Monday, August 22, 2016

Videos of the Day (One Funny True and One Scary Ridiculous)

The video of the day getting a great amount of attention (and it's great that it is) is John Oliver on Last Week Tonight.  He takes on charter schools in his imitable fashion.

The main thing he does is take on both sides. Kinda.  He says he doesn't want to examine the "principle" of having charters but their "outcomes."  What he does say is that charters are in 42 states and D.C. so obviously they are here.  This is at three minutes into the program and the segment is 18 minutes long but luckily, there are many abysmal charter stories from all around the nation.

Amazing how the NAACP and Black Lives Matters have both recently come out against corporate charter schools (which are most of them) and now this from John Oliver.  The stars seem to be aligning but to see the scrambling of charter supporters to try to figure out how to say the NAACP is wrong without saying, well, they're wrong, is fun to watch.

But it's fun for about those 18 minutes until the gravity of the situation becomes clear. There are a lot of people who think they can run a public school and can't.  They are experimenting on children's lives with taxpayer dollars. It's hard to believe there are this many failures and thefts of money in so many states in the name of "choice."  And why more states aren't clamping down is something of a mystery.

Except when you understand that there's a profit motive.

As Oliver points out the many financial issues around charters, he does use an interesting phrase and says, "Take the 'l' from 'learning' and you get 'earning.'" That's quite a fortuitous thought because it brings me to my next video from the business-oriented education group, ACT Foundation.  It's called "Learning is Earning." 

I heard about this video via Diane Ravitch who put it up via another great blogger, Peter Greene, who writes Curmudgucation.  He entitled his piece, The Ledger: Lab Rat America.  He picked the right name.
First, he rightly points out how very odd this video is structured, right down to the music.  Here's how he puts it:
Oh my God. Oh my effing God.
If you want to see where Competency Based Education, data mining, the cradle to career pipeline, the gig economy, and the transformation into a master and servant class society all intersect-- boy, have I got a video for you. Spoiler alert: this is also one way that public education dies.
That's about right.

Second, he named it "Lab Rat America" but you could just as easily call it "Bitcoin for Workers." 

Basically, it would be like this.  Teachers are everywhere and everyone can be a teacher.  Anything you "learn" from just reading a book to taking a class to actual work earns you "edu-blocks."
Your Ledger account tracks everything you've ever learned in units called edublocks.
Get enough edu-blocks and you, too, can teach.  ("I'm pre-approved to teach any class I pass.")

Get edu-blocks even if you read "50 Shades of Gray."  I'm sure someone will want your "teaching" skills after reading that one.

Best of all for companies, no one really works full-time. You are hired for projects based on your edu-block stash.  Everyone is a part-time worker unless you are in management.

Who are these people producing this:
The video is courtesy of ACT Foundation and the Institute for the Future.

ACT Foundation is an offshoot of the testing folks; their goal is to reach "across organizational boundaries, sectors, and the nation, to develop strategic approaches to support working learners in their journeys toward successful careers and lives." ACT's CEO Marten Roorda is on the board of directors along with Jim Larimore, ACT's Chief Officer for the Advancement of Underserved Learners, Thomas J. Goedken, Treasurer and CFO, ACT, and Ms. Sara R. Netolicky, Secretary and General Counsel, ACT. The Foundation's founding and current executive director is Parminder J. Kassal.

Kassal used to work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the area of postsecondary success for poor kids. Before that she was a director of workforce solutions in Louisville, a senior associate at Futureworks, and a head of the consulting wing of Lucent. So, no actual background in education. Which, hey, doesn't matter, because everyone in the world is a teacher.

Institute for the Future, based in Palo Alto, is "an independent, non-profit research organization with a more than 45-year track record of helping all kinds of organizations make the futures they want." Their staff includes people from fields in the range of "the social sciences, public policy, technology, and the creative arts."
Does ACT have a plan for getting not one, but several governments to sign off and join up on the Ledger, so that the program can have access to everything, every last bit of data? Because this whole plan would seem to require that a corporation and governments join together to provide a more user-friendly computer-based surveillance state. 
Who, for instance, is going to write all the lists of all the edublocks that comprise all of the possible sorts of education one can get? I suspect the answer is "employers," because implicit in the ledger is that the only "education" or "skills" that matter are the ones that someone will pay you for. The Ledger gives employers total control over what "education" means in this (and apparently several other) countries.
Exactly what task will certify that you have acquired one hour's worth of critical thinking?
And does anybody think that this is how the children of the wealthy will be educated? Will they accept this sort of "education"? Will they accept this total violation of data privacy?
 On that last one I'll add that if we think there are inequities in our public school system now, then wait for it. Because there will be parents who have the ability to give their kids more opportunities to learn and those who don't.  Whose kid will come out better in this model?

You know the answer to that one.


Outsider said...

Before you panic, I think the ACT Foundation is focused on adult career education. It sounds like a scheme for outsourcing the corporate training department, while recognizing that 90% of job training is done not in formal classes but personally, one co-worker to another. It's more of a competitor to junior college than primary and secondary schools. If it affected SPS, it would only be in professional development for teachers, or perhaps as an alternative to Running Start.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Did you not see the video? This is not about adult career education; it's about fundamentally changing how we work.

Outsider said...


But if you read the ACT Foundation website, it's mostly what I said. The "Learning is Earning" thing is just a futuristic exercise, but rubber on the road is they are creating a certification and hiring system for Walmart. More generally, they want to apply social networking concepts to vocational education.

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