That’s how the power of philanthropy works. It sets the agenda. Personalized learning. The Common Core. Charter schools. Measures of Effective Teaching. It didn’t push for these ideas because that’s what people wanted. It helped convince politicians that these were the ideas that education needed. That is to say, education policy has not been shaped by democratic forces as much as it has been by philanthropic ones — by the billionaires who wield immense political power through their “charity.”
Rather than reject this plutocracy — a plutocracy that has corrupted so many of our democratic institutions long before President Trump ever came into office — Michael Bloomberg is asking Democrats to embrace it.
A funny thing happened on the way to academic integrity. Plagiarism detection software (PDS), like Turnitin, has seized control of student intellectual property. While students who use Turnitin are discouraged from copying other work, the company itself can strip mine and sell student work for profit.
“Does It Make More Sense to Invest in School Security or SEL?” Edsurge asked in 2018. Those are the choices education technology now has for us apparently: surveillance or surveillance.
What if anything “good” about ed-tech this past decade was so overwhelmed by all the money funneled into the “bad” that the “good” didn’t matter one whit? What if all that “bad” meant any semblance of “good” was stifled, suffocated? What if, as David Kernohan has suggested, there wasn’t anything this past decade but technological disappointment? What if there wasn’t anything good about ed-tech?
I’m serious. Sit with that sentence a minute before you pipe up to defend your favorite app or social network or that cute robot your kids coded to move in a circle. What if there wasn’t anything good about ed-tech? What if ed-tech is totally inseparable from privatization, behavioral engineering, and surveillance? What if, by surrendering to the narrative that schools must be increasingly technological, we have neglected to support them in being be remotely human? What if we can never address the crises of our democracies, of our planet if we keep insisting on the benevolence of tech?
Source: HEWN, No. 337
“Behaviorism is the foundation of education technology.” It is also the foundation of too much of what we platforms do. See Audrey Watters’ review of the past decade of unethical and misguided ed-tech. Resisting behaviorism in education and in our companies is part of the work of the neurodiversity and disability movements. Allies welcome.
Platforms are, in a sense, capitalism distilled to its essence. They are proudly experimental and maximally consequential, prone to creating externalities and especially disinclined to address or even acknowledge what happens beyond their rising walls. And accordingly, platforms are the underlying trend that ties together popular narratives about technology and the economy in general. Platforms provide the substructure for the “gig economy” and the “sharing economy”; they’re the economic engine of social media; they’re the architecture of the “attention economy” and the inspiration for claims about the “end of ownership.”
When we develop and use educational technologies that monitor a student’s every moment in school and online, we groom that student for a lifetime of surveillance
Nevertheless, those who work in and work with education technology need to confront and resist this architecture – the “surveillance dataism,” to borrow Morozov’s phrase – even if (especially if) the outcomes promised are purportedly “for the good of the student.”
Students’, educators’ and regulators’ critical resistance to edtech is likely to grow as we learn more about the ways it works, how it treats data, and in come cases how dysfunctional it is.
Increasingly, journalists are on to edtech, and are feeding into the growing sense of frustration and resistance by demonstrating these technologies don’t even fairly do what they claim to do.
So, there is a rising wave of edtech resistance from a wide variety of perspectives—from activists to students, journalists to regulators, and legal experts to ethicists.
When we draft students into education technologies and enlist their labor without consent or even their ability to choose, we enact a pedagogy of extraction and exploitation. It’s time to stop.