Archive for February, 2017

 

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The privatizers are busy at work. Unless you live under a rock (a tempting thought lately…) you probably feel like I do every time you turn on the news; the sensation of riding the Tilt a Whirl while taking ‘shrooms. It’s exhausting at best, and terrifying at worst; trying to untangle what is happening around us. Take Devos and her anti-Grizzly platform as the prime example of current insanity.

The most recent effort toward destroying public ed comes in the form of the Choices in Education Act of 2017. I live in Maryland along with Andy Harris (R) who is co-sponsor of this bill. (lucky me).

Many activists fighting against education reform are already on top of pushing back and calling for action against this bill, as well they (and we) should be. Like many of my friends and colleagues I am also strongly opposed to a voucher system for school funding and this bill.

But beyond an effort to reject this bill, I wonder —  what is the goal of the long game? and dare i ask …how much of a difference would this bill make whether it passed or not? I know that sounds jaded. The bill is a total shit shop. But let’s zoom out.

Take a deep examination of the larger chess board.

The agenda set forth in this Choice bill can be found in other iterations within the fine print of ESSA, a bill crafted by Lamar Alexander. which many public education advocates supported (I did not). I did not support ESSA because, despite all of its nice sounding promises, the devil was (as always) in the details. ESSA, like Choices in Education Act opens the flood gates for vouchers, charters, and other forms of privatization. So while I do oppose the Choices in Education bill…. We need to be fighting a much bigger game.

We cannot win this fight by shooting down every single bill they throw at us, because they have endless money, resources, and legal power to keep ‘em coming. How many letters and calls to representatives who are likely already sold out can we make? They could win simply by exhausting us… by having us chase every single bill they peel off the ALEC playbook. I suggest that we pause and zoom out and take a long look at what is to come and develop a long game strategy above and beyond our short game battles.

For example, the alt right agenda from Breitbart also opposes the Choices in Education bill.

You know you’re down the rabbit hole (as a progressive “leftist”) when are you are opposing the same bill as them! Breitbart folks are opposed to the governmental oversight (strings attached) of school choice that come with this bill. Conversely, progressive advocates for public education oppose this bill because it opens the flood gates for vouchers which are harmful to the support needed for public schools. So in swatting down this bill….do we win? Or, does the alt right? Can we both win at the same time when we want such dramatically different things?

This Choices bill both opens the portal for greater voucher schemes, yet keeps those religious and private institutions on a tighter leash of accountability. That’s the funny thing about words like accountability—it’s a double edged sword. If you are a left-leaning person, you might wish to see greater accountability for religious, charter, and other private institutions who want to replace science with creationism and engage in all types of exclusionary practices. We like accountability when it is in the name of ensuring equity of resources or quality. But accountability is a fickle creature-it turns on us and becomes NCLB and high stakes testing. So we find that the things in themselves are only as good or as bad, or something we support or not, to the extent to which they serve us and our interests.

Betsy Devos is a train crash. But the groundwork to privatize public education was laid well in advance of her hair- brained appointment. (30 years by my estimate). It was laid by a TWO party system.  As Glen Ford of The Black Agenda Report  says, “In their zeal to confront and delegitimize Donald Trump, the Democrats primp and posture as if in genuine opposition to President Cheeto’s governance-by-billionaires. But, charter school privatization, like U.S. wars, is a project of both wings of the ruling class duopoly.”

So we have been punched in the face by the likes of Devos and a corporate conservative agenda, but we have also been stabbed in the back by the pseudo-liberal Democrat efforts to roll out a “kids-for-profit” plan under the guise of “civil rights.” The tinder was laid. Betsy just needs to light the match.

Look at the long game. Whether we swat down every bullshit bill Devos or other representatives of ALEC put forward or not, the dismantling of public education might go on while we are otherwise distracted. The tentacles of a corporate agenda are so deeply baked into our public schools. Competency Based Education (CBE) does exactly the same thing that charters do- it puts public monies into private hands, and allows private interests to determine the educational outcomes for children. 

