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MacBook requirement at Milken

- Wednesday, February 23, 2011

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Michael Kessler

News Editor

This year, all seventh graders were required to own a MacBook to bring with them to school. Next year, seventh and ninth graders will be added to this requirement (in addition to eighth graders), and this process will continue until 2014, when all students will own MacBooks. If a student does not already own a MacBook, he or she will be required to purchase one.

These are the facts of the situation and, quite simply, they are absolutely absurd. The primary reason Milken is implementing this requirement is because the school believes that there are certain advantages and programs only MacBooks have access to. I would challenge that any program on a MacBook can either be outright installed on a Windows computer or at the very least a suitable replacement can be found. Furthermore, any functionality advantages MacBooks have are either irrelevant or made-up. There is simply no feasible reason for Milken to feel the need to place such a requirement on its students when the benefits are nearly nonexistent.

There are two more important elements at play with a requirement like this: price and freedom of choice. The price of a MacBook is well documented for its expensive price tag, and it is clear that the student or the student’s family will be responsible for paying for a new MacBook. To expect families to come up with well over $1,000 on their own for an unnecessary purchase is unfair and stretches the limits of what a school can require of its students. MacBooks are expensive and many families have made the decision that they are too expensive to buy. How are these families going to reconcile their decision to buy a non-MacBook computer with their school requiring the exact opposite?

The second and arguably more important issue deals with Milken dictating the type of computer every student owns. Laptops in the 21st century, especially with today’s generation, are crucial to our way of life. They stretch beyond our educational needs and play a vital role in our social and private lives. As a high school, Milken should be responsible for ensuring that its students have what is necessary to foster a healthy learning environment and nothing else. Forcing students to buy a particular kind of laptop infringes on our personal freedoms and inhibits many other aspects of our lives. At the same time, it does little to promote an essential learning environment.

Ultimately, when I first heard about this new requirement, I could think of only one question: how can Milken, a school that supposedly promotes a highly pluralistic learning environment, become so authoritative and single-minded with regards to an important aspect of every student’s life? I have yet to find a suitable answer to this question, and it disappoints me immensely to witness Milken, a school that has prided itself on embracing technology, take such a huge step back.

Featured image: www.audiorecordingschoolblog.com

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20 Comments

  1. Dani K says:

    well said Michael- I feel ya

  2. Matt says:

    Michael you are right on. Student’s don’t even need computers at school… all Milken students should be required to leave their computer’s at home.

  3. Anon says:

    Michael you’re only saying this because you’re a diehard windows user and assume that apple computers are still one function computers for internet and word but they’ve developed into well rounded computers that can handle anything. You’re simply bashing Milken’s pluralism concerning computers in this case because it is there for you to do so and you’re looking at this from one side. Macs are generally liked because of their simplicity and its much easier and more efficient for every student to be running the same program on the same operating system rather than people running on multiple windows equivalents. Milken students will pay roughly 170,000 dollars during their 6 years at Milken so i hardly think 1-2 thousand dollars is really that much of a hassle/investment for the types of families sending their kids to this school. You say that laptops are crucial to our lives educationally and socially yet a majority of people would say a macbook is much more of a social laptop than a majority of windows computer considering every single one comes with ichat and has a camera installed in it. Your arguments are invalid and your “strongest” one is one that you don’t legitimately care about (Milken’s pluralism concerning your computer.) Even after you consider that Macbook’s simplicity is ideal for educational purposes if you really are that anti-mac you can partition the 300 gigabyte minimum hard drive and only use the mac partition for school. Laptops are extremely reasonable for a private school such as milken to require its students and the requirement of one kind of laptop in order to eliminate any potential problems or difficulties with the process is completely understandable and reasonable as well.

  4. Michael K says:

    I appreciate your response Anon and you make some interesting points. However, I still disagree with your sentiments:

    First off, I did not write this article because I am some “diehard” windows user and I assume that MacBooks are inferior. That is not the argument I am making and I do not personally agree with it. MacBooks are very capable computers, and I know this because I have used them extensively in the past. Yes, I like Windows more but I don’t have an anti-MacBook agenda. I am sure I never implied this in the article and it was never a point I was trying to make. You are assuming that is why I am writing this article when I am in fact writing it because of the requirement’s blatant infringement of personal freedoms and the unnecessary nature of the requirement.

    You say that it is “easier and more efficient” for every student to have a MacBook, yet I don’t see how that is the case. Provide me with a concrete reason or example of how every student owning a MacBook would contribute to a better, easier, and more efficient learning environment that could not be achieved similarly with a mix of computers and I will retract my argument. Up to this point I am fully unconvinced.

