Are Computers Compromising Education?

Language Analysis – “Are Computers Compromising Education? ” In the letter “Are Computers Compromising Education? ”, A. Jones, the principal of Hightower College, explains his reasons for banning the use of computers in classrooms, informing parents of the many issues that it would have imposed on students.

Jones addresses the issue in a very reasoned but concerned tone, which gradually becomes more assertive as he attempts to completely convince parents to agree with his contention, that Australia’s “computer-based ‘education revolution’ represents a false promise to the Australian public”, as it inflicts a variety of health hazards on students and is preventing them from learning “the essential social and intellectual skills that they need to flourish in the adult world”.

With a formal and carefully structured, yet at times quite emotive style of writing, Jones effectively uses a variety of persuasive language techniques to justify the rationality of his decision, and to make it clear to parents that the negatives of having laptops in classrooms “far outweigh the potential benefits”.

Jones appeals to the reader’s common sense through the use of seemingly logical statements, which make it seem as though his point of view is the only reasonable one, and that it should be obvious that students should not be allowed laptops in class due to the “obviously unhealthy” effects it has on not only their education, but their social lives as well.

Also, in case his position as principal doesn’t give him enough credibility amongst the parents of his college, Jones appeals to the authority of Todd Oppenheimer, a leading social theorist in the US, who states that a computer-centred classroom means “downplaying the importance of conversation, of careful listening, and of expressing oneself in person”.

This use of reliable evidence works with reason and logic to convince parents that Jones arguments are accurate and sensible, and that “students’ brains are becoming deadened” as they are “sadly being lost in today’s technological age”, which is stifling vital qualities in them and “fostering negative traits”. The image which was sent along with the letter to parents, shows a group of students “being nourished by traditional texts” and being aided with their work by a teacher.

It highlights the importance of teacher to student learning and the essential social skills that kids can acquire through constant human interaction and direct communication, as opposed to computer-based learning and instant messaging. This image helps to support the principal’s arguments, because after parents recognise the necessity of teacher to student learning from the image, hearing that the quality of teachers declines with “every dollar spent on the purchase and maintenance of a computer” causes them to feel morally obliged to agree with Jones in the fear that they would otherwise be compromising their children’s education.

The image also combines with Jones’ use of hyperbole and emotive language when he states that “by short-changing our teachers, we rob our children of a future” to give the cumulative effect of both evoking an emotional response from parents before their basic reason and logic comes into play, and shocking them into accepting his point of view that “the real world is inhabited by people, not machines, and our classrooms should reflect this reality” by ditching the idea of having laptops in classrooms, and encouraging more interaction among students and teachers in order to prepare our kids for the future.

In addition to the array of emotional appeals and hyperbolic statements the writer applies throughout the letter, Jones appeals to the parent’s hip-pocket nerve by bringing to light the fact that “the cost of ‘down time’ – where the computer is being repaired – far exceeds the initial

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purchase cost of the unit”. Since money is one of the main driving forces in everyone’s lives, this use of persuasive language effectively influences parents to approve of the principals decision solely through their desire to be financially secure.

Jones eliminates any reason for parents to oppose his views through appeals to their sense of fear and their morals and values, by referring to this issue as a “worrying phenomenon” and claiming that the constant use of computers has “a detrimental effect on children’s learning abilities… and could have other damaging effects on the brain”.

The negative connotations in words like ‘detrimental’ and ‘worrying’ add to his alarming tone in order to arouse fear and anxiety in parents by suggesting that if they push for laptops to be made available in classrooms, they would be doing a great deal of harm to their own children. This compels the parents of students at Hightower College to share in the principal’s point of view that the school should not be “prepared to compromise the learning abilities of students in support of a fad”.

Throughout his letter, Jones relies on his concerned, yet assertive tone and use of reason and logic, to really sway the parents of Hightower College to believe that his decision to ban the use of computers in classrooms is obviously the right thing to do. The inclusion of evidence from an authoritative position, even higher than his position of principal, adds extra legitimacy to his arguments by presenting parents with a credible point of view.

Jones also constantly plays with the parent’s emotions and morals while appealing to their sense of fear, because as parents they would never want to “compromise [their] children’s ability to learn” or cause any “damaging effects [to] the brains” of their kids. Jones’ application of a variety of persuasive language techniques allows him to effectively convey his arguments, and the cumulative effect that they give helps to convince parents of his point of view, that “we need to resist the temptation to dumb down the classroom, and reinstate a more responsible and human environment for our children”.

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