LAUSD’s director of curriculum and instruction, Gerardo Loera, “can’t reiterate enough about the excitement in the field about improved instruction”, even if it is neither grammatical nor accurate. The enthusiasm he conveyed to the board’s Technology Committee for its new ipad program was nonetheless unequivocal.

A hefty portion of that excitement seems to be dictated from the top down by administrators: “It’s about the magic in the classroom”, insists Chief Information Officer Ron Chandler, without a trace of irony.

Last I checked there really isn’t room in a classroom for magical thinking. School is a place to learn the unknown, to learn about learning, to develop skills for life. Under what conditions could it be considered appropriate for an official of the second largest school district in the country to appear before his school board and parent-employers to promulgate “magic” as an acceptable form of pedagogy?

Moreover, it isn’t true of course. Computers are no more “magical” than, say, “Talkies”. The technology may be poorly understood by some, but that is no excuse for accepting that magic is afield. A school is a place of intellectualism, of figuring things out and learning to respect knowledge and rationality; there is no place for “magic” there. And even as a glib media-quote suffused with PR enthusiasm and hyperbole, there is no room for officials to suggest logic and reason is comprehensible only under “magical” conditions.

As a parent who loves learning, I am concerned that this credo of magic provides cover for an underlying inclination of anti-intellectualism. Magic is defined in my Apple MacBookPro as “the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces”; there should be no indulgence whatsoever for this mindset among the administrators of any child’s school.

Computers are tools. They can be tools for learning. They can be tools for playing. They can be studied as electronics machines. They can be instructed mathematically. But they cannot be disingenuously substituted for the work of learning that every day every child must pull up from within his own self. Computers can be a helpmeet, maybe. But they cannot provide motivation authentically; indeed they are generally a distraction to learning the fundamentals of knowledge, the work of the early years.

So then … why the coordinated, concerted effort to sell this technology so disingenuously? This article explains that too: “… more important, Loera said, is how iPads will help LAUSD implement the Common Core curriculum standards being introduced in 2014…” There the truth is nailed as to why these machines are being pushed on LAUSD at outrageous cost. LAUSD taxpayers have been signed onto a long-term make-work program for some of the planet’s richest industrialists … at the expense of dedicated funds approved for the purpose of, and only for the purpose of, fixing the infrastructure of our children’s crumbling schools.

When and only after the air conditioning is fixed to cool 100+ degree classrooms, then perhaps this testing instrument could be purchased. When and only after treacherous athletic facilities are repaired before a child is injured or even dies running on crumbled concrete or climbing condemned bleachers, then perhaps this testing instrument could be purchased to enrich multinational corporations. When and only after basic public health measures like sufficient toilets exist in good working condition at all district schools should we even consider focusing on the luxury of transient testing equipment designed for the ulterior purpose of industrialists and not students.

Magical instruments indeed. The only magic afoot here is the hoodwinking of our public elected officials to agree to substitute funds dedicated explicitly and exclusively to infrastructure necessities toward electronics excess instead. We didn’t intend it, we can’t afford it, and I don’t for a moment believe there are any ‘mysterious or supernatural forces’ at work here beyond good old-fashioned “up-selling”. At taxpayers expense; at our precious children’s expense.

LAUSD’s ipad Deal: I paid Too Much?