contributor to student failure.