Smart Idea

Jessie Jackson Jr has come up with a really good idea for breaking the government monopoly on schools. Give every kid a laptop.

Jesse Jackson Jr. wants the Constitution changed so that every kid has the right to an ipod and laptop.
I think his method is wrong but the idea is very good. At $100 per computer and 40 million kids in primary education the one year cost is $4 billion. For every school child in America. How much would it cost to wire up every school so the wireless laptops can access lessons and the Internet? That depends on how many buildings need to be wired. A good number for estimation purposes is 200,000 buildings at $100,000 per building. That is a one time cost of $20 billion. Internet service should be on the order of $10 per child per month. Roughly $100 per child per year. So that is a steady $8 billion a year (a new laptop every year and wireless service). Compared to the $11,000 per child average spending on schools in the US $200 per year per child is peanuts. If you pro rate the wiring costs over 10 years of public education the infrastructure cost is $100 per year per child. Bringing the total cost to $300 per year per child.

I don't like the method (changing the Constitution) but the idea is brilliant.

In time it will break the government school monopoly. And there is already a company (non-profit) that is making suitable laptops for cheap:

One Laptop Per Child

I know one of the guys on the project. Very sharp. Mitch Bradley.

Update: A really good book by R. Buckminster Fuller on the subject that you should read at least three times.

Education Automation: Comprehensive Learning for Emergent Humanity

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 03.10.11 at 07:58 AM


When will these guys get it through their heads that nobody has a "right" to someone else's labor or goods? True Rights are pre-existing and do not depend on the goods or labor of another human being. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness... free speech, religion... all these exist independently of human society or govenment. If I were alone (and alive) on some far-distant planet, these Rights would still be mine, because no one has to grant or give them to me. True Rights may sometimes be suppressed, but they can never be taken away, because they are a birthright of all humanity.

John S.   ·  March 10, 2011 10:48 AM

OK, now that I'm done preaching, I can say that I think that giving laptops to schoolkids in general is a bad idea. I don't believe computers aid in learning in any appreciable way... they more often serve as a distraction. I say we put kids back in one-room schoolhouses with 8-10 students in various grades, and a strict teacher who 1) knows his/her stuff, and 2) isn't afraid to rap kids on the knuckles with a ruler for misbehaving. That, coupled with parents who are invested in their children's educational success, would make a world of difference.

John S.   ·  March 10, 2011 10:52 AM


We don't need so many teachers to teach. If we can automate most of the process.

BTW look at the "One Laptop..." www site and get back to me on why it can't work at 1/10th the cost of what we pay now.

And I love the ruler method - except for the 20% of kids prone to PTSD. Using that method on them just crates future (and sometimes present) problems.

It would be nice if violence wasn't nearly always the first resort of conservatives.

M. Simon   ·  March 10, 2011 11:13 AM

If you put together the software for Neal Stephenson's Young Lady's Illustrated Primer on an iPad, you should get a Nobel Prize.

Phelps   ·  March 10, 2011 4:39 PM

Just Disintermediate, Baby!

Let's take Jackson's idea, and really take it to its logical conclusion.

Close all the brick-and-mortar government schools.

All of them.

(Oh, there's probably some very small group of students who will not be able to learn via Internet, tutor, homeschool, or combination thereof--but they can be dealt with by exception.)

Send the administrators away, to do something truly productive. McDonalds, perhaps, needs people to tend the fryer.

Send the teachers home. Some of them may become professional tutors--those that like the personal contact with students. Others may become course authors of online courses, and others may become course administrators of those courses. To jump-start this new industry, give all the teachers a new laptop, too. Doing that would be cheap compared to what we're spending on K-12 education now.

In a very, very short time, a number of competing curricula will be developed, and courses will be written for those curricula. These curricula and these courses will compete for students, and over time, certain curricula and certain courses will emerge to be come "brand name" education products.

Provide vouchers for low-income parents to be able to afford the services of teachers and tutors, to ensure everyone has the opportunity to get an education.

Then stand back and watch the explosion of educational creativity happen.

filbert   ·  March 10, 2011 6:57 PM


Exactly. But do it by stealth. Put the alternate system in place and watch the other system crumble around it. No need to make it a fight. We can all work together - for the children.

M. Simon   ·  March 10, 2011 10:01 PM

And I thought a no-fly zone for Libya was the dumbest idea I'd heard all day, until this.

Scott M   ·  March 11, 2011 5:32 AM

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