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February 22, 2011

“I think that Al Gore and Bill Clinton are doing an incredibly mischievous thing, as is everybody who is propagating the idea that these NetDays, in putting one computer in every classroom connected to the Internet, is a good thing. Now of course it’s a good thing… there’s no question that it is a good thing — but if this is allowed to get confused with the idea of using technology to change education and to open new vistas for children, it is a very bad thing.

It’s a bad thing for a number of reasons. One of them being that incremental change, if you’ve looked at any system, has a particular way of breeding immune reactions and resistance to further change. If you bring in a little bit of change people adapt to it and then it gets professionalized. For example, in the early 80s the use of computers in schools was terribly exciting. You saw microcomputers in schools only when visionary teachers had brought them there. But when schools started having computer labs and putting the computers in them and giving students an hour a day and having a computer literacy curriculum… although some wonderful things continued to be done, at the same time there came about a professionalization of people who were teachers of this little itty bitty piece of computer knowledge. That knowledge is now their thing. They have their professional associations and their journals and their masters’ degrees on how to use computers, and once it’s built in you have a devil of a job ever changing it to take the next step.”

Papert, S. (1997). Looking at School Through School-Colored Spectacles. Logo Exchange, Winter 1997.

A version of this article was published in Logo Exchange in the winter of 1997. It was adapted from a talk delivered by Seymour Papert at the MIT Media Lab, June 4, 1996, at an event sponsored by The American Prospect Magazine.

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