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These comments pertain to the discussion about whether the Carteret (NC) school district should standardize on Macs (what they mostly have now), or Windows/PCs.

In the local Carteret News Times newspaper (and on its internet site) on 8/4/01, an article was written in the Opinion column of Managing Editor Tom O’Neal. It was entitled “PC-Mac Debate, No Debate”. (It has since been removed from it’s original site.)

My original intention was to reprint the article in its entirety, so that readers would have the full benefit of Mr. O’Neal’s insightful observations. However, editor O’Neal requested that I not reprint the article, as he felt that it may be a copyright infringement. To comply with his wishes, I will paraphrase what he said, and include some quotes:

His comments pertained to a 7/31/01 Carteret School District Workshop which was attended by school administrative and technical personnel, Board of Education members, citizens from the community, and media. He began by complaining that the discussion was overly technical.

"What we need to do is to take a look at the issue in realistic terms and decide which form of computer is best for the students. Having been the owner of both a Macintosh and a few PCs, and having only limited computer knowledge, I feel fully qualified to examine the issue as an ‘average guy.’ So, here goes."

He went on to say that "I really don’t think there is much of a debate. The PC is the computer of choice in most businesses." Then, without any substantiation, he chose to print such non-sense as "PCs work better with the Internet..."

He concluded by saying: "Here’s the point: Students are being prepared to enter a world where most computer functions are done on PCs. Why train them on computers they probably won’t be using once they graduate from high school? That would be like offering car repair using cars that no one drives any more."

If you have any polite comments about Mr. O’Neal’s remarks, please email Tom.

(If you ask nicely, maybe he will send you the full version of his article...)

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The following was sent by John Droz, jr, the spokesperson for the citizen’s against this change, to the Carteret News Times, Letters To The Editor, on 8/8/01. It appeared in their print version on 8/12/01.

Letter To The Editor:
Regarding Editor Tom O’Neal’s recent "Opinion" piece in the Carteret News Times, let me see if I understand his position correctly.

He thinks it is a wise idea for the Carteret School District to phase out a $10,000,000 investment (of Macs, Mac peripherals, Mac software, Mac setups, Mac training, Mac networks, Mac maintenance, etc.) because:

  1. Apple has a low market share
  2. More businesses use Windows/PCs.

I know he is just an "average guy", so he may not be aware that a large part of this $10,000,000 investment would still be applicable if the District were to replace aging Macs with new Macs. However, replacing Macs with Windows/PC essentially abandons the ENTIRE investment.

I know he is just an "average guy", but what does market share have to do with quality? Evidently he would never even consider buying a car from Mercedes, or a refrigerator from Amana, or a washing machine from Maytag, or a TV from SONY, or — well you get the point, don’t you?

I know he is just an "average guy", but some time ago he was sent the URL for this website which went into this whole Mac vs PC issue in extraordinary detail. In essence it is a collection (initially) of over two hundred reports and studies by businesses and schools about Macs and PCs, organized by topic.

One of these pages THOROUGHLY debunks the fallacy of the “more businesses use Windows/PCs — therefore that’s what our schools should use” argument. The gist of the cited studies is that there are NUMEROUS reasons why this is not a valid basis for making a school computer selection.

I know he is just an "average guy", but as a newspaper editor, don’t you think that the fact that the Windows/PCs advocated by the school district will cost local taxpayers over ONE MILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR extra to buy and maintain, should come into the decision making process???

Now from day one, the District has been saying their MAIN REASON for this huge change is because Windows/PCs are less expensive than Macs. Yet at the 7/31/01 workshop the District now says that calculating the cost of ownership (something required by the NC Dept of Education) is just too complicated to do.

Gee, it seems that this might be their job. And how is it that thousands of other schools are perfectly able to do this? And if the District has not done a cost of ownership calculation, then exactly what cost calculations have they done?

Perhaps as an influential member of the community, and the media, Editor O’Neal can get this documentation. (Note: Tom, please copy me on your request for this material.) Good luck: we have been asking for this for some five months now. Total info to date: zip.

While we are waiting for their documentation you might want to see a SAMPLE of numerous other schools and businesses that have done such calculations. They ALL say that Macs are less expensive to own.

