Letters to the Editor

Schools need more computer programs

I share the enthusiasm and praise for John Padget and Jacob Dekker for creating the Monroe Compute$ program that enables students to earn industry certificates in computing and computer science programs such as Microsoft Office and Adobe.

Of course, the success of this program is directly related to the financial incentives provided by Padget and Dekker, more than $75,000 for the 256 students who have successfully completed their course work in the last two years. Padget and Dekker deserve the deepest appreciation for what they have done to improve educational opportunity in our community. These gentlemen understand what it takes for success in the 21st Century and are doing everything that they can to promote it.

What I do not understand is why the Monroe County School District, one of the wealthiest in the state, continues to provide an education suitable for the 20th Century. Computer literacy apparently is very low on the list of academic priorities in the district. Everyone seems satisfied if students can play computer games while ignoring the greater opportunities available.

A review of "Curriculum Files - Secondary (9-12)" on the district website revealed no computer offerings whatsoever. A search on the keywords "computer science" resulted in a message of "no results found".

An investigation into course offerings at Key West High School, under the rubric of "Career/Technical Electives", found course work in two general areas, Applied Information Technology and Web Design Pathway. How often any or all of the courses in these two areas are offered could not be determined. And they are electives, not part of the standard curriculum? Taking elective classes, given the other academic requirements placed on students, can be very daunting and, in many cases, impossible.

The School District has basically ignored its responsibilities to provide an appropriate education for the world that we live in, preferring that the private sector step into the breach. That I do not understand. The failure of the district to provide a 21st Century education is not for lack of funding, rather, it is for lack of interest. And I do not understand that either. Why the district is relying on the private sector to create a veritable curriculum instead of doing such itself is beyond me. To say that the state provides for the virtual classroom is basically a cop-out.

I challenge the School District to do something, anything, to provide a better education for the students of Monroe County in all grades, with a premium on the promotion of computer literacy and all that that means. Similarly, the district needs to do much more in the general field of vocational education beyond the lame commercial fishing, cooking, auto repair and the like. We owe it to the students, most of whom will have to leave the county for employment, to provide them with the skills and resources necessary to survive in the modern world.

Larry Murray, Big Pine Key