Monday, November 2, 2009

I Got Me A Car, It's As Big As A Whale

I don't think any column notes are really necessary for this one...

HARBESON: The drive to impede

Driver’s education was the only class I took in high school that I can remember being enthused about. Finally, the chance to take a class that had an immediate benefit.

The experience would have been even better if I could have studied the written portion on my own rather than sitting through another class.

Nowadays, I figured the age of computers meant that all Indiana students could freely choose an online option. But I was wrong.

Currently, only students in the Indianapolis area can take the classroom portion online and only through a single approved government source, the Central Indiana Education Services Center.

Other districts in the state and private driver’s education organizations would naturally like to offer online classes, too. But it’s not just a simple matter of them developing their classes and offering them to anyone who wants to take advantage of the opportunity.

No, that would make too much sense. And it also wouldn’t give the state legislature anything to do.

Therefore, we have another Indiana Legislative Interim Study Committee, this one on driver’s education, and one agenda item is whether or not to allow students to take the classroom portion online.

By the way, Indiana students don’t have to take these classes, but if they don’t, they have to wait longer to get their license, which is another example of government interference in your family decisions.

Some legislators do not appear to have a problem with an online option, but there are others who have “concerns.” One legislator in particular is worried about the possibility that someone else other than the student who signed up would do the work.

This is a ridiculous argument because new drivers have to take the written test at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Either the student needs the online class to learn what he or she needs to know to pass the written exam — which means the person has built-in motivation — or he or she can coast through the exam without needing the class anyway — which I suppose would also bother some people.

I suspect this legislator knew he was driving down a dead-end on the above issue, because he was ready with another one: He said that those who took the classes online would miss out on valuable classroom discussions. But online classes have proven to be a very effective alternative for students to learn at their own pace.

By now, you may be confused as to why this guy is looking so hard for reasons to restrict the freedom to provide online classes. Here’s a possible answer: He’s a driver’s education teacher in a government school system.

I watched part of a video (hey, online learning!) of one of these meetings and it was funny to see everyone seriously discussing whether or not to give teenagers the freedom to take the classroom portion online while the politicians were sitting there with their laptops in front of them.

It was also interesting given the recent developments of the computer laptop program in the Greater Clark School System. What’s the point of giving kids the opportunity to learn about computers if they are denied the chance to experience a real benefit of the technology?

I see no reason for these politicians to waste time discussing this issue. If companies want to provide the option and families want to purchase it, just get out of the way.

After all, when it gets down to it, actually getting out and driving a car is how students learn to drive. Not by being forced to sit in a classroom listening to a teacher drone on about it.

SIGLINE: Without the benefit of any classes, Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson has proven to be an excellent back-seat driver. Just ask her husband.

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