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

Thursday, December 20, 2018

A longer school day? Let's get serious.

A longer school day? Let’s get serious. 
Sent to the Providence Journal, Dec. 20, 2018.
To the editor: 
It is inspiring to read that the Central Falls Superintendent is pushing to lengthen the school day 60 to 90 minutes, in order to increase test scores.
But 60-90 minutes is not enough. Let’s get serious and consider an even longer day.
A study published in the Journal of Irreproducible Results concluded that a 21-hour school day is optimal, with continuous classes and no breaks, except for two breaks for meals and one lavatory visit.
Among the many advantages would be fewer discipline problems and quieter classrooms because of sleep deprivation, which "lessened the students' rebellious impulses."
Also, there would be more time for testing, and adding all scores together will produce the desired increase in test scores.
The researchers also intend to do studies to determine whether food is really necessary for school children.
Stephen Krashen

Robert O. Neal, Ed.D. and Louis deJour Hicks, Ed.D. 
Published in The Journal of Irreproducible Results, 36 (6): 17 (1991)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Resist Backdoor Charter Expansion by DESE in MA

In 2016 the citizens of the Commonwealth overwhelmingly beat back a plan for charter expansion.  Even though 62 percent of MA voters said NO to more charters, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is shepherding through a plan to expand charters in New Bedford and Haverhill.  

The cost to public education would be astronomical. In Bedford, for instance, charter expansion would cost the public schools another $15,000,000 each year that the system cannot afford. Haverhill public schools would have to dish out another $3,000,000 for charter expansion there.

The coziness between DESE and the charter industry can be linked to DESE's partnership with SEII, the charter promotion think tank at MIT

DESE has provided an email address for public comment on the proposed charter expansions.  The deadline for comments is December 3.  Please offer DESE and Commissioner Jeff Riley your thoughts. Write: charterschools@doe.mass.edu

Monday, October 29, 2018

The case against intensive phonics

Submitted to the New York Times, Oct. 26, 2018

In “Why are we still teaching reading the wrong way?” (Oct 26) Emily Hanford says the research supports systematic intensive phonics, a method that teaches all the rules of phonics in a strict order to all children. 
Here are objections to this conclusion:  
(1) Researchers admit we have not discovered all the rules. 
(2) Even among those rules that have been described, some are extremely complex.
(3) Many children learn to read with little or even no phonics instruction. 
(4) Studies show that intensive phonics produces strong results only on tests in which children pronounce words out of context. Systematic intensive phonics has little or no impact on tests in which children have to understand what they read. 
(5) The best predictor of performance on tests in which children have to understand what they read is real reading, especially self-selected reading. 
(6) “Basic phonics” can be helpful: teaching straight-forward rules that children can learn and can actually apply to texts to make them more comprehensible.  Our ability to use complex rules is acquired as a result of reading. 
Instead of misrepresenting scholars such as Frank Smith, I suggest Ms. Hanford read his books and papers.  Start with Understanding Reading, and then read some critiques of the intensive phonics movement by Elaine Garan, Stephen Krashen (c’est moi) and Gerald Coles. 

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Original article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/26/opinion/sunday/phonics-teaching-reading-wrong-way.html

Coles, G. (2003). Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, Legislation, and Lies. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. 
Garan, Elaine. (2001). Beyond the smoke and mirrors: A critique of the National Reading Panel report on phonics. Phi Delta Kappan 82, no. 7 (March), 500-506. 
Krashen, S. (2002). The NRP comparison of whole language and phonics: Ignoring the crucial variable in reading. Talking Points, 13(3): 22-28.
Krashen, S. (2004) The power of reading. Heinemann Publishing Company and Libraries Unlimited. (second edition)
Krashen, S. (2004) False claims about literacy development. Educational Leadership 61: 18-21.
Krashen, S. (2009). Does intensive reading instruction contribute to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74.
Smith, F.  (2004) Understanding reading (sixth edition). Routledge.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Clueless Crone, Betsy DeVos, Hires Consultant to Study Morale at ED

Outside the billionaires' bubble that insulates Betsy DeVos from the real world, there are employees at the U.S. Department of Education who are depressed, pissed off or, otherwise, upset over the many ways Betsy has made life at ED worse under her misleadership.

