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

Monday, January 15, 2018

Data Mining on the Ledger

by Wrench in the Gears
January 14, 2018

This installment of Building Sanctuary features digital identity and social credit scoring as it relates to purchasing and access to life opportunities for citizens living under authoritarian power structures. This is the fourth in a seven-part series that follows the digitally-quantified lives of sisters Cam and Li in a a near-future “Smart” City dystopia. If you wish to start reading from the beginning, follow this link to the introduction and Part One: Plugging In.
Part Two: A World Without (Much) Work
Part Three: Smart and Surveilled
Solutionists maintain control over society largely through the ledger. The ledger evolved from Blockchain, a technology first used to process digital-currency transactions like Bitcoin, Global Coin’s predecessor. But corporate and government interests saw it had far greater potential. It started out as a decentralized online system through which transactions of all sorts (purchases, education credentials, marriages, property transfers etc.) could be permanently recorded in blocks that were secured by elaborate cryptographic protocols. Over time, private blockchains came to dominate the system. These were gradually consolidated by those allied with the Solutionist agenda.
Now there is one ledger that keeps track of everything and everyone: inputs and outputs; ownership and debt; locations, activities, functions, and compliance. The ledger is the master accountant that is everywhere and nowhere. It lives on a distributed system of computers. It’s promoted as infallible, untouchable. The Solutionists suppress any information that might undermine public faith in it. In a world of uncertainty, the ledger is a held up as a symbol of unquestioning trust.
In addition to facilitating and recording transactions, the ledger also calculates citizen scores, something no one with a Citi Badge can escape. These scores rise and fall based the data each person generates within the Solutionists’ “smart systems.” People are constantly evaluated against the norms set by the authorities. If your behavior, or that of your family or even friends or acquaintances, deviates from these standards, your score drops.
People who question the system have low scores. People with extensive social networks have low scores. People who travel widely have low scores. People who access “the wrong” online materials have low scores. People who are financially unstable have low scores. Your score can be lowered for being too educated or not educated enough. People who use public services have low scores. If you have a low score, you become a target of social impact interventions, programs underwritten by private investors designed to bring your score up and reorient you to the values Solutionist society demands.
Citizen scores determine access to jobs, housing, leisure opportunities, and social relationships. They affect the prices people pay for goods and services and even the type of education and medical treatment they get. At birth Cam and Li, like everyone born outside a sanctuary zone, were assigned unique identity numbers linked to retinal scans and were each issued a Citi Badge. Their Citi Badges are connected to the ledger and hold funds from their Global Coin government stipend, student vouchers, and data currency transactions.

Click here to read the rest of the post. 

Who Is Pulling The Muppet Strings?

from Wrench in the Gears
January 14, 2018

Sesame Street is an iconic brand that embodies humor, acceptance, and humanity. Who doesn’t love a muppet? So, on December 20 when the MacArthur Foundation announced they were giving Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee $100 million to educate young children from displaced Syrian families and help them deal with “toxic stress,” most people were thrilled. While the optics were great, I’m here to tell you these muppets are definitely not the type of “friends” Syrian refugee children need.
How will Sesame Workshop and the IRC spend the MacArthur award money? Much of it will be spent on educational technology:
           Sesame-branded educational content delivered on televisions, phones and digital platforms
           home visits reinforced by digital content and parenting resources provided via mobile devices
           child development centers equipped with video-clips pre-recorded on projectors and activity sheets

This approach exactly reflects concerns raised by an April 2017 report published by Education International  on the education of Syrian refugee children. The report found that many donors were providing “decontextualized interventions” that focused too much on technology.

Click here read the entire post.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Kicking Charter School Money Out Might Be California Democrats’ Best Chance For Unifying Their Party @alternet

Please tell Diane Ravitch that her urgent call for CA school boards (see previous post) to become charter authorizers is slightly out of step with where parents and teachers are.

Kicking Charter School Money Out Might Be California Democrats’ Best Chance For Unifying Their Party @alternet: A backlash against California's powerful charter school lobby is brewing among Democrats in the state. The mood was festive at the annual Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Dinner in Los Angeles. About 600 Democrats gathered in a hotel ballroom on an October evening to begin wrapping up the year. Community activists and party worker-bees mingled with political luminaries to celebrate top volunteers. Anybody with a (D) after their name and $135 for a ticket was welcome at this event in blue, blue California.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Thought Disorders of Diane Ravitch

Jim Horn
After Diane Ravitch decided in 2008 to shift to the left aisle of the neoliberal education reform jetliner, she quickly became entirely proficient in the obfuscating rhetoric and dissembling policy statements that her NEA and AFT patrons have made infamous over the past two decades.  For instance, Diane learned to howl about the negative effects of high stakes testing, while refusing to call for an end to the use of the same racist standardized tests.  She learned to wring her hands about school privatization, while refusing to call for the closure of charter schools.  She decries the drain of public funds going to for-profit charter schools, while ignoring the much larger siphoning of pubic education dollars to thousands of “non-profit” charters.

