Well, the first day of school has come and gone and I've already retrieved the requisite crumpled piece of paper (important, apparently) from the bowels of my daughter's knapsack. The lone form is followed by a pile -- nine pages to be exact -- of similar papers, all requiring my completion. As a result, here I sit, filling out mountains of forms -- physical forms -- that are to be handed in to my daughter's teacher.
I sure am.
Are we not living in a digital age? Last time I checked, most of us have access, in some form, to technology. Email, by most standards, is considered old news. Who doesn't have an email account? Yet the situation I find myself right now is certainly not unique.
For some strange reason, educational facilities, specifically elementary schools, seem to be stubbornly entrenched in a previous era. In certain schools, there exists a mindset in which reams of paper are the norm, where mimeograph machines are not too distant of a memory and where photocopies are part and parcel of the student's daily experience. A disconnect with societal standards and expectations is what is being practised in schools and all of us as parents have cause for concern.
While we digitally communicate, text, broadcast and reach out through the ether, many of our kids are relegated to archaic tools of a bygone era, much to their detriment. No, paper isn't completely obsolete; we do find use for it every so often. It's when items such as paper are used with aplomb and abundance, much to the chagrin of many of us who are on the receiving end of the spectrum, that it becomes a problem.
Take a quick survey of most parents and they will tell you that they'd much rather receive communication from their child's school in a digital format. Email, text, website, whatever -- any of these options would be much better received than the rolled up mess that is often found at the bottom of too many kids' backpacks. Yet the insanity persists.
The question then becomes: why? What is behind this desire to hold on to a communications method that is clearly flawed, to say the least? Paper does have its merits, one can concede, but personal background information, emergency contact numbers and a brief synopsis of a child's personality traits could be so much more easily conveyed via digital means.
Is it that more recent technology has not yet reached the classroom? No -- for many classes have computers, Internet access and Google that beckons from behind a flatscreen monitor. Kids, ironically, are able to access digital technology from within their classrooms; they're just not able to receive any information through the same media from the school that houses the classroom. How odd. While teaching a lifestyle in which digital communication is assumed, the lessons sent home on this very topic are often on a few sheets of paper. The irony is not lost on many of us parents who sit down at the home computer or laptop with our kids, paper assignments in hand, searching Google and other online sites for answers to questions posed in said homework.
Teaching our kids to be technologically adept yet sending them home with a less-than-modern methods of communicating is a great way of giving our children a mixed message. Here we are, simultaneously touting the various advances we've made as a society and culture while at the same time showing our dependence on a methodology that requires more work for the user than it has to.
If we want to end the days of "the dog ate my homework" we need to take away the canine's ability to actually do so. Let's get our schools into the 21st century and digitize communications so that the days of soggy and crumpled assignments are a thing of the past.
This post also appears at www.multiplemayhemmamma.com