Chelsea Clinton Writes on the Digital Divide

Growing up in the Clinton household likely had a few significant perks. In the Daily Beast, former President Bill Clinton’s daughter Chelsea wrote about how she received a computer for her birthday in 1993 which she used in her 8th grade math classes, and how technology became part of her life at an early age.

She grew up in a period when technology growth was exploding and personal computers were showing up in households across America for those families that could afford them. While computers and internet access are both certainly more popular today than they were in the 90s, there is a digital divide that still exists.

“Unfortunately, as in the mid-1990s, it is generally students in poorer and largely minority schools who have less access to the computers, software, and online learning tools that could possibly make a real difference in their education.”

Clinton co-moderated a town-hall style NBC education conference in Boston earlier this month, which highlighted a new kind of digital divide, one between educators, parents and students adopting technology for teaching purposes, and those who do not. The mayor of Boston talked about a new program called “Tech Goes Home” which fosters digital literacy for entire families and offers laptops with built-in internet connections to participating students. Another participant talked about how technology is useful for personalized education that combats the unfortunate trend of “teaching to the middle” that too many schools these days must resort to. Clinton admits that there is presently no data to truly measure the effectiveness of this kind of tech implementation in classrooms, but relies on data to point out why the current system is failing children.

The data Clinton uses, which once again relies on the now-common practice of comparing the United States’ educational performance to that of other nations, has been called into question by authors who point out that America has always ranked higher in education and innovation. Clinton sounds a little like a doomsayer when she intones, “The Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on U.S. Education Reform declared earlier in 2012 that the U.S.’s failure to educate our students for the 21st century—including how best to use technology—poses serious threats to the U.S. economic growth and national security.”

While it is an important discussion to have about the merit of using such data to evaluate the effectiveness of American education, there is no question that the implementation of technology is one way to make a difference in students’ lives. As Clinton writes, “We need to learn from what is working and incentivize other districts to adopt what works.”