And remember, we're talking about worse than life under Arne Duncan!  In fact, the positive vibe has dropped from 65% to 43%, which is not too far off from reflecting the approval of Obama (58%) and Trump (42%).  

Here's some of the reasons that ED folks are bummed, with links:
A whole lot of the people who work in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education are there because of their commitment to effective public schools. In contrast, DeVos, who came to office with no experience with public schools — as a student, parent, teacher, or administrator — has shown hostility to public schools and repeatedly demonstrated her lack of understanding of education policy issues.
DeVos, whose family wealth makes her a billionaire, has held major financial stakes in for-profit education. While seeking to revive the fortunes of predatory for-profit colleges, DeVos has snidely denigrated students and allowed her Department, which she has staffed at senior levels with former for-profit college executives, to impugn students’ integrity.
While DeVos spends much of her time at her luxury homes in Florida and Michigan, the Department is moving to sharply curtail teleworking by career employees. The Secretary has taken a hard-line approach to the employees’ union, issuing a unilateral collective bargaining agreement that stripped workers of numerous benefits and protections — a move the Federal Labor Relations Authority said appeared to be unlawful.
In addition, under DeVos, the Department, like the entire Trump administration, is trashing civil rights protections, especially for LGBTQ people. The DeVos Department has also sharply weakened protections for victims of campus sexual assault.
Why is morale low at the DeVos Department? Come on.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Marshall Tuck’s racist dog whistle

“Blowing the racist dog whistle in politics is shameful. This disgraceful practice against black candidates unfortunately has a long and shameful history. That this would happen in California in 2018 is deeply disturbing. It appears you have chosen to follow President Trump’s playbook of using lies and fake news to smear prominent leaders of color.” — California Hawaii NAACP letter admonishing Marshall Tuck’s racism

The following is adapted from commentary here

The NAACP’s letter rightfully calls Marshall Tuck and his corporate backers out for their “[b]lowing the racist dog whistle in politics.” For business banker Tuck and the market-share obsessed charter school industry to accuse others of “not serving minorities” is really quite astonishing.

We must bear in mind that this is the same Tuck whose policies, much like those of his contemporary counterparts Tom Horne and John Huppenthal of Arizona, caused irreparable harm to students of color. Tuck closed down popular, research proven, Ethnic Studies programs. For example, Tuck completely eliminated Ethnic Sudies at (PLAS) Santee High School. Tuck also restricted and shuttered well regarded and research proven Heritage Language Programs and Dual Language Immersion programs. These language program closures and restrictions were so egregious, and such a violation of students’ civil rights, that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Public Counsel Law Center jointly filed a Uniform Complaint Cause of Action against Tuck on their behalf.

It took years of protracted court battles to defeat Horne and Huppenthal’s attacks on students of color. We can stop Tuck from carrying out that same agenda by simply electing Tony Thurmond. Californians have an opportunity to show Tuck and his right-wing backers that there’s no room for bigotry and ethnocentrism in our public institutions.

See also: Tuck’s Ethnocentrism Contradicts Californian Values

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Human Role in the Internet of Things

Until I read this post below by Alison McDowell, I had not considered the international corporate benefit of operating an army of industrial robots from afar.  But why shouldn't globalized business take advantage of this brave new world: producers like China and India can keep factories operating where the air is too toxic or too hot for humans to breathe; Silicon Valley can stay busy generating the hardware and software for production; the education industry can train up an overabundance of gritty, grateful, and self-controlled robot operators who never have to leave their screens to clock in and clock out from factories afar.
After all, if we can have the Air Force carry out a war in Middle East deserts from air conditioned bunkers in Colorado, why shouldn't international capitalism take advantage of these same tech tools?  
This is the second of ten questions presented as a Trans-Atlantic dialogue between myself and UK blogger Privatising Schools. Read the introduction and first installment here. A condensed version pulling together content of several responses for UK audiences can be read on the Local Schools Network website.

