There seems to be some rather large unfinished business on the newly-approved seven-billion-dollar-budget-strong LAUSD table.

Namely, the approximately one-billion dollar ipad program. The great “social equity” push that places electronic toys in the hands of every tot to teen in LAUSD just like those available to their more privileged and/or pecunious counterparts attending private school.

“It’s a civil rights issue”, declaims our Superintendent. And yet what’s missing from this equation is the other components of injustice. Because everything’s relative and priorities are what matter.

Sure it’s a terrific idea for everyone to have equal access to the tools of power, the media, communications. There is no question that those who run the world utilize technology. And there is no question that those who would be part of the ruling class must be fluent with its fixings.

But there are no educators who mistake the reading of a book with the pencil used to write it. The pencil brings no comprehension of Truth, though without the means to debate its meaning, there would be no scholarship. Pencils deserve every bit as much accolade in our history as the printing press and the computer. But none of these means is the end itself.

So among the conversation about ipads for all, is lost the question of what we let go in securing all this. It’s easy to lose focus of the gritty reality when contemplating sparkly new toys.

But summertime underscores the real nature of the political choices we make, because summertime in Los Angeles can be hot. When school reconvenes in a few short weeks on August 12, the failings of our schools’ infrastructure will become unpleasantly apparent, at least to those who actually experience its reality: our children, their teachers and all those supporting them inside the actual schools.

In six weeks we will see glistening teachers grasping for a thin waft of air to generate evaporative cooling; some will be teaching without air conditioning (minute 11:50). In six weeks the omnipresent patina of malodor in ancient bathrooms will concentrate in the heat; there will be too few janitors, cleaning too decrepit facilities. In six short weeks our children’s foreshortened summer will end as sardines in classrooms crowded for want of sufficient ranks of teachers hired to teach a diversity of classes to a diversity of learners; there are simply too few teachers hired to enable class sizes below 30 or any diversity of subjects (PE and music? Insupportable extravagance!).

So when we say that ipads-for-all is a civil rights imperative worthy of eclipsing approximately 15% (or more – the one-time cost of one billion dollars was estimated for ipads and now we may be purchasing higher-priced laptops, and this figure ignores the device’s long-term costs) of a budget that is greater than the nominal GDP of more than 15% of the world’s economies, we are investing heavily in one project at the expense of others, necessarily.

Choosing ipads means not-condemning classrooms of 40-50 students. It means not-condemning crumbling schools. It means not-admitting that true “college readiness” requires college counseling and health aides and librarians and a dozen other such entities fundamental to the pursuance of education. Choosing ipads means not-recognizing that rearing a child properly means incorporating art and beauty and social wisdom into the final adult product.

Budgeting is about priorities and when the preponderance of our LAUSD budget goes to consumer product, we are choosing profiteering over our institution’s mission of education, regardless of whether the choice is market-branded as an issue of “social justice”.

Choosing ipads is choosing the superficial over the substance of education, decorating a bookshelf with prettily bound books, that you are unable to read. It is not the book but the learner who internalizes the activity of learning; a teacher can only help with the learner’s task. As with Tom Riddle’s diary, when the book proposes the curriculum (minute 10:14) something else is afoot.