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Luddites against Internet learning

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Oregon’s charter school law requires 50 percent of online charter school students to live within the district that charters that school. Why should the state of Oregon impose such an artificial barrier on the power of the Internet to help kids learn?

History teaches us how the fear of change almost stopped progress. Remember the Luddites in early nineteenth-century England? They were textile workers who smashed the new steam powered looms in a misguided attempt to protect their jobs. They lost their battle when it became clear that the Industrial Revolution was making life better for most people.

Today’s Luddites oppose the Internet Revolution. Some fear for their teaching jobs if too many students find ways to learn online, rather than sitting in classrooms.

But the very nature of the Internet liberates us from geographic restrictions and barriers. It allows us to talk with – and learn from – people around the world as easily as we learn from our classroom teachers.

Requiring half the kids in an online charter school to live within one district’s boundaries is like requiring eBay buyers to make half their purchases within their hometowns. That would simply make every consumer worse off.

The law should stop standing in the way of progress. The legislature can and should rescind this artificial barrier to Internet learning.

Steve Buckstein is the Senior Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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