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

Monday, July 04, 2016

Beware of Solutions, Final or Otherwise

by Susan Ohanian                

             Hillary Clinton laid out an extensive technology and innovation agenda 
            Wednesday in a briefing document that amounts to a giant valentine to Silicon Valley.
                                                                     --Dawn Chmieleski, Recode,  June 30, 2016

 Dawn Chmieleski points to the deep ties Hillary Clinton has cultivated with such Silicon Valley power players as LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman, Salesforce.com's Marc Benioff, Facebook's Sheryl  Sandberg, and Kleiner Perkins' John Doerr. 

What we need to realize here is that Trump being wrong doesn't make Clinton right. Anyone who has followed my website for the sixteen years of its existence knows about what John Doerr money means for public schools. Venture capitalist  with his fingers in many stupendously successful enterprises and co-founder of New Schools Venture Fund, Doerr is often dubbed "legendary" by the media. There is no doubt that Doerr is a very clever man. He knows how to make enormous amounts of money because from early on he's understood the new economy of the computer chip. As Michael Lewis quotes him in the New York Times If these [Silicon Valley] economics applied to an automobile, it would cost 10 bucks, run thousands of miles without refueling and when it got old, you wouldn't bother to trade it in for a new one. You'd just throw it away." For a couple of decades, John Doerr has made me very nervous because he applies these economic rules to public schools: Just throw them away and start new.

Although it is convenient to focus on Doerr here, keep in mind the two men with great solutions whose theories dominate technology--and teachers' lives-- today: Frederick Winslow Taylor and Thomas J. Watson.

Lewis observes that "in the Valley, Doerr is universally liked and admired. People ask: What's wrong with power?  What's so bad about letting one guy cut the pie and hand out the pieces?"  Media and politicos hold Doerr with the same regard,  bowing at the feet of what Doerr calls "the single greatest legal creation of wealth in the history of the planet." In the interest of not letting one guy cut the pie and hand out the pieces of public education,  and in the light of Hillary Clinton's giant valentine to technology, I suggest we take a look at a bit of John Doerr's activity over the years.

