OLPC Teaches the Birds and the Bees

OLPC notebook PC being shown to childrenOh yeah.   The MIT wonks gushed over the educational potential of their One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, but somehow, I don’’t think this is quite the "educational opportunity" they had in mind…

Via Gecko & Fly, I read a Reuters news article reporting that a pilot group of Nigerian schoolchildren who received some of the first OLPC notebook PCs have been caught using them to explore pornographic sites on the Internet.

Well, sure enough, that is educational…

An OLPC representative pledged that the computers will now be fitted with content filters.   Of course, installing safeguards to ensure that these PCs cannot freely browse adult sites with explicit sexual materials is vital — and I’m baffled how this was overlooked to begin with.   But there are core-level, big-ticket issues that’re far beyond this embarrassing incident.   For me, there are two separate but equally important concerns:

First, should we really be in such a hurry to place computers in Third World childrens’ hands when basic survival needs have not first been met?   While I appaud the good intentions & ideals behind this project — namely, to provide educational opportunities for children who’ve not had them before — I’m still convinced that the money would be better spent establishing self-sustaining agriculture, sewage & water systems, and/or disease prevention & cure rather than on PCs.   I’m not advocating quick-fix handouts – I’m talking about helping these people build infrastructures needed to become self-reliant.

Second, as I’ve wondered before, (or life) for children?   As a parent-to-be, I’m nervous about how computer-use skills are being made a priority for very young kids.   Are we wise to so casually rush to acclimate children – impoverished or otherwise – to the digital world?   And in doing so, are we robbing them of real world learning opportunities?

What’s your take on the OLPC project?
 

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