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(Video) Gaming the Republic

mario
Photo coutesy of david_a_ala/flickr

I love video games, probably more than most people and yet I have a very hard time asking the people of the United States to pony up their tax dollars to promote games. Since September, Constance Steinkuehler has been working with the Obama administration as a policy analyst. Her job is to formulate the administration’s policies regarding games and their use in education. She is, in essence, a Video Game Czar that we are paying for.

This is part of the fulfillment of words spoken by Obama back in March, where he said he wanted to make “investments in educational technology that will help to create digital tutors” and “educational software that is as compelling as the best video games.” In the same breath, literally less than two minutes from when he talked about investing in educational video game technology, Obama said “we’re going to have to get serious about cutting the spending we don’t need.” How does he hold these two values together? I would argue that he doesn’t. Obama sees need everywhere he looks and is willing to feed money to almost any problem. On the other hand, Obama has a very difficult time finding spending that we don’t need.

Well, Mr. Obama, video games are a fine example of spending we don’t need.

Yes, as a former teacher I know that using “gaming” in the classroom is a great way to motivate students to learn and remember. I advocate playing games (though I would focus on board games and interactive classroom games) that teach. However, the free market can build those games while the university system can research the basis behind them. There is no need to pay for someone to help promote a new video game agenda. If classrooms want Mario to teach geography or how to type (yes, these games actually exist), then software developers will grow to fill that need. As for now, I think the U.S. would be better off saving its money. Obama needs to stop gaming the Republic by guaranteeing money for all of the good ideas but neglecting to tell us how to pay for it.

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