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TUCoPS :: Truly Miscellaneous :: compuart.txt

Catching up with computers





FIGHT BACK!  BY DAVID HOROWITZ

Catching up with Computers

        Like it or not, computers are shaping the course of our
future: individually and as a nation. The so-called Information
Superhighway of the future is actually a nationwide computer
network that will connect banks, news services, home-shopping
retailers and home-entertainment providers, making all their
services available right in our own homes. But that's still in the
future.
        Still, computers are having a profound effect on our lives
today, especially in the workplace. Advanced technology,
controlled by computers, is already displacing thousands of people
every year. Many are highly skilled workers, managers and
experienced professionals. These people assumed their working
futures were secure, only to find their training was out of date
and their skills were no longer in demand. Computers could do the
job faster and cheaper.
        Here are some eamples:
        The more people use automated-teller machines, the fewer
tellers banks need to hire.
        The more customers who use credit cards at computerized
self-serve gas pumps, the fewer gas-station attendants are needed.
        As more managers write their own letters and reports on
computers, they need fewer secretaries to handle their
correspondence.
        Scanners and computerized cash registers mean faster
checkout at retail stores and fewer sales clerks to handle the
flow of customers.
        As well-paid factory jobs disappear in automated-
manufacturing industries, basic computer literacy is rapidly
becoming the minimum requirement for future employment -- even for
those with college degrees.
        This puts a tremendous burden on schools, where children
first encounter computers. Young children seem to take to
computers quite naturally. They are fascinated by all the things
they can do on a computer, and, unlike many adults, they have no
fear of unfamiliar technology.
        But teaching older students computer skills is a different
practical applications -- number crunching, word processing and
design. The problem is that computers are developing so rapidly
that what students learn in junior high is usually out of date by
the time they graduate from high school. Students who are taught
on obsolete computers may find themselves even further behind when
they try to apply those skills in the workplace.
        There's also a rich-get-richer type of inequity built into
computer training. Affluent students are more likely to have
computers at home and probably attend schools with better-equipped
computer labs. Students from poorer districts, the ones who need
computer skills the most, simply don't get the training necessary
to compete for better-paying jobs.
        Fortunately, there are a number of public and private
programs available to provide training in both basic and advanced
computer literacy. These programs are making a determined effort
to reach low-income children and displaced workers with the skills
they need in today's workplace.
        Computers are neither good nor bad. But they are a fact of
life today, and those who cannot come to terms with the computer
age are going to be left behind.  COPYRIGHT 1994 CREATORS
SYNDICATE, INC.


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