"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Part 5: Classroom Video Camera Project . . . Who Benefits? Who Loses?

Part 5: Classroom Video Camera Project . . . Who Benefits? Who Loses?
Jim Horn and Denise Wilburn
Part 4 and links to previous posts

Does anyone think that children’s educational data stored in third party corporate “cloud” computers are secure?  No one in his right mind would answer yes to that one, and yet the U. S. Department of Education forced through changes to FERPA regulations in 2011 to allow student and teacher data to be collected, stored, and shared this way.

Why?  It has everything to do with how philanthrocapitalists like Bill Gates and the supporting cast of Silicon Valley hedge funders see the future of education, economic, and social policy.  It is a future that demands more data sliced and diced and sorted by adaptive algorithms into retrievable and sharable info-chunks that will be used to quantify and track the value of all humans from the first standardized tests in Pre-K to adulthood and retirement.

Think we are kidding about Pre-K? 

Check out this ad from Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify, Inc., which is now represented by former NCLB architect and Pearson lobbyist, Sandy Kress.  Amplify, Inc. is betting big time on its standardized test for Pre-K, C-PALLS:

The earlier, the better.
Better prepare children for kindergarten and beyond by combining C-PALLS pre-K assessments with grouping, reporting and targeted activities that help monitor ongoing social, emotional, early literacy, science and math development.

But we digress.  Big Data means Big Money, and the predators of Wall Street and the profiteers of the educational-testing complex will not be deterred easily in their pursuit of social control, economic power, and new revenue gushers. 

When Bill Gates became the unofficial Secretary of Education in 2009, with Arne Duncan as his hapless lapdog, it became necessary to weaken child protections under FERPA in order for the emerging concept of Cloud Computing to increase its footprint. Race to the Top demanded as much.

The visionaries at Microsoft clearly have no reservations about the potential for  a dystopian future they are setting up, and if child protections have to be eviscerated in the process, so be it.  Here are a few thoughts shared by Christian Belady, Microsoft inventor and father of the Gates Cloud, whose grandiosity clearly moves far beyond any petty security issues that parents or teachers may be concerned with:

“I believe the cloud is going to be a forcing function for political and economic change on the global community. When I really think about it, what’s fascinating is that I see the cloud as more of an organism. This organism, the cloud, is getting more and more pervasive around the globe. It’s going to mutate around countries that aren’t cloud-friendly and isolate them. Slowly, businesses inside of those countries will start wanting to move their operations outside the country because they won’t be able to compete. As a result, countries will have to change their policies. The cloud then may become a forcing function that will help create a cloud-friendly policy.”

Concluding Thoughts

Formed through war, the scrappy conversations of our thoughtful forefathers, and an ongoing interpretation of “equal protection” in our courts, the protection of human rights, both civil and individual, cannot be taken for granted. Each time we give up a right, it is gone forever.  Each time we say “big deal, so they are storing, using, and selling data about my child, who cares, I’ve got bigger worries,” we allow children to become objects of profiteering and to be sorted for futures chosen by others. 

When unelected officials working for monied interests are allowed to change even one human right, one clause of law, one phrase of our Constitution without going through the rigorous legislative and judicial processes of that our democracy demands, we create the possibilities for losing many personal rights, local public control of our communities, and eventually our national form of democratic government.  

Desensitizing all of us to invasive data gathering can begin with relinquishing our children’s right to privacy as they grow and develop as individuals and the future citizens of, hopefully, a stronger and better democracy—if we choose to make it so.  We agree with David Tyack:  Children may be about 20 percent of the population, but they are 100 percent of the future.”

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