    Also, while your solution would technically work, it creates an unnecessary burden for the student doing this that could have been completely avoided in the first place.

    I will admit that financially it is not as a big of a deal as it may seem in the grand scheme of things, but by itself $1500 is not chump change and the price is significant enough that it should be acknowledged.

  5. Anon says:

    I guess I did make too far of an assumption of your motives for this article. Mainly around school people that prefer windows more are anti-mac so I apologize. Macs generally make things easier for educational purposes because students are all running the same programs whereas on windows there are multiple program equivalents that can cause complications as well as Windows computers are made by multiple third party companies not universally by Microsoft unlike Macintosh computers that are all produced by Apple. Because all macs are produced by apple there are universal programs like imovie as well as the continued availability of microsoft office. Because Macs are sold by one company milken is able to get students further discounts like they did earlier this year when 13 inch computers 33% off were available. I don’t really have a preference between windows and mac and I use both but it’s very reasonable for Milken to go require macs explicitly because of the simplicity macs bring. It’s easier to work an entire class through imovie rather than having multiple complications between variations of windows movie editing software. Not only is this not that rediculous of a request because a majority of students already do own mac computers and even if you prefer windows so much to the extent you can still put the windows os on your mac. The buying process of a mac is also much more simple than buying a pc because you can just walk into a macstore and buy a macbook / macbook pro and walk out rather than needing to extensively look into the multiple laptops running windows.

  6. Daniel K says:

    Anon, you mentioned that a universal Mac requirement would eliminate the problem of software fragmentation, though that is not necessarily true. Most students will probably be using Word, which has a standard format, which is doc. And as with Windows, there are also software alternatives available on the Mac. Even if different software is used across the campus, any decent word processor like OpenOffice, MS Office, or Google Docs can export to all popular formats, be it doc, docx, or odt. All of those are cross platform office solutions. This is also true with movie editing software; however Apple’s proprietary format is encouraged by iMovie to trap users in the Mac ecosystem. Still, any decent video editor would have support for a wide variety of formats.

    You also said that Apple’s hardware exclusivity is more friendly. Though it is arguable that this hardware exclusivity is superior to Windows, which runs on anything, it does not eliminate other options. Milken could partner with a specific PC manufacturer such as HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc. and run a similar deal (though that would not be as necessary because PCs can sell for cheap regardless). Your “universal program” requirement doesn’t make any sense people software compatibility is based on OS, not manufacturer. The programs I use on an HP PC will also run on a Dell, Lenovo, Asus, or other PC.

    I’m not saying that PCs should be required by all students in 2014; Macs are so prominent on the campus that it certainly would not be feasible. What matters is choice.

  7. Publius says:

    Well said Michael.

    I agree that the requirement is ridiculous. It seems to me that the school is making this a part of the campaign to go paperless. The whole paperless drive, meritorious it may be, is unfeasible, impractical and imprudent.

    As an old fashioned student myself, meaning that I enjoy the scent a book emits, and the satisfying strain on the arm that writing a good page of notes in class, laptops are no messianic means of education. To think so would be ridiculous and I think the school is making a large step in the wrong direction by mandating the laptops.

    Another point, which is one another editor made in a previous article following the hype about the movie, The Social Network, is that being absorbed into the computer and leaving the class via the internet onto Facebook, Twitter, Robot Unicorn Attack or a website of that sort.

  8. habitat says:

    R u scared for the future?!

  9. Old School says:

    Gentle readers/responders,
    I am heartened that at least one student is prepared to resist the long march towards computer distractions within class. Observing the vacant or bemused stares of students as their attention is seduced by the screens of their computers is troubling – no depressing in the extreme. With attention spans akin to that of “a ferret on double expresso” already, do we need to induce further inattention to sustained and serious thought? Perhaps the next initiative is to eliminate all books in favor of screen – regurgitated texts.
    The brave new world is upon us and it ain’t pretty. Where is Billy, The Poet (Vonnegut reference, my scholars)

  10. Tomer Elkayam says:

    Oh come on Michael, lets be realistic here; macs are better than PC’s in every way, shape, and form. First, lets start with the battery life. My MacBook Pro is listed at 8 hours of battery life, but I’ll be lenient for your sake and I’ll say 6. The Dell Studio XPS that I owned before the MacBook, which was created supposedly to compete with the Mac but failed miserably, barely lasted the 2-hour charge that Dell promoted on the box. Obviously there are times where Milken students lose their chargers, forget their chargers at home, or don’t have access to an outlet. Having a long-lasting battery is also extremely beneficial, because every time that your battery goes through a cycle and you plug it in to charge, you are slowly killing your battery. The more you charge, the faster you are destroying your battery. The longer the battery charge lasts, results in you having to charge the computer less frequently. This aspect is very important because new computer batteries are very expensive, which leads me to my next point.