  • 1997 Bill Clinton Connection: As a participant in a  White House roundtable discussion  where President Bill Clinton calls for the adoption of national standards, Doerr points to "Thousands of job openings waiting to be filled"--if schools will just produce kids with the right skills. 
  • 1997 President Clinton visits a Bay Area charter school to highlight $40 million in new Federal grants for such experimental institutions, vowing to veto a mammoth spending bill if Republicans insert amendments blocking his national school standards and testing plan. That night he attends a $600,000 fundraising dinner with 30 guests, organized by John Doerr. A reception with 400 less wealthy donors raises $50,000.   Clinton Threatens Veto in Fight to Preserve Education Proposals
  • 1998 All technology is inherently Political--written across the chalkboard at the Stanford Business School by John Doerr. See Michael Lewis New York Times Magazine piece The Little Creepy Crawlers Who Will Eat You in the Night.
  • 1998  New SchoolsVenture Fund, a 501(c)3 charitable organization founded by John Doerr, Kim Smith, third member of the original cohort at Teach for America, and venture capitalist Brook Byers with the goal of reforming public education through business strategies.
  •  2000 In a speech at Wharton, John Doerr describes two categories of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, missionaries and mercenaries. His predictions at the turn of the century will have big impact on Hillary's education platform, just as they did on Bill's decades earlier. 
    • IP, or internet protocol, will be as important as the car or television
    • The web will become the standard communications platform in healthcare
    • Charter schools and educational portals for the home and school will transform education
    • Bandwidth will be crucial
    • Despite current skepticism about business-to-consumer e-commerce, it will remain a big trend, as will business-to-business e-commerce
    • Wireless information appliances will be big in the future.
    • Geonomics will be "fabulous" after 2005, as the human genome is fully mapped
  • 2000   Doerr calls public education system "a state-run monopoly rife with social promotion. . . . By failing to teach more than half our kids the most elementary of skills, America's K-12 system leaves them ill-equipped to survive in this new economy. . . . Americans will not achieve their dreams through welfare or by redistributing wealth. Instead, we must ensure that Opportunity is fairly distributed and available to all. Education is the key." --Working Knowledge, Harvard Business School
  • 2001  New Schools Summit Tackled Today's Toughest Education Issues: Charter Schools, Assessment, Technology, the Role of Federal Government: Sponsored by Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, My CFO, and GOLDman Sachs and featuring Senator John Kerry, Jim Barksdale, Susan Sclafani, Mike Smith, Linda Darling-Hammond, and John Doerr.
  • 2001  Press Release: Chicago Public Schools & New Leaders for New Schools Announce Landmark Partnership to Recruit and Train New Principals. Chicago becomes the first of two major cities that will work this year with the national non-profit New Leaders for New Schools, an organization formed last year to help urban schools improve by attracting and preparing the next generation of outstanding new school principals. New Leaders for New Schools, a non-profit organization  whose funders include The Broad Foundation; The Chicago Public Education Fund; New Schools Venture Fund, founded by Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr; Boston’s New Profit, Inc.; and others. Landmark Partnership to Recruit and Train New Principals
  • 2001 New York Times expresses love for John Doerr one more time. Business in My Briefcase  
  • 2001 Does Amazon's CEO Pass the Smell Test? The New York Observer reports that Doerr, an Amazon outside director lobbied Lehman Brothers management to kill a report on Bezos purported insider trading of Amazon stock. 
  •  2004 Louis Gerstner Connection: Member of Louis V. Gerstner Teaching Commission. Look at the fellow travelers: http://susanohanian.org/outrage_fetch.php?id=272
  •  Joanne Weiss Connection: Before her Race to Top infamy, Weiss was co-leader with Doerr of New Schools. And as Dale Russakoff observes in The New Yorker"Race to the Top was transformative--not just for advancing reform--but for advancing the notion that smart government can actually accomplish politically difficult things. It's a model that could be applied across all sorts of government programs." Russakoff describes Race to the Top as "a $4.3-billion initiative to induce states to approve more charter schools and to rate teachers based on student performance." 
  • 2008 Doerr declares  the iPhone "more important than the personal computer" because "it knows who you are" and "where you are."
  • 2008 During the presidential campaign, John Doerr  gave candidate Obama the legal maximum of $4,600, as did his wife.
  • 2009 President Barack Obama appoints John Doerr as a member to the USA Economic Recovery Advisory Board by to provide the President and his administration with advice and counsel in fixing America's economic downturn.