More recently, Diane has continued her lambasting of billionaire reformers like Eli Broad, even as she plans and convenes her conferences with corporate unionists who trumpet the virtues Broad’s favorite charter charity, Green Dot Schools.

Her address to the California School Boards Association provides the most recent examples of Ravitch doublespeak on school policy issues.

. . . we have federal and state policies that focus on one thing and one thing only: test scores. Test scores have become the be-all and end-all, everywhere in the United States, thanks to No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and now, the Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA]. Policymakers in Washington don’t stop to ask themselves why they want children to be tested every year from grades 3 to 8. No other nation does it.

Diane does not mention her eager support for Lamar Alexander’s ESSA before passage, when something might have been done to alter or at least protest the annual testing that she finds so dreadful.  Diane had no complaints then, when the awful bill was looking for votes.  In a statement of support prior to passage, she said

One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators. . . .This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared.

She did not bother to point out that the bill would continue the incessant annual testing, which she now finds so awful—nor did she explain the reason for the testing to her supporters, which is, of course, to use the results to justify the conversion of the bottom five percent of public schools each year into charter schools.  That’s written in the ESSA. 

Somehow, though, Diane could not have hoped for anything better at the time, and she offered no resistance to CorpEd, nor did she provide any leadership to teachers or parents who were counting on her to represent their interests.

In her recent address to the CSBA, she supports the continued authorization of charter schools, even though her NPE issued a recent statement on charters calling for “an immediate moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, including no replication or expansion of existing charter schools.” 

Now she encourages local school boards to take on the business of authorizing new charters, which would be aimed at the poorest, least motivated, and most vulnerable students. 

Then, as if to demonstrate that her thought disorder is fully developed, Diane urges school board members to “do whatever you can to reduce segregation.”  Other than, of course, discontinuing the authorization of the most segregative corporate tool ever created for schools.

Charters should be authorized only by local school districts, to meet their needs. If alternative schools are needed, they should be part of the district. They should serve children who are not making it in public schools; students who are dropouts; those who have tuned out and need extra motivation. Charters should be for the weakest students, not the strongest. They should boast of how many children they have saved, not about their test scores. . .

Do whatever you can to reduce racial segregation.

Yes, go do whatever.  Whatever is always good enough for Ravitch when it comes to segregation.  Old habits die hard.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Smart and Surveilled:" Building Sancturay Part 3

from Wrench in the Gears
January 11, 2018

This installment highlights  smart city surveillance and the Internet of Things. Cam and Li’s lives, including their educational experiences, are shaped by ubiquitous algorithms that align their behaviors to the economic and social expectations put in place by the Solutionists. This is the third installment in the series. If you want to read from the beginning use this link to access the introduction and Part 1: Plugging In.
Cam and Li have grown up in a world controlled by sensors and data. All day, every day sensors watch, track and transmit information. The devices that make up the vast web of Internet of Things are tiny, but their combined power is incalculable. The most common IoT sensor in the pre-lockdown years was the smart phone. Practically anyone over the age of ten had one. Acting as a sensor, people’s phones were a primary means of data collection, logging information about how people interacted with each other, with systems, and their physical world.
The first sensors were created to monitor global supply chain shipments. Then, corporate, government and academic researchers devised a dizzying array of sensors to transmit data about most aspects of the physical world and how people live their lives in it. Instead of tracking pallets on cargo ships, they now track people, buses, energy, animals, art, storm water runoff, even sounds and footsteps. Each processor gathers a particular type of information that can be merged into the data stream for analysis. Predictive analytics algorithms, complex mathematical equations that anticipate future outcomes, tap into the data stream. Such algorithms can be used to predict when the bulb in a streetlight will fail, when a storm sewer will overflow, or even where a crime will happen.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Trump, the 'Very Stable Genius,' Is Falling Apart as Mueller Seeks Interview @alternet

Trump, the 'Very Stable Genius,' Is Falling Apart as Mueller Seeks Interview @alternet: New revelations raise the question: Is he a crook, or is he nuts? The tide of discussion of President Trump’s mental competence is rising along with the alarm of the president’s lawyers.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Christopher Steele alerted FBI to dossier because he worried Trump was being blackmailed

