MORE EDUTECHNO BABBLE FROM BILL GATESApril 30, 2016
It's been a while since my last rant on Amairikuhn edgykayshun, and when Mr. S.D.H. shared this, I knew I had to rant some more, especially since my co-author's and my new book on Common Core, Rotten to the (Common) CoreI, is now being shipped. It seems Mr. Bill Gates is at it again, touting the wonders of technology in the classroom:
Beyond the usual innate American rebellion against anything traditional, there's an extraordinary admission here from Mr. Gates, as indicated by the euphemistic title of the article itself: Educational technology, i.e., all those online textbooks, standardized "computerized" tests, and individually adaptive programs and assessments, have "under achieved." For those unfamiliar with edubabble's euphemisms, this "under achievement" means that the observed results have fallen short of the promised goals, goals often painted in the rainbow colors of a bright and sunny future for education if only we would adopt more technology. Country simple, "under achieving" is a euphemism for failure.
But, according to the article, all we need is more time, more money, more continuing education and "professional development" training for teachers, and more fine tuning:
In K-12, the way products are selected and how money is budgeted “has to change,” and more funds need to be freed up for professional development, he said. Last November, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it will invest some $34 million in cooperative initiatives designed to improve teacher-preparation programs’ overall effectiveness. (The Gates Foundation helps support some coverage in Education Week.)
(There's the more training and money...)
While teachers’ limited access to digital learning devices has held back progress in teachers’ use of ed tech in recent years, these issues are starting to diminish, Gates said.
Schools need to see some examples of products that are clearly so successful that districts are willing to spend for them, “but I’d say we’re pretty early in that process,” he said.
And again, there's the "more money," and implicit throughout all this is the "we need more time".
You'll have noticed an implicit bias in the article, and I am bold to suggest that this bias is part and parcel of the pattern we've seen in Amairikuhn edgykayshun for the past century (and more): the focus on methods rather than content, the focus on pedagogy and psychology rather than academic content and competency both in students and in teachers. The key here is this passage:
Another instructional model, the work of New Classrooms, personalizes middle school math in a way that Gates said is “far more engaging than a typical textbook.” He invited attendees to visit it because it’s a model that “represents the future not only of math, but a number of subjects.”
For literacy, he said he favors products like ThinkCERCA that “meets kids where they are” and helps them with writing.
You'll note that "personalizing math" and literacy, for Mr. Gates, is all about products rather than teachers and content. Lest this point be misunderstood, it needs to be stated baldly and nakedly: no computerized software program or standardized assessment process, even one claiming to be "individually adaptive" such as the Common Core assessment process, can replace the human element and assessment that only a human teacher can provide. Moreover, not all information is to be found in computer databases or the internet. Much of it is in libraries, books, and card catalogs.
As Mr. Lawrence and I attempt to point out in our Rotten to the (Common) Core book, what the current fad towards more technology, more computerized tests, more e-books really represents is not an attempt to improve education. It is really about the introduction of a system of governance and surveillance, and the installation of even more draconian methods of gatekeeping, of enforcing standard and elite-approved narratives, than anything else. Decades of standardized testing and progressive methods have not produced a more literate nor a more intelligent population. The result has arguably been quite the reverse. Mr. Gates does not even attempt to argue the case; he simply assumes that the results are in, and presses blindly on.
Mr. Gates wants more of it: more tests, more computers, more "professional development."
To paraphrase Albert Einstein, insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again, and to expect different results.
The bottom line here is that Mr. Gates is advocating an insane policy, for he wants to ensure that parents and classroom teachers have even less say over the content and assessment process than they do now. Couple all of this with the ebook textbook, which will allow "individually adaptive texts", and you get the idea. It's about controlling information, about controlling the narrative, and making damned sure everyone agrees with it, and him.
Mr. Gates personifies the billionaire busybodies we wrote about in our book, for he has no real solutions, nor, do I suspect that he really wants them. He, like the Educational Testing Service and so many other corporations in the edugarchy, only want to feed at the trough of taxpayer money. All Mr. Gates and the Common Core advocates can offer us is more of the same ersatz edubabble that we've been feeding off of for decades. More time, more money, more technology, more classroom hours, more homework... more more more. And the results will be the same: declining standards, fewer competent teachers in their disciplines (but they will be tremendously competent in the latest educational methodological fad).
As for me, I remain a curmudgeon: personalized learning sounds fine in theory, but all too often degenerates into personalized truth, and with it, a complete collapse in academic standards and content. The result is a dumbed down population, and even a dumbed down "elite," and this too, I suspect, has been the goal all along.
The result of all of this - of the machinations of the billionaire busybodies and the corporate edugarchy that has been ruining education for decades - will be an underground education system, a system with real and competent teachers and professors, using real books, demanding real scholarship and effort, while the governmentally and corporately approved system continues to wallow in its own mediocrity.
See you on the flip side...