  • 2010  2 Brothers Await Broad Use of Medical E-Records  Dr. Tom Doerr founded a software company in 1999, beginning with an electronic prescribing prouct and later adding electronic health records. His brother John is the largest investor. 
  • 2010 John Doerr  Co-host of Waiting for Superman Screening. If the screening was intended to get potential donors interested in the cause, the audience was just right. It was filled with Silicon Valley's rich and famous.  The event was organized in conjunction with a group of outfits that are pushing school reform. In addition to New Schools Venture Fund, Citizen Schools, Rocketship Education and KIPP Bay Area Schools were there. 
  • 2011 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Obama dines at Doerr's home with top Silicon Valley executives.  On the advice he didn't get, read Let Them Eat Veggies... by Robert X. Cringely
  • 2012 New Schools-Aspen Institute Summit, produced in partnership with NBC News' "Education Nation."
    In addition to  numerous speakers from the Gates Foundation and the New Schools Venture Fund, this "invitation only" conference with Aspen Institute offered speeches offering education solutions by Ben Austin of Parent Revolution, Kaya Henderson of DC schools, Roland Fryer of Harvard University bribe-the-kids, Jonah Edelman of  Stand for Children, Norman Atkins of Relay Graduate School of Education, Howard Fuller,  whom Black Commentator termed a Black education Hustler, Joanne Weiss then of U.S. Department of Education, Michael Petrilli of Thomas Fordham Institute, Kim Smith then of Bellwether Education Partners, John Schnur [who was to Race to the Top what Sandy Kress was to No Child Left Behind]  of  American Achieves, David Coleman of Bill Gates money--then at Student Achievement Partners, Rahm Emanuel, Chicago mayor, Laurene Powell Jobs, of her own foundation, and many more.  To top it off, Virginia Edwards of Ed Week was a moderator.  
  • 2012  The Newark Connection. As donor to Newark matching funds for Zuckerberg project, the Gates Foundation gave 3 million, Doerr's Venture Fund gave $10 million earmarked to expand two charter schools, TEAM Academy and North Star Academy. Again, Russakoff in The New Yorker: "residents only recently learned that the overhaul would require thousands of students to move to other schools, and a thousand teachers and more than eight hundred support staff to be laid off within three years."   It's worth reading this extended Russakoff note:   "Early in the summer of 2010, Booker presented Christie with a proposal, stamped 'Confidential Draft,' titled 'Newark Public Schools—A Reform Plan.' It called for imposing reform from the top down; a more open political process could be taken captive by unions and machine politicians. “Real change has casualties and those who prospered under the pre-existing order will fight loudly and viciously,” the proposal said. Seeking consensus would undercut real reform. One of the goals was to “make Newark the charter school capital of the nation.” The plan called for an “infusion of philanthropic support” to recruit teachers and principals through national school-reform organizations; build sophisticated data and accountability systems; expand charters; and weaken tenure and seniority protections. Philanthropy, unlike government funding, required no public review of priorities or spending. Christie approved the plan, and Booker began pitching it to major donors.
    "In the previous decade, the foundations of Microsoft’s Bill Gates, the California real-estate and insurance magnate Eli Broad, the Walton family (of the Walmart fortune), and other billionaires from Wall Street to Silicon Valley had come to dominate charitable funding to education. Dubbed “venture philanthropists,” they called themselves investors rather than donors and sought returns in the form of sweeping changes to public schooling. In addition to financing the expansion of charter schools, they helped finance Teach for America and the development of the Common Core State Standards to increase the rigor of instruction."
    Sheryl Sandberg vetted the agreement for Zuckerberg, saying she'd follow up with Doerr.
    Shareef Austin, a recreation director at Newark’s West Side Park, said he & other community members who volunteered to help were never contacted.
    "During the next two years, more than twenty million dollars of Zuckerberg’s gift and matching donations went to consulting firms with various specialties: public relations, human resources, communications, data analysis, teacher evaluation. Many of the consultants had worked for Joel Klein, Teach for America, and other programs in the tight-knit reform movement, and a number of them had contracts with several school systems financed by Race to the Top grants and venture philanthropy. The going rate for individual consultants in Newark was a thousand dollars a day. Vivian Cox Fraser, the president of the Urban League of Essex County, observed, 'Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.'"
  • 2013 New Schools Venture Fund, which already gets money from  Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundations, gets more money. New Schools Fund Attracts More capital--to fund Aspire Public Schools, KIPP, and Rocketship Education, as well as groups like the New Teacher Project, which recruits midcareer professionals into teaching, and Khan Academy, which creates online video lessons.
