Silicon Valley’s Plans for the Classroom

Photo Credit: Lexie Flickinger (CC-By-2.0)

Many of you have probably already read this article, but I wanted to highlight an article from last week in The New York Times titled “How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Silicon Valley is going all out to own America’s school computer-and-software market, projected to reach $21 billion in sales by 2020. An industry has grown up around courting public-school decision makers, and tech companies are using a sophisticated playbook to reach them, The New York Times has found in a review of thousands of pages of Baltimore County school documents and in interviews with dozens of school officials, researchers, teachers, tech executives and parents.

School leaders have become so central to sales that a few private firms will now, for fees that can climb into the tens of thousands of dollars, arrange meetings for vendors with school officials, on some occasions paying superintendents as consultants. Tech-backed organizations have also flown superintendents to conferences at resorts. And school leaders have evangelized company products to other districts.

These marketing approaches are legal. But there is little rigorous evidence so far to indicate that using computers in class improves educational results. Even so, schools nationwide are convinced enough to have adopted them in hopes of preparing students for the new economy.

In some significant ways, the industry’s efforts to push laptops and apps in schools resemble influence techniques pioneered by drug makers. The pharmaceutical industry has long cultivated physicians as experts and financed organizations, like patient advocacy groups, to promote its products.

Studies have found that strategies like these work, and even a free $20 mealfrom a drug maker can influence a doctor’s prescribing practices. That is one reason the government today maintains a database of drug maker payments, including meals, to many physicians.

Tech companies have not gone as far as drug companies, which have regularly paid doctors to give speeches. But industry practices, like flying school officials to speak at events and taking school leaders to steak and sushi restaurants, merit examination, some experts say.

Read the rest. It’s pretty disconcerting.

One thought on “Silicon Valley’s Plans for the Classroom

  1. Long-revered pedagogical precepts have been blue-penciled by classroom-allergic theorists now leveraged by profiteers who see public schools as the next sustainable profit-producing mother lode.

    And the political class … put into office by all of us … has mocked our vote and deserted our children in a flash of cash.

    Never has American education been in such a moment of willful destruction. Never before have the wishes and concerns of those most vested in public schools been so summarily disregarded by bureaucratic double-speak and political bunk.

    Beyond the view of skirmishes now underway across an array of states, is an emerging reality that … in a very short while … this destroying reform will have razed an American institution to a mound of rubble.

    And in its place … for as far as the eye can see … will stand drive-thru learning centers offering kiosk-educations from a B. F. Skinner touch-screen that will supply the finger-pointer with all they need to succeed in a life of rich monotony.

    That’s what your now titling schools are going to look like. And that’s your child’s purgatory.

    Kindergarten is now the Boot Camp Moment. Classroom drill instructors seem unbothered shoving 70 month-olds into a rush-hour of academic traffic … because some basement gnome alleges it’s the ideal moment to vaccinate them with “grit” and “rigor”.

    These academic tykes are denied recess and songs and giggles … because those would be indicators of unseriousness. And education is, above all else, an extra-serious business. Even for cherubs still ill-at-ease knotting their own sneakers.

    The elementary time seems destined to be called the Tablet Years. The Mario Bros. Educational Principles will rule the day as students win points and pile up Magical No. 2 Pencils as they are prompted from one level to the next. Competency-based-education will erase all of those annoying human variables and every learner who reaches Level Extreme will see their names glitter in on-screen pixie dust. And an 8 X 10 screen-shot of that conquering moment will become the new moving-up document.

    Middle school will usher in The Skinner Stage … when on-screen accountability and specially-tapered curricula designs will suffocate all of those aggravating teenage twitches and quirks. School magistrates will homogenize this stage of maturity so that no nail stands up … and individuality is mocked as antithetical narcissism that is thoroughly unacceptable. Creativity will be dubbed a day-dreaming activity … time-consuming musing more symptomatic of a sloth than of genius.

    High school will be The Divergent Time… when, at long last, the future of every young adult will become crystal clear. Youngsters will be endlessly nudged in this or that career pathway … justified by the overwhelming mounds of data that can be Hansel and Greteled all the way back to the days when joy was first run out of their very brand-new lives.

    And at every level, parents will lose more and more control of their children. They will be less and less invited by school authorities to take part in the joy-remembering rites of passage we all associate with growing up. And that is all by design because the very last thing these new educational absolutists want is any mother or father acting as though they have any regency at all over their own child’s education.

    Orwell yourself beyond the moment and come to terms with what awaits us all on the horizon of touch-screen scholarship. Huxley yourself into the world of tomorrow when your children will have been programmed and Plugged into lifetime situations based not on their passions but on some algorithmic prescription burped out by some electronic-ouija-motherboard.

    If you are doubting of this … and too, too many are … examine what the last half-decade has wrought. In the blink of an eye, schools have been systematically transformed, childhood recalibrated, and parents richly tattooed as adversaries. Government now dictates to the schools, and politicians have morphed into carnival barkers for every profiteer determined to get their slice of the Big Education pie.

    And all the while, half-a-generation has already endured this child-abusing gauntlet of educational malpractice as they are guinea-pigged into blazing trails in the brave new world of scholastic madness.

    And that is the great tilt. What is it you are going to do about it?

    Denis Ian

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