Antique Technology Still the Norm in Public Schools?

At the end of the school year last year, my son’s history teacher handed him his floppy disk from school and told him that his paper, that he had to have finished two days later, was on it and should be taken home so that he could finish it.

My son came home and handed me the floppy disk and I looked at it, then handed it back. He said, “No, mom my homework’s on there.” I looked at the floppy and looked at my 3 year old laptop, the oldest windows machine in the house, and pointed out to my son that it does not have a floppy drive. In fact, we do not have a single windows machine in the house that has a floppy drive because computers simply do not ship with them anymore. I handed him my thumb drive and told him to ask his teacher to put the file on there for him, and to work on what he could remember while he was at home that night.

The next day, the school librarian e-mailed my son his paper from her gmail account. The reason? Students and teachers at his school are not allowed to plug anything into the usb ports on the computers at school. When we talked to his history teacher about this, all he could say was that the school’s computers were old and the network administrators didn’t take any crap off teachers, students or parents. We explained to him that anyone who had purchased a new pc in the last four years probably didn’t have a floppy drive either. He said he knew, but there was nothing he could do to change the school district’s policy on computer use. My response was, “Then next time, don’t require my child to type a paper here at school because he has no way to transport it between school and home to work on it.”

This year, I got the kids’ school supply lists in the mail. On my son’s list it had the dreaded words “computer disk”. I was tempted… very tempted… to send my son with a blank CD. I know that they mean floppies, but I almost felt it was necessary to prove a point by faking out a new teacher and explaining that floppies are so antiquated and we just paid 11 million dollars for the school district to buy new computers for the children so I could only assume that they meant that my son needed a blank CD though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. A thumb drive would do the job much more efficiently and be safer for the school’s computers because thumb drives don’t try to execute code the minute you plug them in.

Imagine my surprise when I would have to say, “What do you mean, you meant a floppy disk? Don’t you realize that in order for me to support that technology here at home I have to go buy a 40$ external floppy drive, plus pay for the aforementioned disks, of which he will only ever need this one that you are insisting that he have. This is not to mention the time it will take me, at home, to ensure that each time that floppy is inserted into the USB drive, which will only ever be used to read this one floppy, it will be scanned for viruses because floppies have a bad habit of coming home loaded with them. Am I allowed to charge *you* a technology fee that can be deducted from the bond we just passed for the school district so that we wouldn’t have to put up with obsolete beasts such as floppy drives?”

I put the thoughts out of my mind when I realized that this would do no good and would only irritate a poor, underworked and overpaid member of the Washington Education Association. After all, these teachers can’t even teach the kids enough to pass state or federal standardized testing and have put the school districts in our state at risk of losing federal funding.

They blame No Child Left Behind, but the thing is the government isn’t leaving the children behind. Inadequate teachers, technology and management of funds are.