Offline lessons are necessary too

By Kevin Wilson

With each passing day, we’re living more and more in an online world. I can talk with my family online, get sports scores and TV schedules online and my faithful readers can read this and other Kevin Wilson columns on our newspaper’s Web site.
We’re coming closer to an online Portales High School as well. Tuesday’s News-Tribune reported that the high school will offer several core courses online in August. It’s an attempt to offer more chances at education for students who learn in different ways.
I applaud the school’s effort to give students and parents more options in education, and I encourage all parents and students to find out more about this program. It will be explained in detail at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the PHS cafeteria.
There are several questions I’d have as a parent:
How can we be sure that academic dishonesty won’t run rampant online? Will the quality of education be the same from a computer or a classroom?
Those are questions that I assume will be addressed Thursday, so I won’t discuss them beforehand.
My questions are ones that the parents and students should ask themselves, because they don’t fall within the responsibility of the high school.
What makes high school days special? And will you receive a better overall experience by taking an online option?
When I was attending high school, I learned trigonometry, French and U.S. history, among other things — then forgot most of it.
I also found out about the sport of locker hockey, a game we played to pass the time at school. I found out about how I could do things through student government. I found out what people were fair-weather friends, and who I could trust to borrow my car for a lunch run.
Those are just some of the things I learned that weren’t in any textbook, and I think I’m a better person for learning them in the social surroundings of my high school. Could I have learned all of those things if I had only gone to high school for study halls and extra-curricular activities? Probably not.
School officials have told us the program is being offered as a way to combat dropout rates from students who choose a full-time job over school due to financial needs.
I don’t doubt that, and I think that aspect alone may justify online courses. Intuition tells me, however, that the courses will be more heavily used by those who have the means to attend a full day of high school but just don’t want to.
Those students have every right to take the online option, and I would probably take it if I were a current PHS student. But they might also want to think about whether having a few more hours of freedom each week is worth sacrificing the social learning that is bound to happen in a building with hundreds of other like-minded students.

Kevin Wilson is the managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail:
Kevin_Wilson@link.freedom.com