The first is that implementation is policy. Whatever gets decided at various times by leadership (in this case, first to separate families, then to reunite them), what happens in real life is often determined less by policy than by software. And until the government starts to think of technology as a dynamic service, imperfect but ever-evolving, not just a static tool you buy from a vendor, that won’t change.
The second lesson has to do with how Silicon Valley — made up of people who very much think of technology as something you do — should think about its role in fighting injustice.
This is one of the lessons you can’t escape if you work on government tech. When government is impaired, who gets hurt? More often than not, the most vulnerable people.
In order to properly administer a social safety net, a just criminal justice system, and hundreds of other functions that constitute a functioning democracy, we must build government’s technology capabilities. In doing that, we run the risk of also increasing government’s effectiveness to do harm.
Which is why Silicon Valley can’t limit its leverage over government to software. Software doesn’t have values. People do. If the people who build and finance software (in Silicon Valley and elsewhere) really want government that aligns with their values, and they must offer government not just their software, but their time, their skills, and part of their careers. The best way to reclaim government is to become part of it.
Critical pedagogy is a philosophy that “applies the tenets of critical social theory to the educational arena and takes on the task of examining how schools reproduce inequality and injustice” (Beck, 2005).
Critical pedagogy as developed by critical literacy elements in the classroom invites and encourages students to question issues of power. These issues include multiple indicators: socioeconomic status (SES), race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and age (Cervetti, Pardales, & Damico, 2001).
Justice Needs A Platform
It is probably true that I would not have my job were it not for affirmative action. Many white women wouldn’t have jobs either! And of course, white men have benefited from white supremacy for years. But affirmative action is not white supremacy in reverse; it is not antiwhite, but pro-justice. It was created so that with my Ph.D., which I earned with distinction, I would actually be able to teach at a university. Affirmative action, in the case of black people, is a response to systemic racist disadvantages. It’s important to get that history right — not twisted.
“Education technology is not always loyal to institutions, of course; it’s not always loyal to democracy either; it’s not always loyal to learning or to teaching – to students or to teachers; but it’s always fiercely loyal to itself and its own rationale, to its own existence. If there is an anxiety that education technology readily embraces, it is simply the anxiety that there’s not enough technology in the classroom. That education has not become sufficiently technologized. That education technology is still – somehow, strangely – an upstart, an outsider. That the digital flounders, powerless, against the entrenchment of the analog. That education technology has not been recognized, as some have recently lamented, as a discipline.”
I want to suggest that what we need instead of a discipline called “education technology” is an undisciplining. We need criticism at the center of our work. We need to recognize and sit with complexity; we need to demand and stand – or kneel – for justice. We also need care – desperately – the kind of care that has compassion about anxiety and insecurity and that works to alleviate their causes not just suppress the symptoms. We need speculative fictions and counter-narratives that are not interested in reproducing education technology’s legacies or reifying its futures. We need radical disloyalty, blasphemy.