When our group arrived at Harrisburg today, the students went to their hotel rooms but I was forced to wait in the lobby as my would not be ready for another half hour. While I waited, a rather disheveled, older man approached me and asked about the conference. He said "we never had this when I was in school, what are you spending my taxpayer money on?" I told him the gist of the conference and he responded "you all needed to come here for that? Why couldn't you learn that in school? In my day, we learned that in school!" I could tell I had found a real life "troll" and quickly ended the conversation. He was obviously in the mood to pick a fight.
As I thought about it later, though, it's a valid question: why do we send students (and teachers) on conferences and excursions? Couldn't they just in-source this information and learn it in the confines of the building? Shouldn't access to the internet solve all these travel costs? Maybe...but there's something memorable about going somewhere and doing something. I'm well aware that 90% of what students do on a day-to-day basis in high school will be forgotten a year from now. They'll have the skills (hopefully) but they'll dump the details. Experiences, however, will be remembered forever. Being here, making contacts, living the situation will be a much more valuable experience and serve these students for a much longer period of time. Speaking for myself, I remember very little of what I learn at PD sessions but some of the conferences I've attended have completely changed the way I view my teaching. "Doing it in school" might be a great way to check the box, but it's quite worth the money to send students to Harrisburg and beyond.