When Robots Rule the School

{A column written for Aiken High’s Hornet Herald. If you missed it or do not attend Aiken High, you can read it here.}

Movie buffs may remember Arnold Schwarzenegger teaching phonics in Kindergarten Cop, but rarely does one imagine his Terminator character as an educational instructor. A future exists where this is a reality.

Under his robotic tenure, the classroom is silent because the classroom is not physical; students interact across internet highways. After the imminent robot apocalypse, all classrooms will suffer this fate. But it’s not all science fiction. We are approaching that version of the future.

Recently, taking online classes has become a more integral part of a typical high school education. This summer, while taking a P.E. class through Virtual School, I pondered how technology might continue to change how students learn.

It seems advantageous and time-efficient to attend school on computers. The more we depend on technology, however, the further we risk not only a loss of personalization, but also a brutal robot uprising.

While I’m positive thatVirtualSchool’s firewall successfully blocks viruses, what if the school of the future includes pop-ups? A freshman of the future attempts to review his geography notes, but instead be offered a low mortgage rate and a discounted prescription of Viagra.

In the school of the future, schools could sell ads in the margins of English quizzes. Students could learn how polymers form and also where to meet hot singles in their area.

As far as I know, the teacher of my online class could have been a sentinel robot or a computer programmed to send generalized, automatic responses to the students’ queries. In the school of the future, human teachers might be eliminated, and tests could be created by outsourced companies in Russia, India, or Lithuania.

If robots control our education, how long will it take for them to realize their power to corrupt the minds ofAmerica’s children? Robots could teach children that 2 + 2=5, that George Washington was un-American, and that Cheetos are actually good for us. The school of the future might inspire a robot apocalypse:  first we give computers the capacity to teach, and then they learn to use guns and kill us all.

With the advance of technology in schools, we must face more immediate, if not deadly, consequences. We lose a very important student-teacher relationship if we rely so much on computers. When students need extra help on something learned in class, the school of the future will redirect the troubled student to another website, possibly the Wikipedia page for “Calculus.”

At the school of the future, students might read in their history books about pens and pencils and Sharpie markers, the sorts of writing utensils past generations used. At the school of the future, classrooms could simply be closed groups on Facebook. At the school of the future, students can come in too-short shorts or spaghetti straps or simply come naked because the classroom is a bedroom. At the school of the future, students might not need to understand the concepts as long as they click the right buttons. At the school of the future, students can text in class without getting caught.

If students learn only what textbooks can teach, they miss a major part of their education. I hope the school of the future will not simply teach us what to think, when it should teach us how to think.


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