Computers are no substitute for thinkingIn his June 30...

the Forum

July 13, 1993

Computers are no substitute for thinking

In his June 30 Other Voices essay, "Science for the Illiterate," Keith Frye postulates the use of computer education as a replacement for reading and understanding textbook material. Not only does Mr. Frye have a skewed view of illiteracy, but his approach to teaching these so-called illiterates is a matter of expediency more than teaching technique.

First and foremost, literacy is the inability to read and comprehend the written word, not the inability to study effectively.

The students that he describes are not illiterate, they are just untutored in efficient study skills. His approach is to bypass the study skills and give them their material in ways that would not require them to concisely summarize key ideas.

This would make a teacher's job infinitely easier, since study skills take much practice and repetition, but the abilities that would be lost, distinguishing between important and unimportant information, summarizing and analyzing thoughts, are all critical thinking skills that will always be necessary. They became necessary when mankind began to build cities and social structures, discuss new ideas, govern itself.

If people cannot analyze facts, how can they make appropriate career decisions or effectively solve job problems? If they cannot distinguish between the important and the trivial, how can they competently exercise their right to vote?

A second outcome of Mr. Frye's suggestion is that it implies that we should buy into the idea that there is no real purpose to any activity that is not fun or easy.

I do not believe that interest and education are mutually exclusive, but in many ways there is a difference between interest and fun. Good students find interest in problem-solving and gathering information, even if it is not presented with bright colors, flashes and blips.

If we wish to raise a new generation of people capable of creating new ideas, discovering new theories and improving life, we need to raise students who are interested in using knowledge itself, not students who see knowledge solely as a by product of games.

If you deny students the chance to improve their reading and communication skills and thereby master knowledge, you turn out students with perhaps a wealth of information and no real concept of how it should be most effectively used. These are the types of students who would most likely be products of Mr. Frye's educational technique.

I have decried the use of highlighter also, for many of the same reasons that were detailed by Mr. Frye, but the solution is not to condense information so that words are unnecessary and students don't have to work.

The true solution is to show students how to reach into the written and spoken word and master it. This solution is much harder to implement, but it is necessary if we wish to improve our society and our world for the future.

The cornerstone of any technological society is the ability of its workers to use thought and knowledge to continually create and improve. The premise on which any democratic society rests is the ability of its citizens to make competent decisions.

Laura A.W. Holland


Public radio

It seems as all Baltimore radio stations are now just full of advertisements. It is a hazard of living in one of the most lucrative radio markets in the United States.

Public radio stations are pumping out hours of virtually 'u uninterrupted programming. But no one is listening because it is boring.

Who dictates that public radio should play classical music and bourgeois talk shows all day? The public is much more diversified than that.

Since our federal tax money subsidizes much of the cost of the stations, I believe that they should reflect the diversity of all its listeners, with various styles of music at different hours of the day -- perhaps country in the morning, classical in the afternoon, popular in the evening and alternative at night.

This new format would actually attract the public to the radio stations, act as a springboard for aspiring disc jockeys, and give us a respite from the endless bombardment of commercials.

Let's diversify public radio so that we may all enjoy it.

Brian C. Dempsey


Be patient

The reason the Republicans did not raise taxes in the 12 years they ruled Congress was they dipped into the Social Security fund for billions and billions of dollars.

Be patient with President Clinton. He is trying to correct what the Republicans did for 12 years. No one could repair this damage in 100 days.

Barbara T. Smithson



In regards to recent demotions of administrators in the Baltimore County school system, I was saddened that Lu Beth Cornell was on the list.

In 1960, Mrs. Cornell was my sixth grade teacher and an inspiration who greatly influenced me to pursue a career in education. She went on to a deserved career in administration with an exemplary record.

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