Tuesday, June 21, 2011

If a South Carolina high school has no athletics program, does it exist?

In August, South Carolina's fifth artificial high school is scheduled to open in Cyberspace.

Cyberspace, as geography lessons reveal, cannot be found on a map of South Carolina. Yet it already is home to four artificial high schools enrolling South Carolina pupils, none of which have faculty parking lots, teacher workrooms, cafeterias or, most importantly, basketball courts and football fields.

Which leads to an obvious question: What do students enrolled in these schools do on Friday evenings?

Let's be serious. Homeschooling has its place, just as private schools have their place. But just as taxpayers don't subsidize parents' decisions to homeschool and to pay private school tuition, should taxpayers pay to experiment with online schooling, where effective interaction between instructor and pupil depends upon your bit rate?

Is not something being purposefully lost in eliminating the face-to-face teaching and learning between and among educators and students?

Surely, introverted adults and children will appreciate this mode of communication. And not having to ride a school bus to the desktop computer is a boon. But online education -- fine for adults with careers who want to earn advanced degrees on nights and weekends -- seems to strip a large part of childhood learning from the experience.

Where, for example, do these online-school biology students dissect their frogs? Or is that an artificial experience, too?

Where does a pupil deliver class presentations? Or is the imagination restricted to Powerpoints?

Do these artificial schools host artificial science fairs? If so, who pours the vinegar into the volcano's top to activate the baking soda lava?

The Charleston Post & Courier, in announcing the opening of this school, doesn't mention issues such as these. But it does tell us there are considerations to make before enrolling a child in one:

Even if virtual schools are accredited, students should still consider their post-graduation goals before applying to one. The military does not accept more than 10 percent of recruits with nontraditional high school diplomas. Many colleges accept degrees from virtual high schools only if they are regionally accredited by organizations such as SACS, rather than nationally accredited.

One last question: If an artificial school that exists only in cyberspace is sufficient to meet the needs of a modern high school student, why do we need five of them? Why isn't one sufficient?

Please don't tell me this is another example of out-of-state business interests earning a profit from South Carolina's public school budget.

Yep: It's an out-of-state business interest -- Morgantown, West Virginia, is not contained with South Carolina's borders at the present time -- earning a profit from South Carolina's public school budget. When will we learn?

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