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Virtual phys ed?

The ever-expanding inventory of school choices is getting its heaviest shove these days from the supporters of virtual education, also known as cyber-schools. But it's best described as computer instruction.

Supporters prefer the other terms because it distracts from the obvious flaws in teaching young students through a computer screen. Nowhere have I seen that flaw better illustrated than in this job posting for a virtual p.e. instructor:

"We are currently seeking a Part-time Health and Physical Education teacher for our Keystone National Schools 6-12 program!"

Wow, what a great opportunity for a college graduate: A part-time job of 2-30 hours a week teaching health and p.e. online. (No benefits specified and you must have your own computer and high-speed internet access.)

And what a great opportunity for Pennsylvania students to experience the joy of physical activity through a computer screen!

The employer, Virginia-based K12, has made about $50,000 in campaign contributions to Indiana politicians, including Gov. Mitch Daniels, Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse and former senator Teresa Lubbers, now chairman of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and sponsor of Indiana's charter school bill.

K12 has contracted with the Indiana Department of Education for services. It had revenues last year of almost $525 million.

Look for another virtual education bill to surface in the next session of the General Assembly.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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