Came across this article, “Why Are The Feds Banning E-Readers?” by Pat Archbold, on National Catholic Register:
Sometimes the federal government does something so laughably moronic, that one has to stop and ask the question “Are they really that dumb or is something else going on?”
Here is the setup. Recently a number of universities around the country decided to take a look at using some modern technology in the classroom in an effort to save money. These universities took part in an experimental program to allow students to use the Amazon Kindle for textbooks. As you know, many people now use e-readers like the Kindle or the Nook as a replacement for traditional printed books. There are many reasons for this including cost, environmental impact, and convenience. Further, anyone who has gone to college understands the high cost of textbooks and would likely support any way to reduce this large expense.
Here is the pathetic punchline. For conducting this experiment with the Kindle, Obama’s Department of Justice threatened legal action against the universities. The ridiculous contention of the Obama administration is that the Kindle and e-readers violate the Americans With Disabilities Act. Why? Because the blind can’t easily use them.
Now the first thing that would pop into the minds of anybody with a third grade education and that does not work for the government is this simple question. If e-readers discriminate against the blind, do not traditional textbooks discriminate equally? The obvious answer is yes.
The obvious solution, in my mind, is to require the universities to offer a suitable alternative for blind and visually impaired users—NOT to prohibit the devices entirely. E-book texts are easily converted to voice, so the only issue is giving those who don’t see a way to navigate into the right e-book.
But his article, and the comments it drew, amazed me with their various “evil conspiracy” theories. Yes, there were some that argued rationally about the legitimate difficulties blind users have with these devices (and pointing out that they have much more difficulty with a printed book). But there were also a number of comments speculating that this is a way for the Obama administration to control dissent and silence conservative voices.
My question to them: what have you been smoking?
I posit another and perhaps more nefarious reason. I think that the federal government is adamantly opposed to the use of e-readers as an alternative to textbooks for fear of loss of control. This loss of control is not so much at the university level but at much younger levels. The universities just happened to be the first ones to try.
Here’s one of the comments, from “Frank”:
A great deal of control over curriculum nationwide is exerted through textbook control. Education is critical to progressives. Remember, those who control education, control the culture. (Now , think of Obama’s childhood development, i.e. Indonesian grade school;, contact with Frank Mitchell Davis during high school years;, professors at Occidental College and Columbia University;, Alinsky acolytes in Chicago; social/political training in Hyde Park, Chicago South Side; Chicago political cauldron. Put it all together, what else can you expect but what we have experienced since January 20, 2009?)
To me, the ruling that e-readers are out of compliance with ADA—and I speak as a disability advocate who served on my city’s official Disability Awareness committee for six years—is nothing more than the typical heavy-handed over-response of large government entities. No malfeasance, just bureaucratic inability to see past a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s the same mentality that, here in Massachusetts under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40B, allows developers to ram through inappropriate and out-of-character housing projects that violate local zoning, in the name of increasing the ratio of affordable housing. Affordable housing is a worthy goal, and I spent about ten years doing a lot of volunteer work to address that issue—but 40B is a cannon shot fired against a mosquito: the wrong tool, with lots of unintended and undesirable consequences.
The same mentality that thinks every road improvement—even our local bikeway—has to include over-widening, over-straightening, and often removing trees, stone walls, and other vital features.
Big governments are slow and clumsy creatures with limited intelligence, even when they’re headed by very smart people. Over time, we as a society will realize that conditions vary in different locations, and one size really fits no one at all, only breeds resentment.
Progressives can make common cause with the Right on this issue: local control is the preferred alternative whenever practical.