Thoughts about the 2019 education technology election

February 24, 2019

I was very pleased to received my first ever ballot mailed directly to me with its very professional bilingual plea to open it immediately and its halftone graphic proclaiming it officially sanctioned by the U.S. Postal Service with a not-so-subtle jerk on the patriotic heartstrings (“School tax vote will be first local election by mail,” Jan. 28).

A warm feeling came over me that we as society (at least in Santa Fe) have become so progressive that the ease and convenience of the common voter has become of such paramount importance and thus we would not have to trudge to a polling station to have our voices heard. Instead, we had been offered the opportunity to exercise our civic duty in the comfort of our own homes.

Upon carefully opening the outer envelope to retrieve the array within, which consisted of a very nice ballot on what must be 80- or 100-pound paper stock along with two more envelopes that would ensure the safe and private delivery of my opinion on this weighty subject, I sat down to contemplate just what my vote should be.

This would be the most time I have ever given to ponder the levy of a new school tax, and I felt I had better give it it’s proper due. I had always voted in favor of the schools, i.e. the children, and thought that they deserved get everything we could give them. Why, oh why, was I having second thoughts about this one?

What made me take pause before automatically filling in that “for” circle is the seemingly narrow scope of this proposal to fund the casting of a vast net of electronic awe over our students that is, we are told, meant to “connect us all.” Well, I may have been swayed by that claim 20 years ago, but I no longer feel that is true.

As I have witnessed the pervasive expansion of this tangle of wires, optic fibers and microwaves, it has become apparent to me that it is more akin to an ever-tightening fence (or should I say wall) between individuals, separating and isolating us into the algorithm and further away from the emotional, mental and physical connection with our fellow human beings and, in fact, from all the glorious life on the planet. I fear we also suffer separation from our own thoughts and feelings as well when exposed to this cacophony of random input and electronic pulsations.

Of a more concrete concern is the section (part 3) on expenditures that “may include training by contractors.” In my experience, a subcontracted system is one without oversight. If we are bound and determined to go down this electronic highway, can’t we at least hire full-time tech support as members of our school staff?

Goodness knows, there are plenty of people talented enough to not only guide us through the practicality of using such a system, but may possibly be wise enough to lead our children around the pitfalls that are rampant in this brave new world of disconnected connection we have created.

I believe that I must vote against this “creation of debt” that, to me, is so much more than financial.

Phillip T. Kehoe lives in Santa Fe.