OLPC

So Intel has pulled out. Well, fuck them. If you own Intel stocks and have no idea of what I am talking about, then screw your apathetic greedy self too.

Here's what got me all riled up: businessweek article where the author has got it totally backwards.

Not only is this [OLPC] profoundly anti-teacher, it also misinterprets experience learning. Children learn language by interacting with their family. Almost all learning takes place in a teaching context. Yes, of course, there is learning by the individual alone, but most "learning" takes place in a context of a guide, a coach, be it parent, teacher, priest, older sibling, whatever. Learning without guidance results in what is happening in some of villages in Africa where the XO laptop is being tested--kids are plugging into pornography online. Or swapping photos, which appears to be the most popular application.

Pornography? In Africa where getting access to internet is as hard as getting people to think of Darfur? In this article that sounds very self-serving.

The OLPC project's goal is

To provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves.

Most often, this happens outside school and that's where OLPC wants to be. Personally, all my education happened outside the mediocre classrooms I sat in as a child, which continued all through college. This is typical of any society with poverty of mind and matter. Giving more opportunities to children outside school for learning is one of the best way to break the vicious cycle. It is to children's credit that they overcome the many barriers that adults put in their way of learning. Arguing - as some bureaucrats in India do - that they've got 200 million out of poverty with their education system is nonsense (that statistic has got nothing to do with educating kids, maybe in the long run, but it has no bearing on the current statistic, the author is misguided in quoting it).

In the end, the author says

The XO laptop for the world's poorest children is being rejected by India, China and Nigeria as yet another form of foreign Western colonialism. And it is.

That doesn't make any sense to me. How so? There's this project where a professor and his team want to give laptops that kids can open-up in many ways, explore and play with, here is a laptop that if assimilated by kids and their communities can stimulate a whole lot of self-generated industry and release them from Corporate captivity (read Microsoft, Intel), and to this all the author has to say is: it is western colonialism. It's the opposite, dear Mr Bruce Nussbaum.

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"Almost all learning takes place in a teaching context."

What? This is a view that children are passive little receptacles of knowledge, waiting to be filled up by a teacher. Maybe that describes the Newsweek writer, but it certainly wasn't my childhood. Is it "anti-teacher" to challenge gargantuan conceit?

When I saw that Intel had pulled out, I wondered: "How could Intel do the most damage to the OLPC project?" Option A: refuse to participate. Option B: take part in a competing project. Option C: Join the project, take part in it, then pull out. I think Option C is the most damaging. Was that intentional?

Prediction: each child who accesses pornography on his OLPC machine will receive as much international attention as 1,000 children who use their machines to learn to write and communicate.