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6/10/2005
11:24 AM
Mike Elgan
Mike Elgan
Commentary
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What We Can Learn From Korea

The Seoul school authority is handing out leaflets to students on mobile phone use and etiquette. Meanwhile, American public schools are living in the past.

Here in the U.S., our public high school students are stuck in a system Bill Gates accurately dismissed as "obsolete," a system that "cannot teach our kids what they need to know today."

"Our high schools were designed fifty years ago to meet the needs of another age," he said.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education is handing out leaflets on mobile phone use and etiquette to students from elementary through high school.

The leaflet talks about the dangers of cell phone addition, advises how to fight mobile phone spam and when it's OK and not OK to use a cell phone (for example, during tests: not OK!).

It's a small but real example of how a school system accepts and acknowledges reality, and helps educate kids to deal with it.

American public schools are living in the past. Here in the U.S., schools view cell phones only as something to be taken away if they're used in class. There's no effort to actually help the students protect themselves against spam or addition, or educate them as to their appropriate use. The schools treat cell phones as some annoying fad that will go away.

Which is ironic, because the public school system as we know it will probably go away before cell phones do.

American schools: Cell phones, chat, texting, computers, Wi-Fi, MP3 players and camera phones exist! What could be more obvious than that it's important for kids to learn the legal, ethical, appropriate and safe use of these no-longer-new technologies!

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