Privatizing Schools: Question 2

Anthony Seldon, a former headteacher who is an influential voice in education debate in England, has published a book called The Fourth Education Revolution. He claims that robots – ‘adaptive’ learning systems or ‘AI personal tutors’ – will replace teachers within 10 years.
Echoing Selden, our current secretary of state for education, Damian Hinds, recently called on the tech industry – ‘both the UK’s burgeoning tech sector and Silicon Valley giants like Apple and Microsoft’ – to ‘launch an education revolution’. To quote at slightly more length:
In some schools, state-of-the-art technology is bringing education to life by helping children take virtual trips through the Amazon and control robots, while also slashing the time their teachers are spending on burdensome administrative tasks.
Would you like to comment?

My Response

It seems Mr. Seldon’s book may be referencing the shift to what is being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a concept advanced by the World Economic Forum (WEF). In the spring of 2017, WEF opened a Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolutionin the Presidio in San Francisco, California. The focus of the Center is to develop policies around the future of work, automation, artificial intelligence, cross-border data flows, the Internet of Things, and technologies like drones and autonomous vehicles.
To make sense of what is happening in schools today we must place ourselves in the position of the global elite. They anticipate a future where stable careers that pay a living wage will become increasingly scarce as automation and virtual agents creep into service sector jobs like teaching, medical treatment, therapy, and elder care. They anticipate a future where human-robot cooperation is normalized in advanced manufacturing settings. For a sense of research underway see the publication list from the Tufts Human Robot Interaction Laboratory here. As digital economic systems take hold through widespread adoption of crypto-currencies and Blockchain smart contracts, global supply chains will continue to evolve. Corporate interests will be operating from a globalist perspective. The real world and virtual worlds will meld in ways that disrupt current conceptions of human capital and supply chain management.
A malleable workforce with the proper mindset will best serve the interests of the elite. That is why we are seeing growing emphasis on capturing data on students’ non-cognitive skills. People must be acclimated to the premise of “lifelong learning” in which they will be constantly reskilled to effectively interface with cutting-edge automated systems. Having a population of independent thinkers will not benefit those at the top of the economic pyramid. In fact, independent thinking of the type encouraged by self-selected reading over algorithmic online education modules could be perceived as a threat. There will always be a small group at the top who will have access to humane instruction, but the masses must be conditioned towards dutiful acceptance of their fate, placated with digital entertainment and monitored through deployment of ubiquitous surveillance being incorporated into “smart” city design.
Those in positions of authority have long-range plans with aligned communications strategies geared to incrementally move us towards acceptance of these “innovative” practices. If they move at a gradual, yet steady pace it is likely people won’t catch on and instead will accept this future as if there were no alternative. Adoption of virtual field trips as a mode of educational training is one example of how tele-presence is being normalized, despite serious health concerns over VR use in children. If the goal in fifteen years is to make it acceptable for poor people to carry out manufacturing activities via virtual reality simulators for affluent factory operators in distant, secured locations, they have to get people conditioned to operating in virtual worlds now. But it should seem like fun, not work. It should be presented as a special opportunity, not drudgery.
In closing, I will add that virtual reality systems enable the capture of vast amounts of biometric data. Most people do not realize when they put on a headset and hand pieces, they create as much data as they consume. In addition to eye tracking and body positions, systems can also capture heart and respiration rates, blood pressure, and emotional states. See more information here, here, and here. Many companies are also looking to position virtual and augmented reality simulators as impact investments, due to their capacity to change attitudes and opinions around social issues. This aligns with research I recently undertook around “solutions” journalism and impact markets in media. In any event, don’t listen to Mr. Seldon; beware VR empathy machines.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Killing Terrorists to Avoid Another 9-11?

Following the terrorist plots in 2001 that brought down the World Trade Center, left the Pentagon smoldering, and killed thousands of people, the U. S. government acted swiftly to put in place measures to target and take out the terrorists who masterminded and enabled the mass destruction.  

