I keep hearing people talk about the Information Age and all we have to do is look something up on the Internet to get answers to our questions.  While this may be true in one sense, how would you feel if your doctor had to look everything up on their I-pad during a visit?  Don’t you expect the teacher in the classroom to have knowledge of what they are teaching?  Shouldn’t the builder know how to measure and add fractions together?  Basic knowledge allows an individual to be literate in certain subjects.  It’s expected of professionals working in an industry and it allows us to think on our feet, rather than have to rely upon tools for information we should already know.

For many of us, we use these tools when we need additional information on a subject.  That’s to be expected.  However, when I hear people advocate for less academic knowledge in the schools because we have these tools available, I wonder if they realize they are advocating for illiteracy.

As a volunteer education activist, promoting literacy and academic excellence, this kind of attitude continues to stun me.  I’ve heard State Representatives in New Hampshire make these kinds of comments during public hearings.  “We have google at our fingertips, why the need to focus on facts and knowledge?”  Teachers are even starting to parrot this message of illiteracy.

Now ask a nursing student in college how important it was to learn all of the information that led them to where they are today.  Ask them how important it was to learn algebra, chemistry, biology, anatomy, and even grammar, so they could handle the work load once they started their college level classes. That’s when you will realize how important it is to be literate in the core academic subjects.

Ask those nursing students if they can “google” answers to the questions on their chemistry exams or when they take the licensure test to become registered nurses.  NO Google, they are not permitted to google answers, and when they actually become nurses in our hospitals, they still can’t go around googling what they should already know.

That’s why it’s disturbing to read articles where Google employees are now saying the same thing.  Google’s director of education apps is de-emphasizing literacy because they have a product to sell you.  Here are some excerpts from an article titled, “How Google Took Over the Classroom,”

“In doing so, Google is helping to drive a philosophical change in public education — prioritizing training children in skills like teamwork and problem-solving while de-emphasizing the teaching of traditional academic knowledge, like math formulas.”

The director of Google’s education apps group, Jonathan Rochelle, touched on that idea in a speech at an industry conference last year. Referring to his own children, he said: “I cannot answer for them what they are going to do with the quadratic equation. I don’t know why they are learning it.” He added, “And I don’t know why they can’t ask Google for the answer if the answer is right there.”

Companies will always be looking for cheap labor because profit is their motive.  Parents want the best for their children because an educated graduate offers a company and society, value.  Illiteracy causes individuals to become vulnerable to scams and predatory behavior.

The Business Industry Association (BIA) in New Hampshire recently testified before the State Board of Education emphasizing the need for students to learn skills and at the same time, spoke against improving the academic standards currently used in New Hampshire Schools.  (See May 2017 NH State Board of Ed meeting)

This emphasis on promoting ILLITERACY needs to be identified by everyone involved in public education.  Our kids are not there for the business community to mold and shape into dumbed down worker bees.  Our kids attend public schools so they can learn and go on to become lawyers, doctors, engineers or any other profession they choose.  The stay-at-home parent benefits from a quality civics education or from a personal finance class when they go to manage their bills.

Now that we see who continues to de-emphasize literacy, it’s even more important that parents fight for quality public schools.  They are the ones paying the taxes and it’s your child’s future that is at stake.  Google is concerned about their profit margin, parents are concerned about their children’s future.  Let’s hope that decision makers understand the difference and prioritize literacy and parents over illiteracy and corporate profits.

Ann Marie Banfield began volunteering as Cornerstone’s Education Liaison in 2009. As an education researcher and activist she took her decade long research on education to Concord to lobby on behalf of parental rights and literacy. Working with experts in education from across the country, she offers valuable insight into problems and successes in education. She holds a B.A. in Business Management from Franklin University in Columbus Ohio. Ann Marie and her husband have three children and reside in Bedford, NH