them to school. Teachers are expected to teach more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. We also expect teachers to make decisions. Teachers have immense classroom autonomy. In elementary schools, the number of supervisory staff is small compared to the number of teaching staff, and teachers in the classroom are mostly on their own. They decide—we trust them to decide—what our children should learn each day. In that process, they make many selections.
The same processes are at work in the elementary school library. The library does not have a million books in it. Even if the school could afford a million books, having a million books would not be a good idea. For example, if a third grader is writing a book report on George Washington and goes to the library and finds a thousand books on the shelf about him, the student will sit on the ground and begin to cry. I have four children; I know this to be a fact. School librarians and teachers select books for the library under the direction of the school board, state and federal standards, and recommendations from organizations.
The challenge is how to provide the tools that teachers need to lead and teach children in the Internet age. The present rate of technology change is unprecedented in history. The impact of information technology is comparable to the impact of Gutenberg’s printing press at the end of the 1400s, but today the impact is being manifested over several years instead of several decades.
How do we empower teachers? Let us look at the last 30 years. Over the last 10 years, there has been universal agreement that the economy has been robust. Even with the adjustments occurring now (I am no expert, and I do not know if they are permanent or if this is a recession), times have been good for 10 years.
When economists looked at this period of time, they were baffled initially, because, as I learned years ago in Economics 101, you cannot have both low inflation and low unemployment. You cannot have robust growth, low interest rates, and a full employment economy. Those things do not happen together; they have to be kept in balance. The Federal Reserve Board kept them all in balance, and taxes kept them in balance. Economists eventually concluded that there was a dramatic increase in productivity over that period of time as a result of the introduction of computer technology into the American economy. That increase in productivity allowed us to produce more goods for less cost.
This sounds wonderful. But I was in steel mills in the mid-1970s installing computers, and I guarantee you that there was no increase in productivity. When we walked into the mills, they laughed about all the