MONDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2010 Copyright 2010 The New York Times
Supplemento al numeroodierno de la Repubblica
Sped. abb. postale art. 1legge 46/04 del 27/02/2004 Roma
By MATT RICHTEL
REDWOOD CITY, CALIFORNIA
EVEN AS SOME parents and edu-
cators express unease over how
engrossed todays students are
with digital technology, many American
schools are intensifying its use in the
The tension is on vivid display here
at Woodside High School, amid the for-
ested hills of Silicon Valley.
As elsewhere, it is not uncommon
at Woodside for students to send hun-
dreds of text messages a day or spend
hours playing video games, and virtu-
ally everyone is on Facebook. But the
principal, David Reilly, 37, a former
musician, is determined to engage
these 21st-century students on their
own terms. He has asked teachers to
build Web sites to communicate with
students, introduced popular classes
on using digital tools to record music,
secured funding for iPads to teach Man-
darin and obtained $3 million in grants
for a multimedia center.
I am trying to take back their atten-
tion from their BlackBerrys and video
games, he says. To a degree, Im
using technology to do it.
One consequence of technologys
impact on young people, say research-
ers, is the risk of developing brains
unable to sustain attention. Their
brains are rewarded not for staying on
task but for jumping to the next thing,
said Michael Rich, an associate pro-
fessor at Harvard Medical School and
executive director of the Center on
Media and Child Health in Boston. The
worry is were raising a generation of
kids in front of screens whose brains
are going to be wired differently.
The tension between technology and
learning surfaces in Vishal Singh, a
bright 17-year-old student whose ability
to be distracted by computers is rivaled
by his proficiency with them.
At the beginning of his junior year in
high school, he made a name for him-
self among friends and teachers with
his storytelling in videos made with
digital cameras and editing software.
He acts as his familys tech-support
expert, helping his father, Satendra, a
lab manager, retrieve lost documents
on the computer, and his mother, Indra,
a security manager at the San Fran-
cisco airport, build her own Web site.
But he also plays video games 10
hours a week. He regularly sends Face-
book status updates at 2 a.m., even on
school nights, and has such a reputa-
tion for distributing links to videos that
his best friend calls him a YouTube
Teachers call Vishal one of their
brightest students. But he performed
poorly in English and algebra last
semester. He did get an A in film cri-
Hes a kid caught between two
worlds, said Mr. Reilly one that is
virtual and one with real-life demands.
Several recent studies show that
young people tend to use home
By LYDIA POLGREEN and VIKAS BAJAJ
MADOOR, India Indias rapidlygrowing private microcredit industryfaces imminent collapse as almost allborrowers in one of Indias largeststates have stopped repaying theirloans, encouraged by politicians who accuse the industry of earning outsizeprofits on the backs of the poor.
The crisis has now reached a criti-cal stage, and is likely to reverberate around the globe. Indian banks, whichput up about 80 percent of the money that the companies lent to the poor,are increasingly worried that aftersurviving the global financial crisismostly unscathed, they could now faceserious losses. The banks have about $4 billion tied up in the industry, bank-ing officials say.
Initially the work of nonprofitgroups, the tiny loans to the poorknown as microcredit once seemed a promising path out of poverty for mil-lions. In recent years, foundations,venture capitalists and the WorldBank have used India as a petri dishfor similar for-profit social enterpris-es that seek to make money while fill-ing a social need. Like-minded indus-tries have sprung up in Africa, LatinAmerica and other parts of Asia.
But microfinance in pursuit of prof-its has led some companies around theworld to extend loans to poor villagersat exorbitant interest rates and withoutenough regard for their ability to repay.Some companies have more than dou-bled their revenues annually.
Responding to public anger andgrowing reports of suicides among peo-ple unable to pay debts legislators inthe state of Andhra Pradesh passed astringent new law restricting how thecompanies can lend and collect money.
Local leaders urged people to re-nege on their loans, and repaymentson nearly $2 billion in loans in the statehave virtually ceased. Lenders say thatless than 10 percent of borrowers havemade payments in the past few weeks.
If the trend continues, the industryfaces collapse in a state where morethan a third of its borrowers live.Lenders are also having trouble mak-ing new loans in other states, because banks have slowed lending to them asfears about defaults have grown.
One borrower, Durgamma Dappu,a widowed laborer, took a loan from a
KUNI TAKAHASHI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES
Many in Andhra Pradesh have
stopped repaying microloans. This
womans indebted daughter fled.
JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Vishal Singh, 17, often works on his computer instead of doing homework. He multitasks by answering texts from friends.
Con tin ued on Page IV
Con tin ued on Page IV
VIISCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
For cats, a big gulp
with a tongues touch. VIIIARTS & STYLES
Disney animation is
burdened by its past. VIBUSINESS OF GREEN
Uncertain future for
Wired for DistractionStruggling to Learn in a Flood of Texting, Web Surfing and Games
INTELLIGENCE: Measuring happiness, one country at a time. Page II.
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O P I N I O N & C O M M E N TA R Y
II MONDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2010
Direttore responsabile: Ezio MauroVicedirettori: Gregorio Botta,
Dario Cresto-Dina,Massimo Giannini, Angelo Rinaldi
Caporedattore centrale: Fabio BogoCaporedattore vicario:
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Supplemento a cura di: Alix Van Buren,Francesco Malgaroli
Dictatorship of Law in Putins Russia
Russias newly outrageous legaltreatment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky,the former owner of the countrys larg-est oil company, is a reminder that Rus-sia has yet to grasp the idea of equal jus-tice under law especially when the Kremlin decides someone is in the way.
Mr. Khodorkovsky was convicted in2005 on trumped-up charges of fraud and disobeying a court order and lost his company to Kremlin loyalists. Rus-sians call his sort of case telephonelaw, imposed by the politically pow-erful through a call to the courthouse. With his sentence almost up, he wasjust tried again on suspect charges of embezzling and money-laundering.
The judge is expected to reach a deci-sion in December.
Two decades ago, the United States State Department urged the new Rus-sia to resurrect the jury system, as TheTimes described, to put the law in the hands of the Russian people. Jurieshad been abolished after the Sovietrevolution, along with anything rec-ognizable as courts and lawyers. Theywere reborn in 1993.
Defendants have a right to a jurytrial in a small fraction of crimes likemurder and kidnapping. Comparedwith non-jury trials in the Soviet era,when the acquittal rate was likely less than 1 percent, the rate with juries has
climbed to between 15 and 20 percent.Because of this apparent success, itis tempting to look for the growth of a familiar sense of justice. That search ends in disillusionment.
The Soviet system relied on prose-cutors to find what passed for the truth in criminal cases, so the foundation forreform is at odds with the new systemthat juries are part
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