Now if we had prior knowledge of an even more devastating plan to wreak havoc worldwide, this time a plan to kill millions while making large parts the planet uninhabitable, would we be justified in locating and neutralizing those who are planning and enabling such horrendous acts?

The fact is that we do have prior knowledge of such a plan, and it is being directed by both national and international groups to destroy large swaths of life on Earth, while carrying out a well-funded political and media campaign to deny, derail, and to discredit any effort to undermine the flagrant and massive operation of capitalist terrorism.  This campaign is being directed by fossil fuel interests in corporate boardrooms and secure corporate/political retreat locations around the globe.

The question remains how to mobilize forces and to effect operations that are required for our children and grandchildren to have lives, and for the planet to remain like Earth rather than Venus.

. . . .The IPCC report makes it clear that the time for talking is over — this is literally a matter of life and death. To give just one example, Yale scientists predict that the difference between a 1.5 degree and 2 degree rise in global temperatures could cut corn yields in parts of Africa by half. . . .

Friday, September 21, 2018

School Libraries and Books Critical for School Success

Published in the New York Times, September 20, 2018
To the Editor:

Re “Why libraries still matter.” [https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/08/opinion/sunday/civil-society-library.html (Sunday Review, Sept. 90]

Not mentioned in Eric Klinenberg’s essay is the importance of libraries and books to school success. 

Studies consistently show that children of poverty typically have low levels of literacy development. But research also shows that children of poverty have little access to books at home, in their neighborhoods and at school, and that increasing access to books and other reading material results in more reading. 

Increasing reading increases vocabulary, increases the ability to read and write, and results in better grammar and better spelling.

The library is a major source of reading material for many children of poverty.

Our research, as well as the work of Keith Curry Lance, confirms that more investment in libraries and librarians means better language and literacy development, and that supporting libraries can help overcome the negative effect of poverty on literacy development and school success.

Stephen Krashen

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Police-Free Schools

From the Advancement Project:

Safety does not exist when Black and Brown young people are forced to interact with a system of policing that views them as a threat and not as students.  
For many Black and Brown youth, the presence of police in their schools disrupts their learning environments. There is a culture clash that exists between law enforcement and the learning environment: police enforce criminal laws, while schools are supposed to nurture students. This report addresses the stark reality that police in schools is an issue of American racial disparity that requires deep structural change. We will explore the question of why police are in schools at all and conclude that police are incongruent with the educational environment we envision for our children.
First, this report examines the advent of policing practices in America’s public schools and their historical roots in suppressing Black and Latino student movement and the criminalization of Black childhood. We discuss the documented harms of school policing, including the disparate impact that policing has on students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual (LQBTQIA).
The report centers the voices of young people from around the country who describe the everyday indignities that they experience at the hands of school police. It also, for the first time, catalogues known assaults of young people by school police officers. The report shines a spotlight on three particular cases where young people were assaulted by school police and how their communities responded. These case studies – in Oakland, CA, in Philadelphia, PA, and in Spring Valley, SC, serve as models in the fight to end school policing. The report chronicles how Black and Brown youth have used organizing and advocacy to advance a vision of school safety that is not reliant on policing.
This report then documents the school policing model and discusses how school police became institutionalized in America’s public education system through funding and policy at both the federal and local level. This report exposes the broad lack of accountability that school police benefit from. By illustrating how different school police operations are structured and function, this report provides readers with a clearer understanding of how pervasive and negative the impact on educational outcomes for students of color truly is.

Finally, the report calls for the removal of police from schools and envisions schools where Black and Brown students are afforded the presumption of childhood that they deserve.  Policing in our schools must be supplanted by divesting from militarization and investing in community-building strategies that not only improve the quality of safety for students of color, but the quality of their educational experience.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mismeasure . . . Celebrates Five Years

Really?  Five years?  Guess so. 

