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back to article Giving poor kids computers, internet makes them stupider

Hundreds of efforts to reduce the so-called "digital divide" could be in trouble today, as new research has revealed that giving children universal home computers and internet access actually widens achievement gaps in maths and reading between rich and poor - and causes an overall skills decline across society to boot. The new …

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Headmaster

> sobering reading for many

I doubt it.

No politician pr media type every pays much attention to research like this. They just wait for another study slanted to meet their preconceptions and ignore any study that doesn't match them. To be fair that's just about the whole population, not just the polticos and journos.

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Reminds me of the 1930's...

...when it was said that if the poorer housholds had baths they would just use them to store coal.

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IT Angle

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..and did they?

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That is slightly different

First of all. A "nekkid" computer with Winhoze an educational tool does not make. It takes 200-400£+ per annum for it to be a useful educational tool (this also includes the stick portion of the carrot and stick budget).. All the digital divide programs never accounted for that one and thought that by giving computers something magical will happen. First of all the ones that have no money to buy a computer cannot afford this sum and even if they could do not know what to buy.

Second, unless there is a parent equipped with a carrot and a stick a computer will not be used as an educational tool. It will be a time wasting toy. So not surprisingly the results will go down. Once again the stick part (and the carrot to some extent) require money. AV, content filtering, time-limit software, etc all requires either parent effort or money or both.

So the conclusion here is fairly simple. It is often better not to give "aid" than to give half of it.

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Bit out of date

To be fair the study is a bit out of date, I had a child at school around that time and the schools were not set up anywhere near as much as they are today for teaching children how to use a PC.

I have one child in the last year of school now and it's amazing what she's being taught.

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Anonymous Coward

Talk to the hand, errr facebook

"...and causes an overall skills decline across society to boot."

Perhaps I'd better post this on Facebook or Twitter, so that the kids will actually read it.

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Parents

Is there a study which *doesn't* reveal the blunt truth that your parents and upbringing are always key?

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Anonymous Coward

Nope

Apparently in today's society everyone thiks it's perfectly normal for parents to absolve all rights and responsibility for their kids and how they turn out.

I feel sorry for my little boy 'cause I will tan his hide if he steps out of line too much, so he might get the piss taken out of him by his mates.

AC cause the latter comment will no doubt mean a visit from Social Services.

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FAIL

And?

Shock / horror factor? Zero.

Giving a kid a pencil does not increase their IQ.

Giving a kid a house does not increase their IQ.

Giving a kid a computer does not increase their IQ.

They are unrelated concepts. Admiteddly they might be third-degree-of-seperation factors that might influence the scholastic performance of a child but in general they are just a tool. If the child does not want to learn, is forced into the workplace, has parents that don't want them to learn, has been brought up with the attitude that "school is for losers, come and be a mechanic instead son", etc.etc.etc. then no amount of "toys" will fix that problem.

The primary, main, and almost sole problem with under-achieving kids is that they are not and never have been encouraged to learn by the people they look up to - the "cool" kids in school, their parents, extended families, the neighbourhood, etc. Throwing expensive trinkets at them (without greating limiting their general-purpose nature by forcing them to be "educational" computers, without with they will only be used to play games, go on the Internet and watch videos) is like giving a jobless person a Nintendo Wii. Yes, they *could* use it to go online and find a job, but the chances are they will just sell it / misuse it for other purposes.

Stop faffing about by putting tech into schools, colleges and homes and do what you were supposed to do - damn well teach something, to students who want to be taught.

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Stop

Skill sets

Hang on, since when has a child's success in life been purely measured in Maths and English?

Even while mucking about on Facebook, these kids are learning valuable computer skills (not to mention social skills and networking with other children, a vital part of development).

I'm not sure this is really such a bad thing.

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An utter load of bollocks

Facebook? NO technical learning, whatsobloodyever -- unless you also think that reading a newspaper somehow imparts paper-folding skills. What "social skills"? Networking? No. Just look at the churn rate. Kids are conflating "number of friends" with anything meaningful.

Between them, maths and English are a great way to measure success -- at least until "Facebooking" becomes a college major.

