Amidst all the sound and fury surrounding LAUSD’s “ipadgate” or “ivebeenhadgate”, there is a sanguine voice that recalls:

If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss
The second burden of a former child.

Or in other words, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9]

So what about this incarnation of ipad scandal is as it has been before? After all the technology is new and the foment churned is that this is the gateway to the coming of a brand new modern digital age. This program is to have been the manifestation of the civil rights issue of our time, solved: an ipad in the hand of every public school-child, so hungry that instructional time must be substituted by the necessity of delivering meals.

But we have seen carpetbaggers before. They set up shop in the wreckage of the aftermath of our horrific Civil War, shaping the “Reconstruction Era” as one of “opportunism and exploitation by the outsiders”. “In reality, most Reconstruction-era carpetbaggers were well-educated members of the middle class; … [and t]hough some carpetbaggers undoubtedly lived up to their reputation as corrupt opportunists, many were motivated by a genuine desire for reform and concern for the civil and political rights of freed blacks.”. In such do-gooding comes a lot of doing well with the most marginalized, often, they who would bear the collateral damage of reform, undertaken in someone else’s image.

All of which is to say: why not just ask? Legions of teachers point out various concerns still, hoping for consideration prior to approval of ipadgate Phase II redux at this months’ special board meeting on October 29, 2013:

  • If the ipads stay in the classroom, how is their distribution to be managed in any way efficiently?
  • If in the classroom, is the physical integrity of the building sufficient to ensure everyone’s and everything’s safety?
  • If staying in the classroom, does that forfeit the device’s biggest potential, as substitutes for heavy, expensive, resource-intensive textbooks?
  • If not to stay in the classroom, how will internet access be managed among “not-wired”, very poor or chaotic homes?
  • How are electronics to be harnessed for education alone and not hijacked by its social, interactive component?
  • If not in the classroom, how to reconcile bond construction monies targeted to long-term infrastructure support, with transient instruction delivery tied to non-durable goods?
  • If not in the classroom, how to manage the high turnover (purportedly up to one-third) among students of some high-poverty communities? What is the implication for device-specific instruction? For physical disappearance of the devices?
  • When was the imperative of Common Core testing agreed upon, as it underlies the drive behind implementing the ipad program precipitously?
  • When were teachers presented an honest cost:benefit analysis toward soliciting professional input regarding utility and efficacy in educating their students???

And legions of parents point out, variously:

  • If bond monies are to be so misappropriated, how will the public ever trust a future bond measure to be managed appropriately?
  • What are the future taxpayer and spending implications of an electronics education habit?
  • Why must parents support inefficient duplication of devices within a family?
  • When did the cost of implementing one program get stacked against the hardship of precluding another? Where is the discussion, bidding, testing, evaluating, thinking and scrutinizing of true needs and practices?
  • When did ancillary, support and ongoing upgrade costs get considered as part of the deal? From security to software to obsolescence, the costs of this decision are staggering.
  • When were parents presented an honest cost:benefit analysis toward soliciting parental input regarding utility and efficacy in educating their child???

The bottom line is: the people such massive programs with gargantuan implications affect, need to be asked first. A program of such eclipsing size and existential implications needs at the least to be tested, to be piloted and then: to be evaluated before approving or denying subsequent phases.

It is an incredibly uncomfortable position to feel patronized and exploited by in-house imperialists. How do these detached, possibly ulteriorly-motivated administrators know what is best in the classroom, without going into the classroom? Ask the denizens there what they need, and for some sense of the fallout.

And then: allow time to figure out what has happened. Don’t ram through a project’s approval without due diligence among those affected, don’t cynically label a staged rollout a “pilot” when no information is to be gleaned from its experience. Don’t neglect to learn from mistakes. To paraphrase George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember – or learn from — the past are condemned to repeat it”