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Tech

Free school laptops a waste of money

The New Zealand Labour Party has come up with a plan to give free computers to school kids. You might think I'm heartless, seeking to grab laptops from the arms of babes, but do they really need them?
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

The New Zealand Labour Party has come up with a plan to give free computers to school kids. You might think I'm heartless, seeking to grab laptops from the arms of babes, but do they really need them?

What would they use them for and who should pay?

My flatmate has had his 13-year-old son staying with us for a couple of weeks and thank goodness the lad leaves this weekend!

He comes from the deepest, darkest South Auckland, from a family of beneficiaries relying on state handouts. He has his own laptop, the family has a 40-inch or so flat screen telly, complete with Sky TV. They do not go without. The taxpayer provides generously, more than generously.

There is no poverty in New Zealand, except poverty in ambition, aspiration, ethics and values. I have never once seen the boy use that laptop for educational purposes, or even seen him look at a book or newspaper. Instead, he uses the laptop's DVD/CD player where I have suffered the most appalling gangsta rap, complete with profanities. And YouTube was used to watch more "music" or crashing cars. That seems to be what interests the yoof nowadays.

It would be the same with any old state-funded laptop. Taxpayers would be paying for downloading music, movies, porn or God-knows-what.

Three-quarters of New Zealand homes have internet, so it is a fair assumption such people have PCs and laptops already. They do not need "gifts" from the state. Free laptops for some is not fair on those who have already paid for their own. And if you buy something yourself, you do tend to look after it better.

The laptop cost won't be all the government's shelling out either. However simple the laptops are, there's going to have to be software and surrounding infrastructure.

And don't kids still need a break from computers and develop traditional skills like holding a pen and writing?

There is much potential to use technology to improve education, but politicians will need to come up with better suggestions than this.

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