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New Concept

Ever hear of "time waster"? As former high school teadher I can assure you too much wasted time means too little study and that means lower marks. Not lower intelligence just lower marks on "traditional" school subject examinations.

Now if they just tested the kids on navigating facebook or keyboard thumbing they would obviously do well. But then, a drunk tested on staggering would make a pretty good score too. As would a cat for meowing.

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Computer skills?

The computer skills you learn while messing about on Facebook involve how to work Facebook. The only sort of people for who that is a career advantage are people who are working in social media right now and it would be a marked negative for pretty much anyone else to write "good at Facebook" on their CV. You're not exactly seeing kids submitting patches to kernel.org here.

Socially it's not as if the poor children were sitting alone in their rooms before they had a computer. "At least they're networking with other children" is a real Hail Mary pass when defending reduced grades after getting computers. It's kinda like saying that someone who failed his exams because he was playing football all the time at least got some exercise. It's fine if he eventually goes pro but otherwise it's not so helpful. Ideally we'd have poorer kids socialising with other children and also scoring roughly the same as richer kids at school.

I can see why you'd complain if they'd used English OR Maths but they've got both and that seems fair enough. That's a broad test. At this level performance in sciences or technology classes is down to rote learning and your grade from gym class really doesn't matter

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or in other words ....

parents that take an active part in their childs education raise "brighter" offspring than parents that don't.

So, no change there. Nothing to see, move along ....

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Meh

It hasn't made me any.... oh, look, badgers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIyixC9NsLI

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Go

I See ....

... you're "Up" to the task.

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Grenade

So...

Are we sure that it isn't actually No Child Left Behind Act?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Child_Left_Behind_Act

Because I know several teachers from USA, and they curse it like there's no tomorrow.

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FAIL

@AC (of course you'd hide...)

Uh oh, looks like DailyKos found this article.

If I was a teacher, I'd hate any legislation that points out when I'm doing a terrible job too. Teachers lobby for technology in schools for the same reason why parents and babysitters love tv and the teletubbies. They can sit the kids down in front of a piece of technology and completely ignore their job. Teachers demand computers in the classroom so they can go sit behind their desk and read a magazine or a book and let the computers do the teaching for them.

Instead of saying technology makes kids more stupid (at least in America, stupider isn't a word...) I'd wager that computers and other technology make teachers and parents of poor kids less responsible than they already were.

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Anonymous Coward

re: Bullseyed

While I don't disagree with you completely, I think that classrooms are a thing of the past. When I was in school (through 87,) the first five-to-ten minutes of class was spent absorbing all of the material for the 1-hour class, and the rest of the time was spent goofing off. If I could have taken tests to advance on my own schedule, its possible I could have graduated two years early (with the exception of geometry.) Instead, I sat bored for most of the day.

If they could have stuck me in front of a computer and said, "study this and take the test", i would have had it made. The problem is designing a learn/testing system that requires material to stay in the brain for longer than the length of time it takes to pass a test.

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Go

And...

... I was one of them. You're exactly right. "No child left behind" did little more than award a meaningless certificate to someone whose butt warmed a chair for four years.

I had a choice, teach to the 10% who would never get it, teach to the 10% that would get it no matter what or teach to the 80% that actually benefitted from instruction. The 80% got my effort and so it was with all the schools I was ever associated with. New teachers hungry to save the world did so for maybe two years. Then realizing they had no life, a crumbling family situation and little to no community support had a change of heart. Was that the best thing ro do? No, but teaching to the 80% was the least of all the evils.

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It's not computers

As alluded to by others, the big difference is not about computers. It's about attitude - and especially that of the parents.

If the parents view education as something that someone else will do to their children for them, rather than as a process with which they should be engaged, then the children will inevitably suffer. A few may persevere, with the help of an inspirational teacher. But faced with parental indifference, many more will just struggle.

Of course, that raises other interesting questions about why parents don't participate more, which are probably far beyond the scope of El Reg.

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Troll

duuuuurrr

why is there this mis-guided mantra that everyone is equal in every aspect? some kids (and adults) are thick as shit. get over it. not a problem, just the way things are... dish out a load of laptops to a broad range of pupils and guess what? the bright ones are going to use them constructively and as a learning tool and the dumb ones are going to piss about and watch porn. i could have fucking told everyone this years ago.

