My Letter to the Atlanta Journal

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This is the original text of a letter I faxed to the Atlanta Constitution. They called the following morning and said they wanted to print it in the "In My Opinion" section of the afternoon paper, the Journal, which entails a brief bio and a photo. I faxed them a quick bio but, since I had no photographs available, I asked them if they could use the picture on the top page of the Web site. They did, cropping it to show mostly my head. The letter ran in the afternoon paper on Monday, February 10th.

Internet No Panacea For Education

To the Editors:

President Clinton's statement that all twelve-year-olds should be able to log onto the Internet sounds fine on the surface, but we owe it to our kids to take a closer look at promises that invoke the "sacred I-word." Not only is the Internet being horrendously oversold as a panacea to solve all our education problems, but there are far more pressing concerns in our nation's schools that should be addressed first. Ancient, dog-eared textbooks, crumbling school buildings and unsafe surroundings plague our schools, especially in poorer and rural districts. Surely we should learn to walk first, before learning how to fly?

The Internet is far from being the magical learning tool many people, including President Clinton, believe it is. Leaving aside the availability of pornographic material and the foul language rampant on Usenet, there exists a serious confidence problem inherent in the nature of the Net itself: While there is a great deal of data on the Internet, true knowledge -- facts, or verifiable data -- can be hard to come by. Unlike hardbound books, there is no real way to determine from looking at your screen whether the data you see is reliable. With books and encyclopedias, you have a level of trust established by the publishing house; on the Net, you have no such bonafides to check, no publication date to verify. Rumor and innuendo abound on the Net, as Mr. Salinger's astonishing faux pas showed us. Is this really what we want our kids to read? Why not buy some decent textbooks instead, or pay the good teachers a well-deserved bonus?

Make no mistake, the Internet can be a remarkably handy communications tool. I'm a frequent user and spend too much time on it myself, and I've met many people via the Net who share the same literary and musical interests I do. But it concerns me to see the Internet offered up as a buzz-word solution to our education problems when it emphatically is not.

--Paul W. Cashman, freelance writer and editor

"A Federal employee by desperation but a writer by avocation," Paul W. Cashman is a freelance writer with one story published. He has lived in Atlanta since 1978.

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