Gap Of The Digital Divide


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gap of the digital divide great depression

The Great Depression was the worst economic decline ever in U.S. history.  It began in late 1929 and lasted about a decade.  Throughout the 1920s, many factors played a role in bringing about the depression; the main causes were the unequal distribution of wealth and extensive stock market speculation.  Money was distributed unequally between the rich and the middle-class, between industry and agriculture within the United States, and between the U.S. and Europe.  This disproportion of wealth created an unstable economy.  Before the Great Depression, the "roaring twenties" was an era during which the United States prospered tremendously.  The nation's total income rose from $74.3 billion in 1923 to $89 billion in 1929.  However, the rewards of the "Coolidge Prosperity" of the 1920's were not shared evenly among all Americans. In 1929, the top 0.1 percentage of Americans had a combined income equal to the bottom 42%.  That same top 0.1 percentage of Americans in 1929 controlled 34% of all savings, while 80% of Americans had no savings at all.  Automotive industry tycoon Henry Ford provides an example of the unequal distribution of wealth between the rich and the middle-class.  Henry Ford reported a personal income of $14 million in the same year that the average personal income was $750.  This poor distribution of income between the rich and the middle class grew throughout the 1920's.  While the disposable income per capita rose 9% from 1920 to 1929, those with income within the top 1-percentage enjoyed an extraordinary 75% increase in per capita disposable income.  These market crashes, combined with the poor distribution of wealth, caused the American economy to overturn.
Increased manufacturing output throughout this period created this large and growing gap between the rich and the working class.  From 1923-1929, the average output per worker increased 32% in manufacturing.  During that same period of time average wages for manufacturing jobs increased only 8%.  Thus, wages increased at a rate one fourth as fast as productivity increased.  As production costs fell quickly, wages rose slowly, and prices remained constant, the bulk benefit of the increased productivity went into corporate profits.  In fact, from 1923-1929, corporate profits rose 62% and dividends rose 65%.  The federal government also contributed to the growing gap between the rich and middle-class.  Calvin Coolidge's administration (and the conservative-controlled government) favored business, and consequently those that invested in these businesses.  An example of legislation to this purpose is the Revenue Act of 1926, signed by President Coolidge on February 26, 1926, which reduced federal income and inheritance taxes dramatically.  Andrew Mellon, Coolidge's Secretary of the Treasury, was the main force behind these and other tax cuts throughout the 1920's.  Even the Supreme Court played a role in expanding the gap between the social/economic classes.  In the 1923 case Adkins v. Children's Hospital, the Supreme Court ruled minimum-wage legislation unconstitutional.  The large and growing disproportion of wealth between the well to do and the middle-income citizens made the U.S. economy unstable.  For an economy to function properly, total demand must equal total supply.  In an economy with such different distribution of income, it is not assured that demand will equal supply.  Essentially, what happened in the 1920's was that there was an oversupply of goods.  It was not that the surplus products of industrialized society were not wanted, but rather that those whose needs were not satisfied could not afford more, whereas the wealthy were contented by spending only a small portion of their income.  Three quarters of the U.S. population would spend essentially all of their yearly incomes to purchase consumer goods such as food, clothes, radios, and cars.  These were the poor and middle class: families with incomes around, or usually less than, $2,500 a year.  The bottom three quarters of the population had a collective income of less than 45% of the combined national income; the top 25% of the population took in more than 55% of the national income.  Through this period, the U.S. relied upon two things in order for the economy to remain even: luxury spending, investment and credit sales.  One solution to the problem of the vast majority of the population not having enough money to satisfy all their needs was ... more

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Digital Divide

The “Digital Define” is the distance between the people who have adequate access to technology and those who do not. As teachers, we have numerous avenues through which we can assist in narrowing the gap of the Digital Divide. Some suggestions are the following:
1. Gather teaching materials through sources such as:
www.pbs.org/digitaldivide/about.html
www.pbs.org/digitaldivide/learning.html
www.siliconvallydigitaldivide.net
www.ed.gov/free
www.fcs.gov/resources.html
1-800-257-5126
2. Donate a computer, obtain a donated computer, or upgrade an obsolete one. Many organizations have been developed to assist in this task; a few are as follows:
Share the Technology - www.sharetechnology.org
Computers for Learning – www.computers.fed.gov
NewDeal – www.newdealine.com
Heaven – www.heavens.org
3. Keep informed about the most recent government initiatives, as well as what politicians and government officials have to say. A variety of Web sites can aid you in this undertaking; some are listed here:
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology – www.ed.gov/Technology
Federal Communications Commission – www.fcc.gov.major.html
Closing the Digital Divide – www.digitaldivide.gov
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration – www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/fttn99/contents.html
The Digital Divide Network – www.digitaldividenetwork.org
4. Investigate the community access centers (CACs) in your area and spread the word about their availability. CACs include places such as libraries, community centers, schools, and other public-access locations.
5. Learn about model initiatives – successful models. A few projects include:
The Digital Divide Project – www.washington.edu/wto/digital/resources/html
NetDay – www.netday.org
Alliance for Community Technology – www.communitytechnology.org
The Foundry – www.thefoundry.org
The Village Foundation – www.villagefoundation.org/PROGRAMS/pathways/technology/index.html
PowerUP: Bridging the Digital Divide – www.powerup.org
The Maine Laptop Program
Lightspan, Inc. – www.lightspan.com
Plugged In – www.pluggedin.org
Neighborhood Network – www.hud.gov/nnwnnwindex.html
6. Explore opportunities for corporate support. A good place to start is www.wested.org/tie/grant.html#corporate. This site has a list of corporate and foundation funding sources and other grant related resources.
The model initiative I chose to investigate is NetDay. NetDay is a project connecting students and their teachers in under-served communities with the necessary resources to facilitate learning through education technology. From this site, NetDay Compass is accessible. NetDay Compass is a teachers guide to educational technology resources. There are sections on developing technology plans, technology infrastructure, grant and funding, classroom support, and model high tech schools. Here teachers will find the information they need to include technology in education and narrow the gap of the digital divide.
In the three years I have been teaching in Louisiana, I have seen numerous incidents of digital divide. However, one particular incident stands out in my mind the most. Last year, I had a Financial Math class made up of mostly juniors and seniors. I had never really though about students not having access to the Internet or much less a computer. We had just finished a unit on hiring expenses, when I decide to have the students complete a mock job search. I gave them a list of web sites and asked them to go home and find a job add and bring it back the next day. To my surprise, most of the student brought adds from the newspaper, which was perfectly fine, but it peaked my curiosity. I started inquiring why they had “clipped” the articles instead of “clicking” for them. Come to find out, only about of the 26 student class had access to the Internet away from school. I was astonished. In addition, the students that had used the Internet to “job hunt” tended to bring in more professional type job interest as compared to the students who used the newspaper. Was this just a coincidence or are the students without Internet access limited in their employment opportunities? The conclusion I have reached scares me!

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