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Unhappy

grammer, grammer

Jeez, get it wright! Its more stupidir! (does any1 no y thiers a red line under stupidir~???)

"yestirday I couldnt spill "inganir", today I still cant spill inganir and now I r 1"

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Funny ....

... I understand every thing you said. But some people are just ignernt. I guess after years of teaching I gould read hen scratchings. I also understood the kid who put a giant black dot on the test paper when i told them all to indicate period on the paper. He thought he was being funny with a six inch black spot. He really thought I want a smaller spot.

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Headmaster

Yet another obviouse bit of research...

Just like giving kids who cannot do basic maths a calculator, or the current trend of giving those who cannot (or will not) write with a pen a Laptop.

The number one issue with modern education is that it is run entirely by true academics, most of whom could not function outside of the academic world and would probably never manage to hold down a real job. As a result we have people in education who do not understand the difference of recalling some information and actually understanding what it means.

These are the same morons who spout crap like: “You no longer need to teach facts, as you can just look it up on the internet.”, these people don't understand that apart from the internet being full of incorrect information, the same could have been said for centuries, as since there have been books; “you can just look it up”.

What we need is a complete U-turn on the use of computers in schools, (particularly as most teachers don't have a clue how to use them correctly) as stop wasting tax payers money upgrading them every year or two.

Get teachers to use the good old blackboard and demonstrate how to write by hand, do long-division and use basic tools like rulers and compasses. Then insists all kids do likewise in their books. That way the teacher will see the working out, see the spelling mistakes, and see the hand writing and know who did the actual work.

The biggest thing that needs to change in education is simply to be honest and accept that, “everyone is not equal”. Write truthful honest school reports; I am certain that most parents don't know that teaches are prohibited from writing anything negative in them “as it may make the child/parents feel bad”. Have exams that are hard to pass, making failure a real option and just throw out the utterly pointless exams. Like entering children for 4 separate GCSE's in ICT; these are used to make the school look good in the league tables as almost anyone can pass these no matter how dumb they are.

For every Faraday, Hook, Newton or Einstein there are many thousands of Forest Gump's.

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Anonymous Coward

And just who is paying for this peice of junk research?

Others have posted before me how ignorant this research is and I for one hope it is purposefully slanted because if it is not then I suggest the researchers be stripped off any academic awards they have. So children from poorer homes become more stupid than their richer counterparts as soon as a computer is introduced into the home eh? Does this apply to poorer homes where books are introduced? the Authors or researchers of this report fail to understand that any interaction by children with media such as the internet or books is a positive chance even if sometimes without supervision for them to learn something. Others try to falsely alarm us that that the introduction of IT into schools is replacing rather than enhancing proper methods of teaching. Such claptrap has always allowed the savvy wealthier families to continue to pull he wool over all our eyes and control everything. No doubt this was commissioned by some right-wing conservative harping on about big government and there so called unwanted intrusion into our lives. Well if small they did such a great job how come big government keeps making a reappearance? Give the children all the aids you can, Try to make a plan and supervise them, and watch them astound you as they influence how technology develops in the future. If this is being reported correctly then it is a complete subversion of the truth which is that a computer is a tool which will provide better access to information and knowledge for a child or anybody else for that matter and what we should really be looking at is how to supplement the free kids pc's with some solutions like after school pc usage classes or parental lessons on helping your child make the most of the digital age rather than the suggestion that a pc in poor homes makes even more stupid people....

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Wow!

Wow! Someone who writes in the way that the comment "And just who is paying for this peice of junk research?" is written automatically undermines the support of the cause that he (or she, or, most likely, it) is attempting to strengthen. Geez, learn to spell (or have the brains to use a spellchecker), learn how to write coherent sentences, learn the function of "paragraphs" and, in general, try to hide that fact that you are basically a ignorant conspiracy-monger who, while certain that you know everything about everything, actually understand nothing about anything.

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WTF?

WTF?

Christ. Where your poor parents given a free laptop when you were young?