    Apple: 1 PC: 0

    Money. Ok, to begin, your parents already pay $30,000+ for school EVERY YEAR. Not only that, I’m sure that your parents pay for your car (if you have your license), the gas that goes into the car, and maintenance costs; so for the majority, I doubt that money is an issue, even during an “economic depression”. Also, who says that you have to buy the laptop brand new? I recently purchased a refurbished 27″ iMac for $450 off retail just because it was refurbished. You can also find hundreds of used MacBook and MacBook Pros floating around eBay and craigslist, so finding a used one shouldn’t be a challenge either. Going back to batteries. What happens when you need a new battery? Oh, your computer didn’t come with 1 year of cost-free AppleCare? What? You only got a 90-day, money back guarantee? Sucks. Batteries don’t die out in 90 days. If you replace your battery every 90 days, then you should think about either replacing your computer, or moving next to a best buy. Back to AppleCare, or as the PC world calls it, Service Plan. Here’s how AppleCare works. You get 1-year premium AppleCare for free. After that year is up, you have the option of purchasing 3 years of premium AppleCare for $249. Here’s how PC Service Plans work. You start off with a basic 90-day manufacturer’s “warranty” (money back guarantee just in case you realize that you bought a PC instead of a Mac by mistake). After the 90 days you can either purchase Service Plans from a range of Basic, Advanced, and Premium warranties (Apple automatically bumps you up to premium). Basic Warranty’s 3-year plan costs $210, advanced warranty’s 3-year plan costs $310, and Premium warranty costs a whopping $500!!! That’s twice the cost of AppleCare! And for what?! To get a brand new hunk of garbage, just in case your old one dies.

    Apple: 2 PC: 0

    Programs. First an foremost, all Apple computers come with free, high quality software when you buy the computer; iLife. The trials that come with your precious PC are worthless and useless. PC’s pretty much come with a clean slate, and yet again, Microsoft gives you such vast options ranging from basic to ultimate that you feel pressured to buy the most expensive package just to make sure that you’ll have everything that you need. I would estimate that about 85% of the people that buy premium software packages from Microsoft barely use a fourth of the software they bought. Most of the software that comes in these packages is completely unnecessary and irrelevant to what you and I as students do today. Also, as I look back at the comments above me, you stated that partitioning a hard drive and installing Windows on the Mac is “a burden”. If you don’t know how to partition a HDD and install on OS about it, then you shouldn’t be messing with a computer, let alone be putting down easily the greatest success story that the computer world has ever seen.

    Apple: 3 PC: 0

    The reasons that Milken feels that Apple computers are the best option for their students are so clear, that I really don’t understand how you, of all people, can’t clearly see it.

    Apple: Milken PC: Trashcan

  11. Anon says:

    Tomer,

    -fistbump

    end

  12. Michael K says:

    Hey Tomer, thanks for the response. Believe it or not, I actually agree with all of your opinions. But you still didn’t convince me that those reasons are enough to force a requirement on students.

    Let’s start with the battery issue: MacBook battery life is FAR superior to almost every Windows computer. But that is nowhere near enough reason to suggest that Milken should be requiring its students to have only MacBooks. It’s nice to have long-lasting battery, but ultimately, with the vast amount of outlets available at school, battery life should never be a significant issue unless you mess up and forget your charger.

    You are correct about the price as well; in the grand scheme of things, the cost of a MacBook is not all that much. Yet you cannot deny that a family that is forced to buy a MacBook when they otherwise would not want to is a family that is at least $1000 poorer than they were before This is significant enough in its own right to be mentioned. It’s definitely not a major issue by any means but it is noteworthy.

    Finally, on the issue of programs: Again, I am in 100% agreement that MacBooks have better software out of the box than PCs. But of these programs (and any others you can think of that are Mac-exclusive), are any of them essential to a school learning environment? You bring up iLife as the big one, and your only actual example. It comes with iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand. Besides a few specialized classes, I have never seen iPhoto or GarageBand used in any way during any standard classes at Milken. Furthermore, even if you did somehow need to use these programs, here are some free alternatives that accomplish the same purpose on Windows: Picasa (iPhoto), Aviary (GarageBand). I have seen iMovie being utilized more frequently, but Windows Movie Maker can accomplish similar tasks and Vegas Movie Studio, which costs $70, is in my opinion a far better program than iMovie. This argument just doesn’t work for me.