  •  2014  John Doerr tells Bloomberg News that Remind is "just a simple, safe, secure service that works," The New York Times Dealbook article,  Remind, a Start-Up That Links Teachers and Parents, Raises $40 Million. , describes Remind as "how to get very rapid adoption of a very simple system that makes teachers more effective in getting better outcomes." See this article with a summary of Doerr's involvement in education. 
  • 2015 Retired Brig. Gen. Tom Kolditz, who has headed leadership training at Yale and West Point, will direct the Doerr Institute for New Leaders to maximize the leadership capabilities of all students at Rice. - See more here
  • 2015 President Obama names John Doerr to Obama Foundation. "It's an honor to join the Board of the Obama Foundation. A cornerstone of President Obama's presidency has been leveraging technology to improve the lives of all Americans. I look forward to working with the Board and with technology leaders to ensure that the Obama Presidential Center connects us globally--from kids in Hyde Park to soccer fans in Sao Paulo to teachers in Taipei."  The Barack Obama Foundation Announces New Additions to Board of Directors
  • 2015  Here's the New York Times again acting as John Doerr's press agent: "Mr. Doerr, arguably the most famous venture capitalist in the world. . .  has long been a proselytizer of a Silicon Valley-style management system called “O.K.R.,” which stands for “objectives and key results.” The idea, which was created at Intel, where Mr. Doerr began his career, is to have workers create specific, measurable goals and to track their progress in an open system that anyone in the company can see. . . .companies post scoreboards in the break rooms or mail bonus checks to spouses so that they get competitive pressure from home as well as work." 
  • 2015 New Schools Venture Fund annual invitation only summit describes itself thusly: the annual gathering for education innovation thought leaders who bring some of the most important voices and perspectives in K-12 education reform today. An invitation-only convening of entrepreneurs, educators, community leaders, funders, and policy makers.  Key presenters include people who work for  ETS, Pearson, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, New Schools Venture Fund.
  • 2015 Calling him "Valley kingmaker," the New York Times puts Doerr wealth at $3.5 billion.
  • 2016 Obama eats with Doerr again  Obama, who was scheduled to deliver remarks to global entrepreneurs at a conference at Stanford University at 10:45 a.m. PDT (1:45 p.m. ET/1745 GMT), was dining out at an upscale restaurant with a small group of top venture capitalists and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers and LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman.
  •  2016 Clinton Courts Silicon Valley.  Other past allies, like venture capitalist John Doerr, are expected to renew their support entering 2016 as well. At the same time, Clinton's campaign chair--John Podesta--has been making the rounds in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley, holding early meetings to figure out who might be able to host fundraisers and bundle donations for the candidate. Podesta has his own ties to technology: His most recent stint at the White House, serving as one of Obama's senior advisers, included work alongside top tech companies on privacy and security policy.
    • Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook
    • Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet
    • Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix
    • Drew Houston, founder and CEO of Dropbox
    • Anne Wojcicki, CEO and cofounder of 23andMe
    • Brook Byers, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers
    • John Doerr, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers
    • Reid Hoffman, partner at Greylock
    • Peter Chernin, CEO of The Chernin Group
    • Nathan Blecharczyk, cofounder and CTO of Airbnb
    • Brian Chesky, cofounder and CEO of Airbnb
    • Joe Gebbia, cofounder and CPO of Airbnb
    • Irwin Jacobs, founding chairman and CEO emeritus of Qualcomm
    • Paul Jacobs, executive chairman of Qualcomm
    • David Karp, Founder and CEO of Tumblr
    • Aaron Levie, cofounder and CEO of Box
    • Mark Pincus, cofounder of Zynga
    • Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO and cofounder of Yelp
    • Barry Diller, chairman and senior executive of IAC and Expedia
    • Candy Ergen, cofounder of DISH Network
    In Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are worlds apart on tech policy issues  Dawn Chmielski puts up the stark differences side by side. Any sane person who is deeply troubled by Clinton's deep embed in Silicon Valley will see that Trump is far from the answer. But Trump being wrong doesn't make Clinton right.We must stop relying on what the media insist is our only choice: Republican or Democrat. On July 3, 1845, Henry David Thoreau began his stay at Walden Pond. Now, more than ever, we need a political leader capable of marching to a different drummer. On July 4, 1855,  Walt Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of Grass, offering us the political message we need.