Find out why almost 600 university libraries own copies of The Mismeasure of Education:

The Mismeasure of Education

Published 2013

With new student assessments and teacher evaluation schemes in the planning or early implementation phases, this book takes a step back to examine the ideological and historical grounding, potential benefits, scholarly evidence, and ethical basis for the new generation of test based accountability measures. After providing the political and cultural contexts for the rise of the testing accountability movement in the 1960s that culminated almost forty years later in No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, this book then moves on to provide a policy history and social policy analysis of value-added testing in Tennessee that is framed around questions of power relations, winners, and losers.

In examining the issues and exercise of power that are sustained in the long-standing policy of standardized testing in schools, this work provides a big picture perspective on assessment practices over time in the U. S.; by examining the rise of value-added assessment in Tennessee, a fine-grained and contemporary case is provided within that larger context. The last half of the book provides a detailed survey of the research based critiques of value-added methodology, while detailing an aggressive marketing campaign to make value-added modeling (VAM) a central component of reform strategies following NCLB. The last chapter and epilogue place the continuation of test-based accountability practices within the context of an emerging pushback against privatization, high stakes testing, and other education reforms.

This book will be useful to a wide audience, including teachers, parents, school leaders, policymakers, researchers, and students of educational history, policy, and politics.


"When the Obama Administration decided to spend the billions it got for schools as part of the stimulus package to launch the Race to the Top program and the NCLB waivers, forcing many states to adopt teacher evaluation based on changes in student test scores, leading experts warned that this “value added” system did not have a reliable scientific basis and would often lead to false conclusions. This sobering and important study of the long experience with this system in Tennessee (where it was invented) shows that it did not work, was unfair, and took attention away from other more fundamental issues." Gary Orfield Distinguished Research Professor, UCLA, Co-Director, Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, UCLA

"If The Mismeasure of Education offered only its penetrating new look at Conant and Coleman, it would be worth the price. But that’s just the beginning. Horn and Wilburn uncover the obsessive instrumentalist quantification and apocalyptic rhetoric soapboxed by both liberal and conservative political elites. Their autopsy of value-added accountability reveals the pathology of ed reform’s claim about teachers not being good enough for the global economy." Susan Ohanian Educator, Author, Activist

"A well-researched (and frightening) look at examples of shameful pseudoscience in America, the latest manifestation of which is value-added assessment for determining teacher competency... A well-documented and thorough analysis, inescapably leading to the conclusion that student test data cannot be used to determine teacher effectiveness. A must read for policy makers enamored of the idea that value added assessments will do what is claimed for them. They do not!....An excellent and scholarly history of how we got to an educational-testing/industrial complex, now promoting invalid assessment strategies that are transforming education, but not for the better. A scary book that should be thoughtfully read by those who value America’s greatest invention, the public schools." David Berliner Regents' Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University

"The Mismeasure of Education is a magnificent work, an elegantly written, brilliantly argued and erudite exposition on why the “what,” “how” and “why” of effective teaching cannot be adequately demonstrated by sets of algorithms spawned in the ideological laboratories of scientific management at the behest of billionaire investors... This book will serve as a sword of Damocles, hanging over the head of the nation’s educational tribunals and their adsentatores, ingratiators and sycophants in the business community... The Mismeasure of Education will have a profound resonance with those who are fed up with the hijacking of our nation’s education system. This is a book that must be read by everyone interested in the future of our schools. It is a book that advocates real educational justice, for student, teachers, administrators and the public; it is informed by impressive scholarship and compelling argument. It is surely to become a classic work." Peter McLaren Professor, GSEIS, University of California, Los Angeles, Distinguished Fellow in Critical Studies, Chapman University

