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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Gates and Zuckerberg Take Direct Aim at Children

Bill Gates began his purchased reforms of education policy and practices in 2000, and his repeated failures in this arena have not altered his determination to turn American schools into technology-dependent, business-modeled training camps, to turn American teachers into disposable contract middle managers who are laser-focused on the bottom line--test scores, and to convert children into eager culturally-sterilized recipients of the global economic mindset of personal sacrifice toward an eventual corporate reward. 

Of course, what I mean by "failure" needs some explaining, for not everyone affected by the Gates philanthropic ventures in education has been negatively affected.  Even though the Gates Foundation reforms have done nothing to raise achievement levels, and they have done nothing to staunch the shameful resegregation of American schools, and they have done nothing to build or renew support for public education, the Gates initiatives have been wildly successful in promoting the privatization of public schools, dependence on high tech and big data, and the marketing of thousands of corporate product lines in curriculum, testing, professional development, and teacher preparation.  

In short, Gates initiatives over the years have been used to feather the nests of Gates's own businesses, along with the thousands of entrepreneurs and hangers-on who trail the Gates army as it moves in and occupies the various sectors of the education landscape.  

There is nothing new in my critique.  More extensive criticism of Gates's giving has been delivered by the social advocacy group, Global Justice Now, whose 54 page report in 2016 examines the darker side of Bill and Melinda's giving business.  Here are three allegations from the report aimed at the Gates Foundation:
  • It provides a disproportionate amount of funding to health organizations in high-income countries, "exacerbating unequal research and development infrastructures between poor and rich regions." The report cites as an example the foundation's "overwhelming focus" on developing and promoting new vaccines at the expense of already-proven preventative measures for diseases that most affect poverty-stricken areas.
  • Its projects are primarily "vertically funded interventions targeted at specific diseases or health problems" and do little to strengthen public health systems, leaving underdeveloped nations ill-equipped to combat the root causes of disease. The report backs this claim with comments from Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), who said in an interview with The New York Times that the WHO's budget is "driven by what I call donor interests." This limits the organization's ability to maintain fixed support staff "to build response systems" when there is no active health emergency. Adds the report: "The inference in Chan’s remarks is that the WHO, whose largest donor is [the Gates Foundation,] is unable to respond adequately to ebola and other disease outbreaks because donor interests prevent it from being able to build public health systems in developing countries.
  • It "prioritizes support for corporations." The report notes that the Gates Foundation has funded a huge number of projects for major corporations—including Monsanto, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Coca-Cola—and that the corporations often stand to profit. According to the report, the foundation has owned or still owns shares in some of the corporations it funds. "The foundation is profiting from its investments in corporations which contribute to social and economic injustice," reads the report.
And most importantly, perhaps, Global Justice Now points out that the strategic giving on a massive level is aimed, too, to buy the silence of would-be critics of the Gates army.  There's no better examples than AFT and NEA, whose leaders have been bribed to support a Gates-led war to cororatize schools.  Both have accepted multi-million dollar grants from Gates and have partnered with Gates-linked corporations to involve teachers in advancing the Common Core, the war waged by the Business Roundtable and funded by Gates to impose a stupidifying sameness to American schooling, while constructing many new layers of profitable bureaucracy within the educational corporate complex.

And there are many other examples here.

Now we find the two dollar-fortified armies of Gates and Zuckerberg converging to wage a new corporate education war, this time with a primary focus to remap the neurological paths of children through psychological interventions beginning at an early age and proceeding through the schooling years.  From the AP
Tech moguls Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday they will team up to help develop new methods for kids with trouble learning — an effort that will include dabbling into child brain science. . . .The effort is now seeking information and ideas from across sectors, from education and academia to business, technology and medicine. Future investments based on that information are expected, but no dollar amount has been set.
Part of the oligarchs' dream, of course, is to develop and deploy the psychological equivalent of individual surveillance cameras that can interactively monitor the choices, behaviors, preferences, and levels of involvement of children and adolescents, and to further develop learning algorithms that can intervene to redirect individual behavior or thoughts when they move outside acceptable parameters.  
The idea that disadvantaged children struggle to learn because of poor executive brain function involving memory, thinking flexibility, and behavioral issues related to autism and other attention disorders has long been lamented by social workers and health advocates.
The joint project by Gates and Zuckerberg details possible ways to mitigate those shortcomings
Among the ideas is using games and technology simulations to support teachers and family, and tracking progress in certain vulnerable student populations such as kids with disabilities or those who are learning English as a second language.
In effect, Gates and Zuckerberg are intent upon eliminating the debilitating effects of poverty on learning, while doing nothing to eliminate child poverty aside from rewiring children's brains to make them behaviorally immune to inequality and mistreatment.

What could go wrong!

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