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Invitation to a Dialogue: Computers in School?

October 28, 2011

I read the following letter to the editor in the New York Times, published on October 25, 2011 .

As the owner of Boca Raton Preschool, The Learning Center, I totally agree with the following article.

Invitation to a Dialogue: Computers in School? By Greg Simon
Re “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute” (front page, Oct. 23), about employees of high-technology companies who send their children to a Waldorf school that is pointedly low-tech:

From 1993 to 1997 I was the chief domestic policy adviser to Vice President Al Gore, and oversaw the Clinton administration’s program to connect classrooms to the Internet. At the same time both of my children attended a Waldorf school. My children had no access to computers, and extremely limited access to TV or movies.

How did I reconcile this? I asked Waldorf teachers when they felt computer learning was appropriate. Answer: around sixth grade, the same grade that the Clinton program aimed to connect.

And here’s why. Waldorf education holds that children learn best “in through the heart, out through the mind.” Let children experience the world through their hands, hearts and bodies, not just their minds.

When overzealous parents brag that their preschoolers can use a computer or iPhone, they are elevating intellectual/technological achievement over child’s play. The irony, of course, is that success in life depends much more on children developing imagination through play than on learning a soon-to-be-obsolete technology, which is why schools are wasting money and failing our children when they spend millions on technology and cancel play time. By sixth grade children are moving out of play and into more intellectual pursuits; hence computers are more appropriate.

I wish that the parents who surround their children with technology and adult-created graphic images as early as 2 years old would realize that they are robbing their children of their greatest treasure and skill — being a child.

GREG SIMON

Bethesda, Md., Oct. 23, 2011

The writer is now an executive at Pfizer.

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