Which Helps Kids More: iPads or Eyeglasses?


From an op-ed in the LA Times today by Austin Beutner:

There is a crisis in California’s schools. More than a quarter of a million children, most of them from poor and minority backgrounds, lack the technology they need to succeed in school.

Oh man, that really irks me, especially after reading yet another story about LAUSD’s idiotic, billion-dollar “iPad for everyone” program. Not to go all grampa on you, but technology isn’t our problem. What we need is —

Wait. What? I should read beyond the first paragraph? Well, OK:

But what they need has nothing to do with mobile devices or educational apps. It’s a technology nearly 800 years old: eyeglasses.

About 250,000 California schoolchildren don’t have the glasses they need to read the board, read books, study math and fully participate in their classes. About 95% of the public school students who need glasses enter school without them….We assembled a team of dedicated eye doctors and turned a couple of buses into mobile eye clinics. We travel to public and parochial schools in low-income communities in Los Angeles and screen each and every student.

….We commissioned an independent study….researchers repeatedly heard about how students’ classroom performance improved. They approached their schoolwork with more confidence and had more success….Parents reported a huge sense of relief. They said they could now understand their kids’ previous academic struggles and why their children had been anxious about school. In the words of one parent: “The teacher told me that now I don’t have to try to keep [my daughter’s] focus….Now she sees and tries, and I don’t have to be after her like before.”

That’s a technology program I can get behind. Beutner’s operation, called Vision to Learn, says it’s distributed about 10,000 pairs of eyeglasses in its first year for less than a thousandth of the cost of the iPad program. More like this, please.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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