Malkin’s Right: Silicon Valley’s-Beltway Ed Data Mining Has Been Ignored

Photo credit: Nick Youngson (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Writing for National Review, Michelle Malkin points out the gaping hole in Senators’ questioning of boy billionaire Mark Zuckerberg last week. The politicians vented their outrage about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, censorship of conservative content, etc., but “not a peep was heard about the Silicon Valley-Beltway theft ring purloining the personal information and browsing habits of millions of American schoolchildren.”

Few if any members of Congress, of either party, seem concerned about what Facebook and the other tech companies are doing to the nation’s children in public schools – with the active complicity of the federal government. From Malkin:

Facebook is just one of the tech giants partnering with the U.S Department of Education [USED] and schools nationwide in pursuit of student data for meddling and profit. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Pearson, Knewton, and many more are cashing in on the Big Data boondoggle. State and federal educational databases provide countless opportunities for private companies exploiting public schoolchildren subjected to annual assessments, which exploded after adoption of the tech-industry-supported Common Core “standards,” tests, and aligned texts and curricula.

Malkin recites the sorry litany of tech-based threats to our students and their privacy: the workforce-development model of education that uses student data to align kids’ learning (or rather training) to “skills” and “competencies” desired by politically connected corporations; Facebook’s partnership with USED in the federal Digital Promise program to grant adult students “microcredentials” that will benefit, coincidentally, Facebook; Facebook’s Messenger Kids app designed to hook young children on the technology; the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which seeks to “personalize” each child’s training experience by using reams of his most highly personal psycho-social data; and the scam of “free” education products that allow companies such as Google to build brand loyalty, use teachers as marketing representatives, and relentlessly compile highly personal data on each student, beginning at the toddler level, for the benefit of the companies and the government’s longitudinal data systems.

And Malkin identifies an aspect of the most recent fed-ed bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), that should shame all the “conservative” members of Congress who voted for it: 

The recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act enshrined Government collection of personally identifiable information including data collected on attitudes, values, beliefs, and dispositions – and allows release of the data to third-party contractors thanks to Obama-era loopholes carved into the Family Education (sic) Rights and Privacy Act.

Malkin didn’t uncover all this information by breaking a code or surreptitiously reviewing classified documents. Instead, she simply listened to what parent activists have publicized widely for years now. Those activists have sent the same information to members of Congress, repeatedly and relentlessly, and begged them to pay attention. 

Will anyone in Congress – and in the Trump administration — take notice?

Jane Robbins is a senior fellow with the American Principles Project. She is a graduate of Clemson University and the Harvard Law School. Emmett McGroarty is Director of Education with American Principles Project and an attorney with degrees from Georgetown University and Fordham School of Law. They, along with Erin Tuttle are co-authors of Deconstructing the Administrative State.

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.

The Big Ed Tech’s Big “Sell” Is On

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Bad decisions make bad stories.

Is anyone floored that schools are the new mother-lode for slobbering hedge-funders and tech magnates?

Big Banks, Big Pharma, Big Oil … move on … it’s Big Ed Tech’s turn.

“Silicon Valley is going all out to own America’s school computer-and-software market, projected to reach $21 billion in sales by 2020.”

Will someone wipe the drool from Bill Gates’ chin?

As the New York Times reports … “An industry has grown up around courting public-school decision makers, and tech companies are using a sophisticated playbook to reach them …”

At least they’re sadly honest.

So the “Big Sell” is on … the non-stop hawking by Silicon Valley peddlers to secure their fat slice of the ed tech pie. And these technology hyenas will do anything to tear away a larger chunk of that revenue carcass.

Their strategy? Go straight to the top.

“School leaders have become so central to sales that … private firms will now … arrange meetings for vendors with school officials, on some occasions paying superintendents as consultants.” In our lingo … they’re greasing palms.

Now for the big gulp moment …

“These marketing approaches are legal. BUT there is little … evidence … that using computers in class improves educational results.”

But let’s spend a bazillion dollars anyway!

Their techniques model those of Big Pharma … who grime up our TV time with cures for scaly skin … and limp body parts.

Aggressive tech vendors will pay for access … and create showcase venues to capture the attention of important school personnel … the ones who make purchase decisions. With your tax dollars. But you only get to watch.

It seems there are no policies governing all of this glad-handing and contract awarding. None. So they “fly school officials to speak at events and take school leaders to steak and sushi restaurants …” And you’re not invited … even though it’s your money … and your children at stake.

“Several parents said they were troubled by school officials’ getting close to the companies seeking their business …” How ballsy of them!

And where is all of this glitzy experimentation taking place? In the most desperate schools in America, of course. Because the hopeless make tragic decisions.

Baltimore has been smoothly seduced … to the tune of millions and millions … convinced that technology is the Holy Grail of education … and that Big Ed Tech gurus are the Knights Templar of modern pedagogy.

The goal is to spit and polish students just well enough to get by quality control and then … then it’s off to the bank.

What can possibly go wrong?

So the spigots are open … and the tax monies are draining into the pockets of the Silicon Valley billionaires … and American public education is now in for some nasty and inevitable disappointment.

Faculties will be rinsed free of old blood … and new, conforming teacher-bots will read from the curriculum scripts exactly as written by the Big Ed Tech gurus.

And for the last decade, half-a-generation has already endured this child-abusing gauntlet of educational malpractice as they were guinea-pigged into blazing trails in the Brave New World of scholastic madness.

And what will your tax dollars buy for you … and for your child?

Drive-thru learning centers offering kiosk-educations from a B. F. Skinner touch-screen that will supply the finger-pointers with all they need to succeed in a life of rich monotony.

What a dreadful future … and you paid for it.

Cross-posted.

 

Silicon Valley’s Influence on Public Education

The New York Times published an interesting article about how Silicon Valley companies have pushed coding into public schools.

Natasha Singer writes:

At a White House gathering of tech titans last week, Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, delivered a blunt message to President Trump on how public schools could better serve the nation’s needs. To help solve a “huge deficit in the skills that we need today,” Mr. Cook said, the government should do its part to make sure students learn computer programming.

“Coding,” Mr. Cook told the president, “should be a requirement in every public school.”

The Apple chief’s education mandate was just the latest tech company push for coding courses in schools. But even without Mr. Trump’s support, Silicon Valley is already advancing that agenda — thanks largely to the marketing prowess of Code.org, an industry-backed nonprofit group.

This push coincides with corporations’ interest in public education and a shift to a focus on workforce development to be ready for “21st-century jobs.”

Would these jobs certainly include computer programming right?

The article questions the motives behind this.

Computer science is also essential to American tech companies, which have become heavily reliant on foreign engineers. Mr. Trump’s efforts to limit immigration make Code.org’s teach-Americans-to-code agenda even more attractive to the industry.

In a few short years, Code.org has raised more than $60 million from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Salesforce, along with individual tech executives and foundations. It has helped to persuade two dozen states to change their education policies and laws, Mr. Partovi said, while creating free introductory coding lessons, called Hour of Code, which more than 100 million students worldwide have tried….

…. But Code.org’s multilevel influence machine also raises the question of whether Silicon Valley is swaying public schools to serve its own interests — in this case, its need for software engineers — with little scrutiny. “If I were a state legislator, I would certainly be wondering about motives,” said Sarah Reckhow, an assistant professor of political science at Michigan State University. “You want to see public investment in a skill set that is the skill set you need for your business?”

Public dollars to help prepare future employees for these companies. There was a time workforce development, and job training was done by the companies themselves. Now they want us to pay for it.