Should we go paperless?

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With the Earth reaching extreme levels of pollution, many people have started a variety of  movements to help reduce the waste we produce. One major movement many companies and industries have decided to join is the paperless movement: an initiative to cut back on paper and eventually live in a paperless society. One industry in particular that has joined this movement is education.

This of course brings up an important question: can schools go paperless? Schools in more urban areas perhaps, but what about more rural schools? At Berea Community, this idea of cutting back on paper has been floating around for a few years. For example, teachers were encouraged to switch from giving all paper assignments to assigning things on an online platform called Google Classroom from which students could complete assignments electronically or print assignments in their free time if they wanted.

This year the rules have become more strict. Students don’t have access to printers at school anymore because Berea wants to go entirely paperless. The major problem with this is our student demographic: most students do not have a printer at home. And although teachers are supposed to accept essays and assignments online, some of them still request printed copies. To dig even deeper into the problem, shifting everything to Google Classroom and having assignments there is hard for students who don’t have access to wifi or other technology they need to complete their schoolwork. For a school that has a student to computer ratio of 1:1, going paperless seems like a natural progression; however, our school is not 1:1… yet.

As much as I appreciate and understand the meaning behind the paperless movement, it is important to realize the privilege that going paperless requires. As a student who has to print papers regularly, it is so frustrating to have to find an accessible printer outside of school that I can easily walk or drive to. And I myself am privileged and thankful that I even have a car I can drive to go print things.

To go paperless there are many things that need to happen first. Laptops or tablets need to be made available for students to take home, and students need wifi in those homes—but these necessities and more are things that Berea Community and many other schools do not have the funding for. My intentions are not to make my school look bad or the people in groups such as the paperless movement seem terrible; I simply want people to consider the wider implications behind such movements and the privileges they require.

If you’re thinking about joining an environmental movement such as the paperless movement please consider how you could help those who don’t have the privilege to go paperless. Donate money to funds that help bring technology to children who can’t afford it. Do research and learn more about different ways you can help other than just cutting a product out of your life. I hope that someday we can go entirely paperless at BCS. We just need the right resources first.