My Response to the New York Times’ Google Article: What They left Out. A Lot!

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Dear New York Times,

I know that there’s a greater chance of me winning the lottery than there is in you actually publishing what I have to say in an Op Ed. So let’s pretend for a moment this response is actually IN the New York Times and not my little blog, and that millions of readers. the people who actually need to hear this stuff, will become aware of the facts the author, Ms. Singer,  so carefully avoided in her piece “How Google Took Over the Classroom.”  It read like a blatant “paid for by friend of Google” advertisement, because unlike a serious piece of journalism, this multi-page journey into the fairy tale between schools and the tech industry, carefully left out research from the medical profession (pediatricians) or data on whether or not the technological dominance in classrooms is actually GOOD for students.

As Susan Ohanian put it in a recent tweet, the article should have been called “Public schools pay Google $30 per device to train kids to love Google.”

We know these new tech-school partnerships have been great for the tech industry. The NYT article crows about how Google, not educators, are now dominating the conversation over what should be taught in the class and how. Think about that. Tech moguls are dictating what and how children should learn, not educators, nor child development specialists. And their conclusions conveniently seem to benefit their own corporations. What an amazing coincidence that is.

Yes. It’s the 21st century. Yes, computers and tech dominate the future of labor and industry. Yes, both my children own tablets or i-phones. But using something is different than having the industry dominate our children’s waking hours out of (and now) inside of school which adds up to about 10 hours a day, five days a week, from kindergarten through ….adulthood? Reams of private information and data being siphoned out of children along the way to suite private corporate interests, half of which parents are completely unaware of. The one minor blip of critique the NYT article offers regarding student privacy is miraculously resolved in one line about how Google aligns its contracts with schools with FERPA. Phew. That’s resolved! Except that FERPA was carefully revised to open the floodgates for corporate mining of student data, and with ESSA, now promoting policies that allow third party privately managed companies to become LEA’s, well the protection of FERPA for a child’s rights and privacy as a water balloon would be in a gun fight.


So — to my readers. Let’s please do the job New York Times is unwilling to do. Call them on this bullshit and make sure that parents, teachers, students and concerned citizens have all the facts when deciding about who should “own the future” of our children’s education.

First of all, start reading informed researched pieces like every single post by Alison McDowell at in Wrench the Gears to get an honest appraisal of what the tech industry really has in store for our children.

Second, pass along these points about Google (or any tech) dominating education, to consider as well:

  • Increased risks of obesity-increased seat time
  • Reduction of opportunities to engage with multiple learning styles: kinesthetic, social, verbal, environmental…all reduced to visual screen time.
  • Loss of socialization and development of social cuing.

“You can’t learn nonverbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication,” said Yalda Uhls, a senior researcher with UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center, in a news release. “If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills.” Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions, according to new research out of the University of California, Los Angeles.

  • Damage to eyes, hands/wrists, and neck.

One report states “Children can develop pain in their fingers and wrists, narrowed blood vessels in their eyes (the long-term consequences of which are unknown), and neck and back pain from being slumped over their phones, tablets and computers.”

  • Loss of data privacy = online platforms delivered to third party organizations who track every response and behavior your child makes in their learning process. Every bit tracked and monitored and managed.
  • Increases ADHD-like symptoms.  Some experts believe that “Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.”
  • An adrenaline driven mentality to learning (like addiction). As one psychologist’s research findings prove, “As a practitioner, I observe that many of the children I see suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyper-aroused nervous system, regardless of diagnosis—what I call electronic screen syndrome.These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention…excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties.”
  • The monies spent on new devises is often wasted. What could have gone to building materials, hiring staff, or other supports, millions are wasted (See LAUSD) on devices that wind up creating more problems than solutions. That’s our tax payer dollars going to fund billionaire corporations instead of a new playground or library books.

And ask yourself, why isn’t the New York Times willing to put the interests of children before those of corporations?


Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

8 thoughts on “My Response to the New York Times’ Google Article: What They left Out. A Lot!

  1. I am profoundly disappointed that you took this opportunity to challenge the NYT in this particular way. A NYT TECHNOLOGY (!) reporter just put a spotlight on the issue in a huge way, if even a beginning. Moreover, despite our very strong arguments against PL and CBE, etc., there ARE opposing views, and I think that the NYT did a great job balancing the story. And they also hit on some of the most important parts that most people miss: 1) the fact that the equity argument is used (disingenuously) to push this through, 2) that public school employees are being used as sort of walking advertisements and enthusiastic endorsers (and sometimes hired as consultants) for other districts; and 3) that a Google exec stated that if Google could basically get Chicago Public Schools to bite the bait, then pretty much any other school system would be a shoo in!!! (<– THAT should be alarming to not just CPS, but to everyone!) I feel that taunting them with an opposing blog post in this way, was really unwise. While you have a tremendous amount of solid and well researched material and respect, I feel that your discontent with the NYT's apparent 'holes in the story' would have been much better served by informing them of your research after acknowledging that they did a story on it at all. Another angle could have been a blog post that elaborated on points in their story. The LAST THING WE NEED is for yet another major news source to turn a blind eye to all of the countless hours of time and research invested by parents/teachers/experts across the country. We cannot be so rigid as to not be able to tolerate anything but our own well researched bullet points. I know that your research is honest and broad and even accurate, but shutting down an enormous megaphone that may not have the same vantage point (and depth and breadth of detailed research on PL and CBE and 1:1 initiatives) as you, I believe to be a significant error. You have a very specific specialization and a great deal of knowledge on particular points of this 1:1 disaster. The article was not about the most scary parts of this school tech initiatives, but it was an opening and expose' on some of the aspects of it that are happening. I say this respectfully, of course: Please consider keeping the informative parts of your message in this post, while perhaps changing your approach in delivering it. I feel that this approach hurts us all in the long run.

  2. I took the NYT’s balanced and well-researched article in a completely different way – to me it exposed Google’s “playbook” on how to Googlify any public school system and create customers for life when they prey upon young children, who have no say in the matter – it’s insidious.

  3. Another winner, Morna! It’s important for the mainstream media to be held to the highest of standards of reporting, if they want us to continue to hold them in the highest of esteem, especially during this rather unique time in our history, when it is paramount that the communicators of the world speak the truth from the very cores of our solar plexi.

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