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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Silicon Valley Assault on Children's Learning

For almost 200 years, snake oil salesmen have hawked their wares to schoolmen and to educators, hoping to cash in on the public dollars that taxpayers have intended to help educate the young.

Through the selling of textbooks, reading machines, TVs, test scoring equipment, audiovisual aids, and computer technologies, corporate America has been responsible for the creation of a massive and expanding educational dustbin, now chocked with lucrative "educational solutions" that, at some point, successfully located educational problems that fitted the need of their solutions.

Only in recent years, however, have education industry merchants expanded their marketing efforts to sell educationally-unrelated goods directly to children in school.  Wall Street's favorite bow-tied super-boy, Chris Whittle, broke ground in the early 1990s, when he brought TV news to the classroom with Channel 1, along with TV ads for Skittles, Snickers, etc.

Whittle even proposed the marketing of textbooks with these same ads and others that appeal to children.  Thinks of it: Turn to page 67, just under the Coca-Cola ad, and read along with me . . .

Now a generation later and with computer technology/cell phones accepted as essential elements of  life on Earth, the high priests of Silicon Valley have come up with a new story board for the future of corporate intrusion into schools and the exploitation of the most vulnerable humans--our children.

Google, Apple, and billionaires like Reed Hastings, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates have a multi-pronged strategy at work to capitalize on today's children and tomorrow's adults by turning learning environments into marketing research hothouses and massive data collection opportunities, which can be used now and later to laser target products and services to individuals who do not even know yet that they want them.

The new personalized learning empire that tech oligarchs are pushing represents a criminally-cynical abuse of corporate power directed at children to channel, contour, and shape the preferences, values, and neurological wiring of present and future consumers of information, goods, and services.  If allowed to flourish, the new "learning systems" will deliver the kinds of social control and efficiency that have been dreamed of for generations, along with unimaginable profits for the high priests of Silicon Valley.

This story in the Times should be shared widely by teachers, teacher educators, school board members, policymakers, and parents everywhere.  Here is a clip:
. . . . Unlike Apple or Microsoft, which make money primarily by selling devices or software services, Google derives most of its revenue from online advertising — much of it targeted through sophisticated use of people’s data. Questions about how Google might use data gleaned from students’ online activities have dogged the company for years. 
“Unless we know what is collected, why it is collected, how it is used and a review of it is possible, we can never understand with certainty how this information could be used to help or hurt a kid,” said Bill Fitzgerald of Common Sense Media, a children’s advocacy group, who vets the security and privacy of classroom apps. 
Google declined to provide a breakdown of the exact details the company collects from student use of its services. Bram Bout, director of Google’s education unit, pointed to a Google privacy notice listing the categories of information that the company’s education services collect, like location data and “details of how a user used our service.” . . . .

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