    Clearly you prefer MacBooks to PCs. I have no qualms with that, and I fully respect and understand your preference. Obviously, you should have no issues with this requirement. But I ask that you respect the other side of this argument, and that there are people in the world (91% actually) and yes, even at Milken, who have very good reasons for owning PCs. As a result (and as one of those 91%), I am arguing that there is no discernible reason for Milken to force its students to pick one over the other. Considering the importance of laptops and their effect on so many aspects of our lives that stretch far beyond our educational needs, it is illogical, selfish, and arrogant of Milken as a high school to enforce this requirement. Tomer, it’s great that you have found a laptop that suits your needs. All I ask is for Milken to let everyone else do the same.

  13. Noah C says:

    Well said, Michael!

    I feel lucky that this requirement won’t affect me. My family consists of all (proud) Windows users, and I would feel burdened to be forced to buy a separate computer just for school. I would not look forward to constantly copying files back and forth between computers. On top of that, while the price of a macbook doesn’t bother me, why would I want to wastelessly spend for another computer when the one I have works perfectly fine? It’s not necessary.

    In terms of the “who’s better” argument, all I have to say is that it doesn’t matter. The arguments above were all one-sided and irrelevant in the end. Each has their own advantages, and the rest is simply preference beyond that. The real problem is file compatibility. While word documents are easy enough to view between the two systems (although problems still exist), most of the factory software that a macbook comes with is extremely picky and favors non-windows file types, of course.

    I must add that one of the “upsides” to a macbook is a definite disadvantage to any school – and that’s the software it comes with. In many of my classes I sit in the back of the room, and over a third of the students with macbooks are either taking pictures of themselves in Photobooth, three-way videochatting, or viewing facebook profiles. Another fourth are either on StumbleUpon or Robot Unicorn Attack, but anyone with any computer can do that.

    Call me old school, but I’m against the use of laptops in a classroom anyway. I never bring my PC to school, and that’s not because of its battery or anything else but rather because I prefer giant (and therefore heavy) screens. Computers in class are a distraction for me anyway.

    I send my condolences to the PC users of future classes of Milken.

  14. jake d says:

    Tomer it doesn’t have to do with what computer is better. No kid should be forced to spend extra money on something that they don’t need. Whether or not it is affordable isn’t the point. It is the idea that kids are being forced to do something.

  15. Michael K says:

    Absolutely, Jake. The issue at hand is not PC vs. Mac. It is Milken forcing an unnecessary requirement on its students that infringes on their personal freedoms. Here’s the facts of the situation: At Milken, there are those who support and own PCs, and there are those who support and own MacBooks. Why should Milken have the right to discriminate against those who chose PCs? As it has been established, there are no educational advantages to owning a MacBook over a PC, so why is this being implemented?

  16. 23048 says:

    We don’t even need computers at school. We can write with our hands and take notes on paper. Laptops serve absolutely no purpose! they distract students and consequently waste our parents tuition money. Let’s be honest… we’re all on Facebook during class. http://milkenroar.com/blog/2010/11/12/the-social-network-our-facebook-dilemma/

  17. Tomer Elkayam says:

    Jake,

    Aren’t we forced to buy new books every year? Why is the 8th edition better than the 7th? Milken is constantly searching for the most advanced products for their students to buy, and they feel that MacBooks are one of those products. The reason that I listed all of those traits is for the sole purpose of highlighting that the MacBook is better then the PC, which is why Milken is enforcing student usage. All Milken is saying, is that if you’re already buying a new computer for High School, why not buy a Mac? I believe that is the reason why they are implicating this system in the Middle School as well. They want students to have a head start on the latest technology so they know how to use it during High School.

  18. Michael K says:

    Tomer,

    I can bring you a multitude of reasons and professional opinions that claim PCs are better. But guess what: I’m not actually going to do that because it doesn’t matter. It should be crystal clear at this point that MacBooks hold no academic or educational advantages over PCs, giving Milken no right to impose this requirement. Your school books analogy does not apply because no one is arguing that an older edition of a book is better than a newer edition; it is unanimous across the board that newer, updated school books are better than older editions. This unanimity is not present in the MacBook-PC debate, because while the Milken majority supports MacBooks, a smaller, yet still noticeable minority supports PCs. Milken has NO right whatsoever to tell us which laptop we should own because opinions exist on both sides, and as I wrote about earlier, none of your traits actually influence an educational experience. Long story short, it doesn’t matter that Milken prefers MacBooks. Choosing to own a MacBook or a PC is a decision that should be made by the individual paying for that laptop, not by a third party.

  19. Anonymous says:

    What about the students who are entering in with financial aid? Not everyone who goes to Milken has a spare thousand dollars to spend on a MacBook. Believe it or not, some families at Milken are struggling with money, and are taking full advantage of Milken’s financial aid program. It is ridiculous that Milken is imposing this extra burden on families.

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