A New Kind of School


For a New Kind of World:  A New Kind of School

By Wendell Abern

“What does Wi-Fi stand for anyway? Wisconsin Fish?” Photo by Karen Gonzalez.

Dear Readers,

         I suspect most of us have a “solitude spot.” Someplace we go to just to escape the rest of the world. Maybe a small room in your house. Perhaps a bench in the nearby park. My wife used to use a chair in the kitchen for her “staring time:” she needed a few minutes every morning to just sit and stare out the window.        

         I go to the pool at the north end of our condo association. An unheated pool. I’m the only one there. Every day, attendance of one. Go there for both my morning and afternoon cigars, to read, and to write my column. When life becomes particularly gloomy, I come armed with a salami sandwich.

         Which happened just last week, when I asked a friend a computer question.

         “Sure,” he said, “who’s your wi-fi provider?”

         This is just the kind of question that reminds me the rest of the world has moved onto the year 2019, and I’m still living in 1962.

         “My what?”

         “Your wi-fi provider. Who provides your wi-fi?”

         “Um … Publix?”

         He laughed. I thought … pool. Quick!

         After we established my provider was AT&T, he left, I slapped together two salami sandwiches and retreated to my pool. And that’s when I decided the world needs a completely different kind of school for dunces like me.

         The human race used to have time to adapt to new “ages:” From the Dark Ages to the Renaissance, thousands of years; from the Renaissance to the Industrial Age, perhaps half a millennium; from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, maybe a couple of hundred years.

         Since then, the Information Age, Electronic Age and Digital Age have all kind of overlapped each other. What has happened is that technology is now exploding exponentially instead of growing naturally.

         Used to be that one idea gave birth to another. Today, one discovery creates two new ones, and each of these two new ideas give birth to another two new ones, and before you know it we have wall-sized TV sets, automobiles that drive themselves and telephones that are portable computers … leaving behind the dumb plodders like me, who took three years to learn how to tie shoelaces.

         We need a new kind of school.

         First of all, we must take advantage of the fact that this is the first time in the history of the world in which the youngest generation can teach the oldest generation how to do things.

         Therefore, our new type of school will feature ten- to twelve-year olds as teachers. These kids, after all, have grown up in this new world. In first grade, they learn computers and watch robots do housework; we memorized historical dates and multiplication tables.

         Until a suitable name for these schools is created, we will use the working title of “ATDs,” short for “Academies for Technological Dunces.”

         Students who want to become instructors at ATDs will be called “Pre-fessors,” and must take special courses when they reach second grade. These courses will feature not only emerging technologies, but also test the pre-fessors’ abilities to communicate clearly and concisely.

         Classes will be held in already-existing elementary and secondary schools, and take place two times a week from four to six PM, after regular students have gone home. Teachers’ salaries will be paid by attendees; each student will pay one dollar per week to his ten-year old pre-fessor. (Hey, with two classes consisting of ten dunces each, that’s twenty bucks a week! What ten-year old wouldn’t love that?)

         In order to gain admittance to these ATDs, stringent requirements will be implemented: applicants must be over twenty one, incapable of performing the simplest technological task, and must flunk the entrance exam.   

The entrance exam itself must be drafted by acknowledged experts in the fields of computer science, diverse 21st Century technologies and advanced communication. Clearly, these examinations must be created meticulously to make sure that only those who fail will be admitted to the new schools.

         Following are a few suggestions as to the types of questions that might be included in the entrance exam:

                  1 – How is streaming different from broadcasting?

                  2 – Define “app.”

                  3 – Name five different actions you can perform with a Smartphone.

                  4 – Why would you use WAZE instead of GPS?

                  5 – Give the new definition of the phrase, “Thumbs down.”

         Fifty such questions – created by the aforementioned experts — should be enough to determine an applicant’s knowledge, or lack thereof.

         Following are a few suggestions for courses at all ATDs:

         The Telephone Turnaround. An in-depth look at the incredible invention and subsequent re-invention of the telephone. At its inception, telephones permitted human beings to reach each other quickly; today, you can call any large corporation and receive answers to your questions without ever speaking to another human being! When did this phenomenon occur? Who benefits?

         SOS:   Smartphones on Steroids. How many times have you said to someone, “Hey, you’ve got to see this!” and then fumbled for three minutes trying to find the correct site on your smartphone? This course features the most recent advances in smartphone technology, including ways to cut your fumbling time to a mere sixty seconds.

         Social Media Tips. Important clues on keeping Internet passwords safe from hackers; tweeting and twittering without sounding like you’re engaged in some kind of global porn movie; subtle hints on turning YouTube into TheirTube, MyTube or any kind of tube.

Next month:  Scholarships for those who flunk out. As for me, I’m retreating to my pool with a salami sandwich and flip phone that I refuse to use in public.

Cantankerously Yours,

Wendell Abern

Wendell can be reached at dendyabern@gmail.com.