resistance, and she attributed its absence to the disadvantaged nature of the neighborhood, West Philadelphia, which she equated to East Harlem. “These parents are so hopeful for this opportunity for their students,” Cullinane said, “that they couldn’t jump on board faster.” In fact, she reported, parents have often helped to restore the School of the Future team’s occasionally sagging morale. Just by calling a community meeting, “the folks can come and build us all back up,” she said. “It’s a shot of inspiration.” Cullinane speculated, on whether resistance is a function of parents’ level of education and degree of financial success. That might be the basis of a good study, she suggested.
Manchester said that her experience supports this hypothesis. “We haven’t seen any resistance from parents who’ve lost their jobs in the manufacturing world and really want to see their kids learn and have a different life,” she said. By contrast, resistance to doing our kind of large-scale project has come from among “the best-educated we have in Maine”— people who have been some of the most vocal as well. For example, she noted that with the Laptop Project, parents were initially quite concerned about giving an expensive tool to children that they wouldn’t take care of, though it turned out that they did.
Cullinane said that educators’ emphasis on technology per se, especially in their interactions with parents, ought to stop. “If we can talk about the environment that needs to be created so that we can improve student achievement, as well as student preparation for what will lie beyond, we don’t even have to mention the word ‘technology.’ But if we keep going back to hardware or machines or software or typing skills in our conversation with parents, we are going to get bogged down in the weeds.” Of course, she acknowledged, we cannot get where we want to go without technology. “But if we talk about an involved and interconnected learning community, we don’t have to argue the value of technology because the end goal is understood.”
Manchester agreed that while dropping reference to technology is desirable in theory, it is not always possible in practice, especially when state legislators and local boards must make decisions about funding new technology for the schools or staying with textbooks—that is, whether to move ahead or risk falling behind. “For us right now,” she said, “we are still at the level of needing the support to survive in the kind of environment we have created for schools.”