Poverty is getting richer all the time. Ten years ago, a home broadband connection was a rare luxury. Now school kids can’t do their homework without it. The WSJ reports:
Much of what students get on the Internet still comes in books available free at school or the public library. But many school administrators are purposely pushing kids on the Web. At Burns Middle School in Mobile, Principal John Adams has his teachers assign at least one digital project that requires Internet use per quarter.
The goal, Mr. Adams says, is to teach students “21st-century skills.” Teachers typically allot class time for computer use when they require kids to get online, but Mr. Adams acknowledges that those students who have home Internet have the advantage of “unlimited time to pull in more information and fine-tune their digital projects.”
Meanwhile, kids who lack internet access in the home head to free Wi-Fi spots at McDonalds or Starbucks. Dispute rages about whether or how the government should address this digital divide. That debate is an important one to have, but there’s also a deeper point here. This story should remind us of both the pace of change in our society and of the continuing miracle of capitalism.
For all our economic problems and financial crises, the technological progress fueled by capitalism is still revolutionizing our living standards. The present generation takes things for granted that past generations never had. In our world even the poor have access to a cheap and widely available universe of information and connectivity that would have been impossible just a decade or two ago.
Even as we search for ways to expand access to this world, it’s important to remember that our definitions of what it means to be middle class and to be poor continue to rise, notwithstanding the moaning and groaning of all the pessimists out there.
America is still on the move.