What the FBI Is Not Telling Parents about Student Data Security

by Alison McDowell (First published at Wrench in the Gears)
On September 13, 2018, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation released a public service announcement outlining risks associated with the collection of sensitive student data through educational technologies. Many applaud the FBI’s actions. I do not. I believe it to be yet another calculated move in a long range campaign to misdirect the public and goad us into accepting the inevitability of cloud-based computing as the primary method of delivering educational content in our nation’s public schools.
It is a diffuse campaign carried out across many platforms by a range of interest groups, each gently but insistently nudging us towards a box canyon where the fin-tech elite anticipate we’ll eventually give in and accept the constraints of algorithmic data-driven learning. There will be, of course, a tacit, mutual agreement that data will be “secured” (though I suspect that won’t preclude it from being searchable with a FISA court order).
This “security” will exact a terribly high price. Submitting to the bullying behavior of Silicon Valley will erode children’s rights to humane, face-to-face instruction and siphon critical funds away from offline-activities like art, recess, music, libraries, and sports. The precious, small pots of education funding we have left will be directed into vast, impenetrable sinkholes of cyber-security.
The FBI’s alert discusses examples of data stored online, the ways data breaches and hacking have harmed students, and recommendations to parents about what they should be doing. One suggestion was to purchase identity theft monitoring services for children. How did this become the new normal?
While the FBI wants to foster the appearance they’re concerned about student wellbeing, the Bureau is not about to go out on a limb and state the obvious. The most effective way to protect children’s personal data is to not collect it or store it in the cloud in the first place. Rather than signing up for a Life Lock subscription, families would be better served by demanding schools stop using digital devices as a primary mode of education delivery.
The third sentence of the FBI’s PSA offers a not-so-subtle pitch touting the benefits of online education: “EdTech can provide services for adaptive, personalized learning experiences, and unique opportunities for student collaboration.” What is the business of the FBI? Surveillance. Do we think the Bureau would be inclined to recommend dialing back one of the most expansive flows of information ever? No. Consider the data lakes of personally identifiable information pouring out of our nation’s schools. The FBI doesn’t want to turn off that tap. They want us to ask them to protect us, to make the collection “safe” and “secure” from child predators and the Dark Web. It is an approach that will conveniently permit a steady stream of information to be channeled into Bluffdale’s server farms waiting out there in the Utah foothills. It’s a facility that has the capacity to hold a century’s worth of digital data on every citizen.
More on the NSA Data Center here.
Many in the education activist community felt validated by the fact that the FBI officially recognized the severity of this threat. But pause for a moment and look at what just happened. The education reform community keeps winning because they are strategic and disciplined and get out and frame the discussion to their advantage.
What the widespread sharing and support of the FBI’s PSA did, in my opinion, was further entrench the perceived inevitability of data-driven online education, even if it is horrible for children, for teachers, and for the future of our economic system. It also painted the FBI as the good guy, while glossing over the Bureau’s abhorrent history of infiltrating, threatening and even murdering political dissidents. We must view this “alert” within the context of state surveillance, Cointelpro, threats to Dr. King, and the murder of Chicago Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. It is a pattern of behavior not limited to some distant past, but one that continues in the present as demonstrated by the set up of activists like Red Fawn Fallis, a water protector at Standing Rock. The FBI wants to keep this educational data “safe” for themselves. They are looking out for their own interests, not those of our children. . . . .
Read the rest here.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Brief comments on "hard words"

S. Krashen. Sept 16, 2018.  
Hard Words (https://tinyurl.com/ybgv4742) champions systematic intensive phonics, teaching all the rules of phonics is a strict order to all children. Here are objections to their conclusions.
(1) Researchers admit we have not discovered all the rules.
(2) Even among those rules that have been described, some are extremely complex.
(3) Many children learn to read with little or even no phonics instruction.
(4) Studies show that intensive phonics produces strong results only on tests in which children pronounce words out of context. Systematic intensive phonics has little or no impact on tests in which children have to understand what they read.
(6) The best predictor of performance on tests in which children have to understand what they read is real reading, especially self-selected reading.
(7) “Basic phonics” can be helpful: teaching straight-forward rules that children can learn and can actually apply to texts to make them more comprehensible. Our ability to use complex rules is acquired as a result of reading.
(8) I know of no scholars or teachers who support “zero phonics.”

Supporting bibliography is available for free download at sdkrashen.com, section on phonics and phonemic awareness. Many of these points have been presented by Frank Smith and Kenneth Goodman.
Hard Words strongly supports the report of the National Reading Panel. For another point of view, please see papers in the Phi Delta Kappen by Garan, by Krashen, and by Yatvin. I will supply references if requested.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Marc Tucker Digs Up New Rationale for Public School "Unbuilding"

Marc Tucker is at it again, with a newly-excavated rationale for blowing up public schools and universities.  