PDF of interview transcript available here:

Christopher Steele alerted FBI to dossier because he worried Trump was being blackmailed

China Leads the Way to Total Surveillance "Stable" Societies

When "deep learning" is entirely "data driven:"

Smart technology backed by artificial intelligence will be a tool to assist the police forces of the future. Chinese IT and telecoms giant Huawei says its Safe Cities technology has already helped Kenya bring down urban crime rates.
But who's a criminal? In China, documents for the Police Cloud project unearthed by Human Rights Watch list "petitioners" - people who complain to the government about perceived injustices - as potential targets of surveillance, along with anyone who "undermines stability" or has "extreme thoughts." Other documents cite members of ethnic minorities, specifically Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang, as subjects of scrutiny.
Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said what sets China apart is "a complete lack of effective privacy protections," combined with a system that is explicitly designed to target individuals seen as "politically threatening."
"In other countries, we are often concerned about the use of big data for deepening existing policing bias - for example, for targeting historically disadvantaged groups like African Americans in the U.S. context - but for the Chinese systems, the targeting of people of certain ethnicity is a fundamental function of the system," she added.

Vermilion Teacher escorted out of school board meeting in handcuffs

Cuffs, really?  This is what happens in Louisiana when you ask about the superintendent's $38,000 raise.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

A World Without (Much) Work: Building Sancturary Part 2

by Wrench in the Gears
January 7, 2018
This is the second of a seven-part series that outlines a potential future where online education is surveilled by authoritarian interests, and strivers, like Talia and her daughters, attempt to secure a precarious living within the constraints of oppressive “Smart” City policies. The introduction to the series and Part One: Plugging In can be read here.

Part 2: A World Without (Much) Work

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution got underway, automation wiped out more and more jobs. The disappearance of industrial work was grudgingly accepted. Then self-driving vehicles replaced truckers, bus drivers, delivery people, and car services. Even so, many were taken aback when digitization came for the service sector. As Artificial Intelligence hit its stride, teachers, nurses, therapists, paralegals, actuaries, financial advisors, film editors all found themselves cast aside, scrambling for new careers. It seemed everyone who could work switched to coding and cyber security. The threat posed by hacks to the vast Internet of Things had spiraled out of control, and they needed more and more people to build and maintain the simulations.

After tech and energy, the entertainment sector experienced some of the biggest growth from the shift to digital life. Talia supplements the family’s meager digital stipend working as a Mechanical Turk. She picks up gigs, small jobs, coding bits of virtual worlds when people go off the scripts prepared by the Entertainment Software Group. Having a background in art gives her an advantage. Talia’s high creativity ratings keep her near the top of the MicroWork platform where freelancers compete for short-term or even micro employment.

These days, though, it’s getting more and more difficult to earn hard digital credit. Many posted gigs are now issuing payment in skill points that can boost a person’s citizen score but can’t be exchanged for durable goods or used to pay down debt. If things don’t let up soon she’ll be forced to figure out some other way to meet monthly expenses that often exceed what’s deposited to their Global Coin account.

Click here to read the rest of the post.


Thursday, January 04, 2018

Building Sanctuary: A Dystopian Future We Must Fight to Avoid

by Wrench In the Gears
January 4, 2018

The next wave of education reform is one part of a much larger societal shift that hinges on the use of Big Data, predictive analytics, and digital profiling to control populations in a world of growing economic uncertainty and unrest. What follows is a speculative dystopian scenario, a world that could very well emerge from systems being put in place right now. It centers on two sisters, Cam and Li, who live in a near future New York where authorities have come to view human life primarily as a source from which to extract financial profit. Many elements of the story read like science fiction, but they are not. I’ve included links to sources at the end of each post so you can explore this reality for yourself.
The future is uncertain and unlikely to play out exactly as described. Nevertheless, we must begin to comprehend how technological developments combined with concentrated power and extreme income inequality are leading us to increasingly automated forms of oppression. My hope is that communities will begin to incorporate an understanding of this bigger picture into resistance efforts for public education and beyond. Let us join together, embracing our humanity, to fight the forces that would bring us to “lockdown.” How can we preserve our lives and those of our loved ones outside the data stream? How can we nurture community in a world where alienation is becoming normalized? What do we owe one another? What are we willing to risk? I have divided my story into seven parts. I hope you’ll read along and consider sharing it with others.
Building Sanctuary
Part 1: Plugging In