Editor O’Neal is quite correct that the District initiated a lengthy and misleading discussion on obtuse matters at the 7/31/01 Workshop. One might call this an attempt to cloud the issue to "average guys". Based on his conclusions, their strategy seemed to work.

Maybe I should have emphasized this point from the beginning of this letter: the Workshop was NOT a forum to debate the merits of Macs vs PCs! Yet in editor O’Neal’s article (and title) there is an implication that a debate is what happened at the workshop. Not So!

The Apple engineer was there for one purpose: to see that the history of the District with Apple Computer was reported honestly. To that end, he corrected the District’s recollections on numerous points.

And the ONLY reason that several citizens took time from their busy lives, was to request that the District do a fair review of this profound decision. Let me quote from their opening statement:

“When a school district contemplates making a decision that involves MANY millions of dollars AND one that will have SUBSTANTIAL academic impact, it seems self-evident that the district would not only proceed with extreme caution, but that it would also embark on a thorough and professional review process that would ensure that this change would absolutely be the correct thing to do.”

Not surprisingly, District/BOE say that such a review has been done. But it is just NOT SO. We know, from several inside sources, that this decision was ENTIRELY made by just two people, AND it was solely based on their own personal preferences.

So who to believe? The solution to this conundrum is quite simple: if the District HAS done a thorough, objective analysis before making this momentous decision, then please show us the documentation (reports, studies, analyses, etc.) that they had to support it.

Due to editor Tom O’Neal’s position here, perhaps he can get this documentation. (Note: Tom, please copy me on your request for this material.) Again, good luck! We have been politely asking for this for some five months now, and nada.

Maybe I am an idealist, but I always thought that a large part of a local newspaper’s function was to inform it readership about the facts — in other words, to go beyond just repeating what public servants say. As a minimum, where there are differing opinions on issues of significant importance to the community, reporters/editors should do some basic investigating, in an unbiased and objective manner.

In this situation, a cursory investigation would show that:

  • Macs are lower cost to own
  • Macs are higher performing
  • Macs are more technically advanced
  • Macs are easier to learn and use

Maybe in his next Opinion article editor O’Neal would endorse a real (i.e. objective, thorough, well-documented, open) professional review of this important matter.

Now THAT would make a lot of sense, I think.

Sincerely,
John Droz, jr.

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A few days after the above quoted original Opinion piece appeared in the Carteret News Times newspaper (and on the Internet), a follow up Opinion article was similarly published on 8/8/01 It was again written by Managing Editor Tom O’Neal, and entitled “Sorting through the mail”.

As above, due to editor O’Neal’s insistence, I will paraphrase and selectively quote from what he said (I would have preferred to repost the article verbatim):

Tom began by saying that he should have expected some critical response from his above referenced editorial. “By the weekend’s end, I am convinced I had heard from every Mac fan in the world.” Evidently he thinks that there are a dozen or so Mac fans in the world. More likely, this is his rather transparent attempt to marginalize Macs and Mac users.

Unfortunately he follows that misleading statement with another one. “I did get several local e-mails, ALL in support of the position I had taken.” This conveniently ignores the fact that I (a local citizen) had written him an unsupporting letter, and I know other local people who had also sent critical Letters to the Editor. (Maybe they didn’t count since they were not sent to him personally?)

He then felt compelled to make still another slam: "One thing I have learned about rabid Mac lovers is that you can’t tell them anything. I actually tried answering a few of the e-mails, making arguments I thought were fairly sound. In response, I got even more vitriolic e-mails deriding my intelligence and even questioning my heritage."

Most unfortunately he never shares with us any of his "sound" arguments. Maybe he is rehashing what he said originally, like “PCs work better with the Internet.” Seems to me that "vitriolic" responders are restraining themselves.

He wraps things up saying “It now is Wednesday afternoon and most of the e-mails have stopped. One or two may dribble in, but I figure I have weathered the storm — at least until this column hits the newsstands.”

Again, if you have any polite comments about Mr. O’Neal’s comments, please email Tom.

(Who knows maybe he will send you the full version of his article...)


PS - Since (believe it or not), Mr. O’Neill’s newspaper uses Macs,
I couldn’t help but think of them when I saw this...