Sunday, December 03, 2006

Education: Laptops for All Children

A laptop computer for every child—when I first heard that, I said, “Oh, good grief! A laptop!? What lots of children need is nutritious food—coats and shoes—a bed.” And I promptly dismissed it as another bad idea.

Eventually, I ran across this web site— This has been in the news for awhile, but I haven’t paid much attention to it until now. Amazing!! I now realize that laptops could soon be available for children in developing countries. I also see that they could have a tremendous impact in third world countries—and in our country, too.

This small laptop, developed at MIT, will work even in the most primitive areas because it can operate on hand-cranked power. The monitor is designed to work on very low power, with half of its elements (whatever those things are called) made to reflect existing light; it can show up in color or, using reflected light, black and white. This “wiki” tells a great deal about the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project and provides opportunity for discussion and feedback from interested readers.

When the project is ready, if we turned loose of a few billion dollars here and there, we could take a big step toward helping. I believe some of the best assistance for the desperately needy is to enable them to find ways to help themselves. We can see such results in areas where missionary groups and government agencies like the Peace Corps have taught people how to build and operate simple machinery for much benefit—for water purification, farm irrigation, crop management.

We are called to help the needy. In fact, taking care of the poor and seeing that justice is done are ways of worshipping God through obedience. He doesn’t want us just to fast and bow our heads, but to live a “fasting” kind of life. God tells us in Isaiah 58 that the kind of fasting he really wants involves some action on our parts:

Here is the way I want you to fast.
Set free those who are held by chains without any reason.
Untie the ropes that hold people as slaves.
Set free those who are crushed.
Break every evil chain.
Share your food with hungry people.
Provide homeless people with a place to stay.
Give naked people clothes to wear.

When people are oppressed and we see it, we’re supposed to do something about it. We are supposed to feed them and clothe them. I believe the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child project should be considered as we look for ways to help. Education is vital in the set of keys to escaping from the “mind-forged manacles”* of poverty.

*These are the words of the British poet William Blake, who wrote in the late 1700s of the dreadful oppression of poverty that he saw in London.

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