My reaction:

Tucker continues to weave a narrative that entirely ignores the systematic formation in the early 20th Century of a racist and classist education system that reflected the prejudices of social efficiency zealots, who threw open the doors to the new education factories they built for exploitation by succeeding generations of snake oil salesmen with a never-ending supply of fake remedies for manufactured problems.
The learning "crisis" of American schools in the 1970s grew from an unacknowledged fear of racial integration and social progress. The rise of testing accountability, which was based on the same racist testing technologies from the eugenics era earlier in the 20th Century, functioned to efficiently label, sort, and segregate students, and to further incentivize the monetization of public education by what has since become the testing-technological complex.
Mr. Tucker's half-baked history lesson and his blinkered rationalizations would clear the way for another generation of capitalist plunderers who know nothing about schooling, learning, or teaching, this time centered in Silicon Valley and backed by another generation venture philanthropists with self-serving solutions. With new schemes in the making for increased monitoring, surveillance, data sharing, neurological reprogramming (SEL), and increased screen time isolation, the paternalist threat to humane learning environments and democratic institutions has never been greater, and the opportunities for social capital investment predators has never been higher.
There is nothing new in Mr. Tucker's tired tirade that we haven't heard before. His suggestion to allow a new generation of "scientific" managers to "unbuild" public schools and public universities expresses an antiquarian faith in the ingenuity of capitalist enterprise in education that is as undeserved as it is irresponsible.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Blockchain: Welcome to Your Permanent Record

by Alison McDowell (previously published at Wrench in the Gears)
I realize my Blockchain video presents an abundance of information that may be difficult to absorb all at once. For that reason, I’ve pulled together images from the video and accompanying text into a slideshare that people can review at their own pace.
Access the slideshare here.
Access a PDF of the script here.
I hope the scenario below provides a compelling enough reason why regular folks need to get up to speed on Blockchain, decentralized (digital) identity, tokenized behavior, and smart contracts. You can be sure the Davos crowd is well aware, and we really do have to start catching up if we want to save humanity.

Picture this:

A possible future, perhaps fifteen years from now. 
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is well underway.
Wages and conditions for jobs involving physical labor and direct service are forced below subsistence levels.
Austerity continues.
Debt is omnipresent.
“Smart” devices, facial recognition software, and drone surveillance ensure the public and private spheres are constantly monitored.
People’s lives have become ever more precarious.
The working class has few resources left and cannot serve as a market for goods and services.
There is limited currency in circulation. 
Instead, alternative exchanges of value are logged in Blockchain ledgers.
People are increasingly managed as commodities to keep capital circulating.
Economic activity, such as it is, revolves around data.
That data is stored on Blockchain, your permanent record.
Data are used to prove compliance and demonstrate the successful “impact” of poverty management systems.
Public services, like education and healthcare, have been outsourced to private entities funded by speculative investors.
Predictive analytics dominate the lives of all but the most powerful.
Big Brother lives in the cloud.
Each person carries a minder, a smartphone or a chip inserted in the hand.
Finance and technology interests anticipate managing humanity as an extractive industry. 
It is a future that hinges on bringing self-sovereign identity and Blockchain to scale.
So, will it scale?
Will people recognize the peril?
And will they refuse to cooperate?

