BUSINESSES KNOW THE OLD MODEL OF
EDUCATION ISN'T PROPERLY PREPARING THEIR WORKERS TO PERFORM.
SO WHAT ARE SCHOOLS DOING ABOUT IT?
It's no secret that businesses are dissatisfied with U.S. schools.
With math and science achievement still lagging behind that in
other countries, at a time when technology permeates Old Economy
businesses as well as new, U.S. education isn't adequately
preparing kids for the modern workplace. The good news is that,
with the help of businesses, some innovative schools are forging
new pathways toward an education system that serves everyone, on
both sides of the so-called "digital divide." Over the next two
issues, American Way takes a look at these efforts - and highlights
ways you can help, through your business and at home, with your own
On the campus of the University of Chicago is a massive Henry Moore
sculpture, a bronze monument to Enrico Fermi and the first nuclear
fission he engineered in a laboratory under the football stadium's
bleachers. If you stand facing the monument, through its open
curves you can see the site where the nuclear age was born, and all
around you would be the libraries, research labs, and classrooms
where some of the best minds in the world do their thinking, and in
the tradition of Fermi, create new technology for a new age.
A few blocks away at Wadsworth Elementary School, a public
el-ementary school, are libraries, labs, and classrooms. But here,
teachers are struggling to learn the most basic of computer
operations. They meet during and after school for tutorials.
"When I first came in here, I didn't even know how to turn a
computer on," says librarian Dolores McConnell.
And McConnell is one of the lucky ones. Her school, along with 28
others, has been adopted by the University of Chicago through a
venture called the Chicago Public Schools-University of Chicago
Internet Project, or CUIP, the brainchild of university astronomy
professor Don York, who believes all kids should have access to
technology at school. Wadsworth and its brethren in the poor
neighborhoods near the university have grant money from the federal
government; they have corporate donors who give their slightly
outmoded computers up for refurbishment and use in the classroom.
The Chicago Public Schools spent on average more than $500,000 per
school to upgrade their 1930s-vintage electrical systems to support
modern computer networks. CUIP sends its staff to each school
several times a week to coach teachers, often one-on-one, on their
Yet even for these smartest of people, armed with somewhat adequate
funds and a lot of good intentions, it's a struggle. They struggle
to persuade principals that the Internet and related technology can
help kids learn, yes, but also can help administrators communicate
with teachers and parents via e-mail, and automate lesson plans.
They struggle to convince teachers that it's worth their time after
school to learn how to turn on a computer, and then, how to use