News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Internet stats improve, but we can do better

Internet access is one of the most important socio-economic equalizers to come on the scene. The good news is that it is seeing increased use by children of all races. The bad news is that blacks and Hispanics remain on the wrong side of the digital divide.

A study by the U.S. Department of Education, based on a 2003 survey, showed that 91 percent of students between nursery school and 12th grade use computers, and 59 percent use the Internet.

It also showed that Internet use at school is increasing among all races.

That's important news, and the statistics are probably even better as of 2006. Area schools can be proud to be part of the solution.

The beauty of the Internet is that it gives motivated students of any race almost unlimited ability to improve their knowledge. Whether or not their parents went to college, whether or not they have a set of encyclopedias, whether or not they have transportation to the local library, students can delve deeply into the subjects that interest them.

The bad news, according to the study, involves home use. Fifty-eight percent of Asian children, 54 percent of whites, 27 percent of blacks and 26 percent of Hispanics have Internet access at home.

The gap is no surprise; it reflects economic trends. Computers and Internet access cost money, something blacks and Hispanics have less of. It deserves attention, though. The Internet is a powerful enough equalizer that a democratic government would do well to go to great lengths to make it available to all its citizens.

Where government has the most ability to affect change — in the schools — the study shows it is doing a good job. That bodes well for students of all races. It also bodes well for our nation.

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