Otherwise, how do you explain this poorly worded, grammatically suspect drivel?

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Happy

AC@15:07

25 lines. No paragraphs.

Your point?

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I Suggest ...

.. you take your own advice.

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You Are

Along with me.

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Anonymous Coward

No feckin title needed

Sorry, got to kick you along with everyone else. Your last sentence had 97 words in it, with no punctuation (apart from an incorrect apostrophe). I couldn't even read it. This sounds like a very worthwhile piece (yes, piece) of research.

I speak as a parent who knows exactly what kids actually do on computers. Offspring #2 has been banned from using MSN, after seeing what it did to offspring #1.

Read the article again, any try not to project your own preconceptions on to it.

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Pint

Sounds familiar

Haven't we all used this line before:

"Mom, Dad can I have a computer? Oh yeah they are really educational and I could use it to help me with my homework!"

Ahhh, Manic Miner and neglected homework, those were the days.

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Gav
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Really educational

To be fair, Manic Miner played a not insignificant part in setting me off in the career that supports me & my family..

So yeah, in my case it really was educational. But that just proves the point. It's how you use the computer that counts, just giving someone one is not going to make them any smarter.

Didn't do a whole lot for my homework though. Those were the days indeed.

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@ me 10

Er ... you're joking, aren't you?

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Happy

naw

I git me a 6th grade edumacation an can cypher to tin! aint know stu-pid moran dont cha no!

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Badgers

Who'd have thunk it

Giving a thick, chavvy child a machine that calculates maths for them and corrects their spelling & grammar results in them not being very good at numbers or reeding and wrighting?

Research, eh? I ain't being funny or nuffink but where would we be without it, innit though, you get me yeah?

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Uh Huh

And creates clerks in stores who can't make change because they lack the skill to do simple math in their heads. You know, your bill is $18.21 so you give the checker a $20 bill, two dimes and one penny expecting to get back two $1 bills. Sorry I can't do the monetary math in any other system but the US, but the idea is to not have a pocket uill of coins by making up the odd coinage yourself. And when I do it they, to a person, ask am I a scientist or something. I reply no, I just learned how to add and subtract as a child and found it useful knowledge to retain.

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Thumb Up

Yes

I used to live not far from a branch of Kwik Save and I would play an interesting game with the checkout operators' heads by adding up my purchases as I put them in the trolley, then silently handing over the exact amount before they announced it.

Most of them thought I had superpowers.

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Anonymous Coward

Rouning up the change

Urgh, I've given up doing that in shops. It's something I learnt to do from older people in the 1970s - when tills were mechanical and didn't tell the monkeys operating them how much change to give back. It was just 'normal' for people to hand over a note and some coins so that the change was a nice round number that could be given in one coin or note. And the people on the tills just dealt with it automatically without any steam coming out of their ears.

But as you say, these days trying to be clever like this just blows their tiny little minds. You end up holding up the queue because it throws them so completely and they end up giving you the wrong change, so in the end you give up and just hand over a note, and get a handful of shrapnel in return.

In fact, on one occasion, I gave an extra 13p in coins so that my change should have been exactly £1. But instead of handing me back one coin, the dope made up 87p in small change, dithered for a moment and then added another 13p in more small coins! I asked if she could give me a pound coin instead and she smiled and laughed, thinking I was making some kind of joke about ending up with so many coins. I didn't bother pursuing it. What was the point.

Another one I've noticed is that if you try to get rid of a lot of coins in your pocket at the till rather than just hand over one large note, they often assume you've handed them the right money and don't give you any change. When you ask where the 4p change is, they look like you've just entered them into the Stephen Hawking String Theory competition. It may look a bit miserly chasing up 4p, but that's not the point. It's the fact that these people are so dumb that they can't even count coins in the first place.

Next time I might try handing over £1.57 in small coins when the bill is £13.48 and see if they even notice... And *still* ask where my 4p change is!

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Headmaster

This is not breaking news

...to anyone that has played any online game recently (i.e. within the past 4-6 years). The former Warcraft guild I was in had an English teacher as a Guild Leader and woe betide anyone that used "l33tspeekz" in guild chat.

