Dr. Papert Goes to Washington

Alan Kay and Seymour Papert testify before a rogue’s gallery of Congressional misfits and a clueless venture capitalist.


In October 1995, the House Committee Economic and Educational Opportunities and House Science Committees held a nearly three-hour hearing to examine “technological advances in education.” The first two hours or so of the hearing are a real hoot (as all the crazy kids on Capitol Hill say).

The first panel consists of the father of educational computing, Dr. Seymour Papert; Alan Kay, the inventor of the term “personal computer” and many of its accompanying technologies; Harvard Professor Chris Dede; and a clueless venture capitalist, David Shaw, who gave a lot of money to the Clinton Campaign. It’s worth mentioning that David Shaw once employed Jeff Bezos and passed on investing in Amazon.com at its inception.

Papert starts his testimony like he was shot out of a cannon. Alan Kay says that he agrees with Seymour and then throws gasoline on the fire. The Wall Street stiff decides to argue with Dr. Papert while the Congress bangs the gavel in an attempt to restore order.

The discussion is well worth two hours of your time if you care about the edtech or the future of education.

I remember seeing the hearing when it first aired and have cherished a 3rd generation VHS recording. Now I can share it with you and my students via the Web! The Daily Papert has also transcribed the hearing so it may be preserved for future scholarship.

When I originally saw the hearing, back in 1995, I remember thinking that the members of the Congressional Education Committee may not be our nation’s best and brightest. Watch the hearing today and you can’t help notice that naughty underage male Congressional Page sexting aficionado, Mark Foley, plus convicted felons, Duke Cunningham and Chaka Fattah, interrogating some of the most thoughtful educational thinkers in the world.


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