For more information:

Smart Cities: Link
Internet of Things: Link
Blockchain: Link
Smart Contracts: Link
Self Sovereign Identity: Link
Alternative Currencies: Link
Behavioral Economics / Nudge: Link

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Mindful Compliance or Non-Cooperation

by Alison McDowell 
(Previously published at Wrench in the Gears)
Classrooms have always been sites struggle. We find ourselves in the midst of a battle pitting human agency and relationships against technologized surveillance and predictive profiling. Can schools evolve into places of community where new ways of being in the world, ways that begin to address past harms against oppressed people and the earth, can be imagined and tested? Or will educational spaces become even more authoritarian? With each passing day we see students distanced from one another as algorithms, artificial intelligence, and online games mold their minds in “personalized learning” bubbles.
The lean-production, dystopian economy the Davos crowd envisions will offer few stable living-wage jobs. Their model will force most people to adopt a practice of unrelenting “lifelong learning,” continual reinvention that might allow them to piece together a patchwork of precarious, soulless jobs. It is a process that will demand the acquisition of just-in-time skills, but perhaps more importantly it will demand the proper mindset. In this future, the most desirable trait for hires won’t be the level of knowledge they possess. Far more attractive will be their demonstrated ability to adapt to and thrive on instability. That is where grit, self-regulation, resilience, and executive function come in. That is why these words are becoming so prominent in professional development, new “evidence-based” curricula, and educational literature. We are being groomed.
There will be limited opportunities for creative thinking in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Knowledge will be controlled among the general populace. In fact knowing enough to question or disrupt the status quo will likely land a job candidate in the algorithmic rubbish bin. The current system works fine for the elite. They won’t onboard anyone who might organize with others to actually fix the system and make it more humane. For those at the top, the best employee is the one who thrives in dystopia and shames others into doing the same by example.
Neoliberal interests have secured esteemed social scientists and branding consultants to sell the unsuspecting public on their poisonous program of human capital engineering. It is being packaged as “whole child education” and “social emotional learning.” Legions of parents and teachers are embracing top-down programs of mindfulness training, structured recess, and gamified behavior management systems. Shell-shocked from years of test and punish, their defenses are understandably weakened. When they hear “play” and “soft skills,” most just sigh and cross their fingers hoping the worst of it is over. The privatizers know exactly how to push people’s buttons.
Efficient markets require a robust pipeline of interchangeable, cheaply paid employees who will labor with minimal complaint under intolerable conditions. Everything today is about return on investment. The logic of the market dictates it’s never too early to triage who is worth an investment of public resources and who is not. Schools have always been sorting mechanisms, but with digital surveillance education, the sorting systems are becoming ever more vicious.
Lest we be lulled into a trance by the zen masters of corporate mindfulness, we must recognize that the push to monitor, track, and cultivate an appropriate learner mindset, is not emerging from an authentic grassroots concern for the well being of children. It is an intentional campaign launched by philanthro-capitalists to expand the metrics of student measurement into the non-cognitive sphere.
These metrics will be used to profile children and double the size of educational impact investment markets. Why limit yourself to gambling on children’s academic proficiencies when you can do the same thing on their behavioral proficiencies, too? Believe me, the folks in this game are not ones to leave money on the table.
Who are you?
What kind of person do we predict you will become based on your data profile?
How do you score in the Big Five traits? OCEAN: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism
Will you obey?
Will you work hard?
Are you a team player?
Are you a leader?
Are you a follower?
Are you broken beyond what we’re willing to invest to repair you?
THAT is what social-emotional learning is really about. They will put resources into creating the metrics, the systems, the rubrics, the monitoring systems to ensure fidelity. It is the metrics that drive the social impact investment markets. It’s about moving data on dashboards, not caring for children.
So, before you do another thing in the classroom with respect to student behavior or social emotional learning, take a look around and recognize we ARE living the Hunger Games. Stop and think about where the intervention you are using came from? Whose interests does it advance? What data are YOU collecting on the children in your care? Where is it stored? Do you know what behavioral information the devices in your classroom may be capturing on your children? Do you know how that is being used? Do you know who is funding the new SEL curriculum in your school? Do you know who is funding that nice non-profit that wants to manage your recess program? Could it be a defense contractor (Playworks / Bechtel)?
Are you teaching children to be good players in the Hunger Games or are you teaching them what they need to know to upend the game? And if you are doing the latter, keep it offline. Don’t give the elite any power over the children who depend on you. Adopt a policy of non-cooperation. Find your way to resist the corporate SEL agenda and do it.
Much respect to John Trudell.