So the opposite of charter schools is no longer simply traditional “public” schools as they are now (infused with outsourced curriculum and assessments). ESSA both supports the open-faced goal of supporting more charters but it also promotes the close-faced goals of privatization under the guise of “public.” The corporate agenda has cornered the market in every conceivable direction.

They strategize by looking at the long game. So should we.

What do we want?

We can play whack-a-mole and knock out every bill they drop into the chute. But we need more. We need to clearly focus on what it is we want, and see how the corporate reformers play this game. Not only through blatant affronts to democracy via vouchers, but also through bait-and-switch, and through high jacked narratives (as was done once upon a time with testing and charters sold to us in the name of equity, though now we are largely wise to that game—we need to remember that tactic and learn from it).

ESSA and this Choice Act both are set up to deliver the same outcome.

They only look different from the outside, but read the details: philanthropic control via community schools (or) vouchers, pay-for-success, predictive analytics, online corporate outsourcing….they all lead to the same end. ESSA supporters promised that this policy would relieve us of the burden of annual standardized testing, but instead we got every day online assessments. Different delivery system-same outcome-corporate ownership of profits, curriculum and student data.

We need to focus efforts on the long game and see how deeply intricate the connections are intertwined. They exist beyond party partisan politics and plays on language (what’s the difference between “grit” and endorsement of socially/affective learning? Nothing…except a few vowels…and the child’s skin color). Forget the names – they are designed to sound good, like “personalized learning“:…. and look at the details. Are community schools truly community schools? Sometimes… but not always, and increasingly less so as privatizers have learned how to insert themselves like an odorless gas that cannot be detected in a house ready to explode.

What does “public” in public education mean? What constitutes its definition and purpose?

Historically, public education has failed to deliver on its promise for ALL children. Historically, many of the roots of public education are rooted in a neoliberal goal to manage the poor, the disenfranchised, the immigrants, the newly-freed enslaved and indigenous peoples. It’s not a noble history. But public schools retain a noble promise. And now we are faced with their dissolution. Public education SHOULD mean:  democratic, equitable, student-empowerment, freedom from corporate overlords, accessible, sustainable, community supported, anti-racist education for all children in support of the communities in which they live.

I believe this is possible -and the alternative unimaginable.

Although, apparently it’s not unimaginable to certain representatives crafting legislation to abolish the US. Dept of Education. How is this not on the radar of every proponent for public education as we speak?

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/2/7/1631034/-GOP-Bill-to-Eliminate-the-Department-of-Education 

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The psy ops tactics used to get Donald Trump elected to the U.S. Presidency (still having gag reflex) are the same ones being used in public schools, using children as their “data” source. Given the power they had on influencing the electorate, imagine what they could do with 12 years of public school data collected on your child.

What data? And how was it used?

A psychologist named Michael Kosinski (see full report) from Cambridge developed a method to analyze Facebook members, using the cute little personality quizzes or games. What started as a fun experiment resulted with the largest data set combining psychometric scores with Facebook profiles ever to be collected. Dr. Kosinski is a leading expert in psychometrics, a data-driven sub-branch of psychology. His work is grounded on the Five Factors of Personality theory which include something called OCEAN: openness, conscientiousnessextraversionagreeableness, and neuroticism.

So many people volunteered their personal information to play these games and take these quizzes that before long Kosinski had volumes of data from which he could now predict all sorts of things about the attitudes and behaviors of these individuals. He applied the Five Factors (Big Five Theory) model (well-known in psychometric circles) and developed a system by which he could predict very personal and detailed behaviors of individuals on a level deeper than had been accessed by prior models or systems.

Enter Cambridge Analytica (CA),  a company connected to a British firm called SCL Group, which provides governments, political groups and companies around the world with services ranging from military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting. CA indirectly acquired Kosinksi’s model and method for his MyPersonality database without his consent.