    Revolution Now!  

    (poster available from Syracuse Cultural Workers)

    CODA for People Who Read
  • Mankind barely noticed when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and a roadmap for group destruction. The unique igniting event was. . . January 30, 1933, the day Adolf Hitler came to power. Hitler and his hatred of the Jews was the ironic driving force behind this intellectual turning point. But his quest was greatly enhanced and energized by the ingenuity and craving for profit of a single American company and its legendary, autocratic chairman. That company was International Business Machines, and its chairman was Thomas J. Watson. . . . Heidinger, a rabid Nazi, saw Dehomag [German subsidiary of IBM]'s unique ability to imbue the Reich with population information as a virtual calling from God. His enraptured passion for  Dehomag's sudden new role was typically expressed while opening a new IBM facility in Berlin. "I feel it almost a sacred action," declared Heidinger emotionally, "I pray the blessing of heaven may rest upon this place." That day, while standing next to the personal representative of Watson and IBM, with numerous Nazi Party officials in attendance, Heidinger publicly announced how in tune he and Dehomag were with the Nazi race scientists who saw population statistics as the key to eradicating the unhealthy, inferior segments of society. . . . The Hollerith installations [cards with standardized holes, each representing a different trait: gender, nationality, occupation, and so forth. Invented by Herman Hollerith whose company CTR was renamed  IBM by Watson] at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Mauthausen were only part of an extensive network of camp punching and tabulating services that stretched across Europe.--Edwin Black, IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation    
  • For years we've been bludgeoned with the cliche that 'information is power.' But information isn't power. After all, who's got the most information in your neighborhood? Librarians. And they're famous for having no power at all. And who has the most power in your community? Politicians. And they're notorious for being ill-informed.--Clifford Stoll, High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong in the Classroom and Other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian 
  •  Search for a word like "depression" on Dictionary.com, and the site installs up to 223 tracking cookies and beacons on your computer so that other Web sites can target you with antidepressants. . . . The new Internet doesn't just know you're a dog, it knows your breed and wants to sell you a bowl of premium kibble. The race to know as much as possible about you has become the central battle of the era for Internet giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft.--Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You
  •  Some sense of the rapidly growing power of the digital giants comes when one looks at international politics, where the giants play a foundational role. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was invited to the 2011 G8 meeting, where he sat at the table and discussed world politics. . . . MacKinnon characterizes  "Facebookistan" and "Googledom" as virtual nation-states obsessed with limiting the ability of governments anywhere to interfere with their profitability and growth, which is their driving concern....Without meaning to be pejorative or alarmist, it is difficult to avoid noting that what is emerging veers toward a classic definition of fascism: the state and large corporations working hand in hand to promote corporate interests, and a state preoccupied with militarism, secrecy, propaganda, and surveillance.--Robert W. McChesney, Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy
  • White-collar professionals subject to relentless targeting and speedup have to wonder whether they, like shop-floor employees at Walmart and Amazon, are being worked and worked until they too become depleted as human resources, victims of burnout, then "let go," to be thrown onto the human slag heap* just like the nineteenth-century proletarians of Emile Zolas great novel about the coal miners of northern France, Germinal.--Simon Head, Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans  [*And any teacher who doesn't realize she's just as much slag heap as the shop-floor employees should get off Facebook and Twitter and read a book or two--Ohanian]
  • As more aspects of life become datafied, the solution that policymakers and businesspeople are starting to reach for first is to get more data. "In God we trust--all others bring data," is the mantra of the modern manager, heard echoing in Silicon Valley cubicles, on factory floors, and along the corridors of government agencies. . . . Education seems on the skids? Push standardized tests to measure performance an penalize teachers or schools. . . . Whether the tests actually capture the abilities of schoolchildren, the quality of teaching, or the needs of a creative, adaptable modern workforce is an open question--but one that the data does not admit.--Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier, Big Data: A Revolution that will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think
  • Frederick Winslow Taylor's system of measurement and optimization is still very much with us; it remains one of the underpinnings of industrial manufacturing. And now, thanks to the growing power that computer engineers and software coders wield over our intellectual and social lives, Taylor's ethic is beginning to govern the realm of the mind as well. The Internet is a machine designed for the efficient, automated collection, transmission, and manipulation of information, and its legions of programmers are intent on finding the "one best way"--the perfect algorithm--to carry out the mental movements of what we've come to describe as knowledge work. Google's Silicon Valley headquarters--the Googleplex--is the Internet's high church, and the religion practiced inside its walls is Taylorism.--Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
  • Politicians like the same data that commercial advertisers do: demographic data, information about individual consumer preferences, political and religious beliefs. They use it in their campaigns, and won't want to give it up. . . . At a conference last year, I overheard someone saying, 'Google Analytics is the crack cocaine of Internet surveillance. Once you see it, you never want to give it up.' More generally, data becomes its own justification. The longer we wait, the more people and organizations become used to having broad access to our data and the more they will fight to maintain that access.--Bruce Schneier, Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World
  • Our postmodern culture is a vast fabric of competing isms; we are leaderless and subject to the terrors, masked as the freedoms, of an absolute relativism. It would be wrong to lay all the blame at the feet of technology, but more wrong to ignore the great transformative impact of new technological systems--to act as if it's all just business as usual.--Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age
  • Unbridled cyber-utopianism is an expensive ideology to maintain because authoritarian governments don't stand still and there are absolutely no guarantees they won't find a way to turn the Internet into a powerful tool of oppression. . . . That the excess of data can pose a danger to freedom and democracy as significant as (if not more significant than) the lack of data has mostly been lost on those cheerleading for Internet freedom. . . . The growing disconnect between Silicon Valley's reluctance to accept the social responsibility that comes with the ownership of today's digital public squares and the glowing public admiration these companies receive is one more reason to take a more critical stance and examine the cultural origins of our benevolent attitudes toward these corporate titans. Unfortunately, we can't expect much help from Washington: Politicians badly need to court the newly minted billionaires of Facebook, Google, and Twitter for fund-raising purposes. An openly confrontational relationship with Silicon Valley....would not help win an election.--Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom
  • IBM was more than important to the Allies. It was vital. The Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) was the Allied high command in Europe under General Eisenhower. SHAEF had established a classified statistical analysis office in Bad Nauheim. . . a site completely dependent upon Hollerich machines and Dehomag operators for its numerous calculations of bomb destruction and predictions of the resulting social disruption. The so-called Morale Division, staffed with a platoon of social scientists, psychologists, and economists relied upon the machines to quantify public reaction to severe bombing. . . . In the years that followed, IBM's worldwide stature became even more of a beacon to the cause of progress. It adopted a corporate motto:; "The Solutions Company." Whatever the impossible task, IBM technology could find a solution.--Edwin Black, IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation   

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