I'm no English teacher myself but merely looking at the alphabetical diahorrea that passes for English online makes me weep.

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Grenade

Hello? Social networking != computer skills

@ Ian Ferguson: I'm sorry, but kids using inane social networking sites are not learning anything valuable at all.

What computer skills do you think are required to log on to myFace? When most of them are flummoxed if the order of Google search results is temporarily not what they expect?

What it means is that the only written word these deprived individuals ever see is the vacuous mis-spelled drivel spewed out by their equally backward peers. It's no wonder that the standard of education continues to fall, even many teachers these days have difficulty communicating in their mother tongue!

The problem we have with our society is that people are now too used to pushing a button and getting a reward. Just like rats in an experiment, they will keep hitting the lever and getting their food pellet until they suffer an obesity-related death. Unfortunately, computer games only reinforce this mentality. No-one understands any longer that in the real world effort is required in order to achieve desirable goals.

Most kids today are brought up in an environment where the parents have a don't-care attitude towards life. They are taught to respect nothing and that they will be handed everything on a plate if they refuse to contribute. So, the cycle perpetuates itself. Pop sprogs off at 15 (or younger), sit on your arse and get paid for it, your children will do the same because they don't know any better. At least in the UK, there is no incentive to raise oneself out of such a situation, hence, decline continues.

I really feel sympathy for teachers these days. Those that do want to do a decent job, have a serious uphill struggle ahead of them. Let's hope we don't get ill when we are elderly and frail, no doctor saying "I can haz scalpel?" is coming anywhere near me!

Let us hope for a return to the halcyon days of intelligence, understanding and co-operation... I fear man's greatest achievements are fading into history behind us.

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Alert

on the plus side

on the plus side, all them kids with PC's. . . . . . . . COD4 is helping keep teenage pregnancies down . . .

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Yeah Right!

The older men they mean online then in real life know to use a rubber.

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Games and Reading

It was actually a video game that encouraged my son to make the effort to learn to read. When he first started playing it, I'd read out the on-screen dialogue/instructions for him. then I started being 'busy' and turning up after a few few minutes. The disruption to smooth game-playing obviously irritated him to the point where learning to read it for himself was the easiest way forward. Now he's more likely to be found sitting reading a book (mostly non-fiction, which is a bonus) than playing a computer game.

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Grenade

Makes them stupid...er?

I like El Reg's assumption that poor == stupid already, and that therefore computers must be making the children stupid-er, rather than perhaps being responsible for making otherwise intelligent poor people become stupid in the first place.

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FAIL

Um

Oh, dear, here come the bleeding-heart brigade.

Well, sorry to disappoint you, but there is actually a strong correlation between poverty and stupidity. Smart people don't stay poor for long.

Refusing to blame the victim is doing them a disservice, if it's actually their own fault.

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Anonymous Coward

Echos of my mind

"Vigdor and Ladd compared maths and reading scores before and after acquisition of a home computer and against other students without one."

If that means poor versus poor then the study shows it's a distraction which shows up in test scores and bright kdis regulated use of computers lessens the damage so the gap widens. Like the research on parents giving alcohol to children or allowing them to drink at home.

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Interesting

Given the subject of the article, one might have thought that the contributors to this forum might have been a little bit more careful as to their spelling etc. Sadly this is not the case.

As for NCLB, fundamental error in the law is assuming that every child has the same potential as far as education goes. Someone really needs their arse kicked over that one. It should have been call NPCMNE, No Parental Commitment Means No Education. Schools and teachers can only do so much, without the support and, lets face it, discipline given and applied by a functional family unit the kid hasn't got a bloody chance. I've seen a few struggle out of the mire but on the whole their ambitions and aspirations are screwed before they even start. The only thing they have going for them is the chance that sometime later after their teenage years they will realize that they need some qualification or other and will return to education when their motivation will take them through.

@ AC "

Yet another obvious bit of research... #

For every Faraday, Hooke, Newton or Einstein there are many thousands of Forrest Gumps."

I'm not usually a spelling/grammar pedant but come on.

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Just like a book is useless without the ability to read....

a computer is fairly useless to someone unable to program. You need to teach people how to do more with their computers than watching porn.

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