To Mac or not to Mac?

Pinellas County Schools, at the urgings of it’s fearless leader Howard Hinsley, has decided to phase out all of the Apple computers and replace them with PCs running Windows. For what reason, you may ask? Well, it wasn’t cost. Many arguments have been made as to wether the upfront savings of a Windows box make up for the down the road savings of a Mac – so I won’t waste your time here. No, the reason was “we want to prepare our students for what they will see in the real world – and let’s face it, it is a Windows world.”

That’s not such a bad argument, is it? Ah, if you know me you know better, and I’m just getting started.

Try this little bit of irony on for size…
When I was starting high school my family had a Mac. Most of my friends had Commodore 64s or some other computer that ran a flavor of DOS. Microsoft Windows was just getting started with versions one and two, but I think everyone would agree that they just plain sucked. Just after I finished my schooling (high school and four years at the best damn University in Florida), I entered the “real world”. Shortly after I entered the real world, all of the computers in my office were running Windows 95. I’m about to get to the good part… I could have used what most other people were using when I was starting high school, namely a flavor of DOS (including the most popular flavor – Microsoft DOS), but instead I used a Mac. Is anyone ready to argue the point that a Mac was better preparation for Windows 95 than DOS? No?

Isn’t that rich.

The point here is that the operating system that most kids in school will use in the “real world” HASN’T BEEN MADE YET. Technology changes at an amazing rate. There’s no way you’re going to tell me what will be in use five or ten years from now, and don’t even get me started with kids who’ve got longer than that (re: elementary school students).

Now it gets better…
My wife is the antithesis of “tech-savvy”. When we started dating, you could show Cheryl a computer and she’d show you something that might as well have been a used Saturn V moon rocket – for all the use she could have gotten out of it. Of course, when we dated in college her only exposure to computers was my little Mac. When we married, her only exposure to computers was our little Mac. When she went to work in the “real world” and Windows PCs were put on everyone’s desks, her only exposure to computers had been on a Mac. Many of her coworkers had Windows PCs at home, yet for some reason still couldn’t tell a mouse from a furry rodent. In short order, she became an honorary member of tech support at her office. This young lass who didn’t have a tech-savvy bone in her body, who became the PC expert in her “Windows world”, was reared in this computerized world on a Mac.

Now consider the fact that over 65% of the PCs currently in the school system are Macs already, that by many accounts the staff prefer the Macs, and that cost may not be a factor. If preparation for the “real world”, what ever that may turn out to be, isn’t a good reason then… why are we replacing all of the Macs with PCs?

Alas, the world is an imperfect place run by imperfect people. It doesn’t me feel any better though.