Then, CA was hired by the Trump team to provide “dark advertising” that would sway undecided people toward a Trump vote. CA was able to access this data to search for specific profiles: “all anxious fathers, all angry introverts, for example—or maybe even all undecided Democrats.” See motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/big-data-cambridge-analytica-brexit-trump

Steve Bannon sits on the board for Cambridge Analytica.

“We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump’s extraordinary win,” Alexander James Ashburner Nix was quoted as saying.  According to Motherboard, “His company wasn’t just integral to Trump’s online campaign, but to the UK’s Brexit campaign as well.” In Nix’s own words, it worked like this: “At Cambridge,” he said, “we were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America.”

The report continues, “according to Nix, the success of Cambridge Analytica’s marketing is based on a combination of three elements: behavioral science using the OCEAN Model, Big Data analysis, and ad targeting. Ad targeting is personalized advertising, aligned as accurately as possible to the personality of an individual consumer.” Then these same consumers receive “dark posts”-or, advertisements specifically devised for them, and that cannot be viewed by anyone else other than that person.

Where did the Big Five Theory come from?

Dr. Raymond Cattell is regaled in Western culture for his so called notable contributions to the field of intelligence assessment (IQ and personality work). Despite his direct and profound relationship to the eugenics movement and his recognition by the Nazi Party for the birth of The Beyondists, his work is benignly promoted in scholarly circles. But the fact that he is professionally legitimized does not make him any less the racist he was. And his contributions toward racist practices live on. He has two notable theories of personality development and measurement entitled The Big Five Theory and the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF).

The way that OCEANS Five Factors personality data from our students can be used:

The recent trend toward a “grit narrative,” hailed by Angela Duckworth and others, has been gobbled up by school districts around the country. The OCEANS model is used widely by schools and other institutions internationally.

“The grit measure has been compared to the Big Five personality model, which are a group of broad personality dimensions consisting of openness to experience (aka openness), conscientiousnessextraversionagreeableness, and neuroticism.”

(citation: Cattell, R. B.; Marshall, MB; Georgiades, S (1957). “Personality and motivation: Structure and measurement”. Journal of Personality Disorders19 (1): 53–67. doi:10.1521/pedi.19.1.53.62180PMID 15899720.

There is a growing emphasis on the “affective” learning of students.  Some examples include: “ETS’ SuccessNavigator assessment and ACT’s Engage College Domains and Scales Overview … the broader domains in these models are tied to those areas of the big five personality theory.”

Also see Empirical identification of the major facets of Conscientiousness 

While “grit” has been exposed for the racist narrative it is, it’s also a direct by-product of the same OCEANS framework used to control, predict and manipulate voters. If this data can sway major national elections and change the global trajectory of history, imagine what such data, gathered on children, day after day, year after year, could yield for corporations and government interests.

Watch the video from Jesse Schell, gaming CEO, to see exactly where this can go.  As Schell says “your shopping data is a goldmine” and it’s only a matter of time before gaming companies and gaming behavior interface with our daily consumer and behavioral choices. You can get points for simply brushing your teeth long enough when product brands partner with gaming systems.”

We now have, thanks to perpetual assessments of children’s knowledge affective “grit” or personality, “the concept of the ‘preemptive personality,” the endlessly profiled and guided subject who is shunted into recalculated futures in a system that could be characterized as digital predestination.”

The role of education technology (aka “personalized learning”):

According to a report entitled Networks of Control: “Jennifer Whitson (2013) argues that today’s technology-based practices of gamification are ‘rooted in surveillance’ because they provide ‘real-time feedback about users’ actions by amassing large quantities of data’. According to her, gamification is ‘reliant on quantification’, on ‘monitoring users’ everyday lives to measure and quantify their activities’. Gamification practices based on data collection and quantification are ‘leveraging surveillance to evoke behavior change’ … While self-quantification promises to “make daily practices more fulfilling and fun” by adopting ‘incentivization and pleasure rather than risk and fear to shape desired behaviours’, it also became ‘a new driving logic in the technological expansion and public acceptance of surveillance’.

(See Wrenching The Gears for more readings on this issue)