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Letter to the editor: Teacher-student relationship is critical to learning

Gov. Doug Burgum’s recent comments about increasing the use of technology in the classroom raise serious concerns about the direction of education policy and practice in North Dakota. The education of our children is too important to be subjected to the latest tech fad or a business approach that favors automation over human interaction.

Education is not a mere transaction between two parties, it is a relationship between students, parents and schools that strives to develop critical thinking skills, the ability to communicate ideas and the ability to use information and data to solve complex problems. These goals are achieved through engaging children in the classroom and challenging them academically, socially and emotionally to reach their potential. Well-prepared and committed teachers are the linchpin of education and the keys to its success. Technology plays a supporting role in the classroom, but to think technology might one day replace the give and take between teacher and student reduces education to a mere business transaction.

The public school education our children receive in North Dakota is robust, challenging and sets children up to be successful in whatever they pursue. It is a student-centered, teacher-guided system that brings out the best in each child. I speak from experience about the excellence we have in North Dakota: Two of my children are midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy and another child won a State Department scholarship to study Russian language and ballet in Moscow last summer. Teachers in schools across North Dakota challenge their students, push them to achieve their goals and create an environment where intellectual risks are rewarded. Most importantly, good teachers figure out how children learn and adapt their teaching to the styles of the children in their classroom. To think technology could replace these important human interactions displays a stunning lack of understanding of what teachers do each and every day.

Technology is important and has a supporting role in education. However, the internet will never replace the relationship between teacher and student that can light a spark that leads to a lifelong love of learning. After all, no one ever credits an internet connection with his or her success but most will credit a teacher who took an interest in him or her.