American democracy is in crisis. Part of that crisis has to do with technology. But there’s another, often overlooked, factor at play.
I’m a professor, so I think that fixing America starts with education. We can help improve our democratic processes by using technology to improve schools. I don’t mean that we should put iPads into every school, or give every child a laptop. I mean something more fundamental: We should use technology to make sure every public school in America has all of the books, supplies, and learning materials that they need.
A shocking number of public schools don’t have these basic tools. Without the basics, we can’t properly educate the next generation of informed citizens.
Technology is the only way to keep track of how many students are in each school, and what books and supplies each teacher needs. A few years ago, I did an investigative project in which I looked at whether Philadelphia schools had enough books for their students. They didn’t. The same people write the books and write the standardized tests; my not-so-radical suggestion was that the students needed the books to prepare for the tests. The average Philly school had only 27 percent of the books they would need to teach the students in the building. Since then, Philadelphia has allocated $36 million for “new textbooks and curriculum materials,” provided a new computer to each pre-K-12 teacher, and allocated $7.8 million as a one-time investment for “additional supplies and educational materials for every school.” It’s a step in the right direction.