Thursday, July 30, 2015

Understanding School Reform Circa 2015

Gaius Publius:

First, when a "private" group's chief individuals flow back and forth constantly between government and that group, the group can be said to be "part" of government, or to have "infiltrated" government, or to have been "folded into" government. (Your phrasing will be determined by who you think is the instigator.)

For example, a network of private "security consulting" firms does standing business with the (Pentagon's) NSA, and by some accounts performs 70% of their work. Are those firms part of the NSA or not? Most would say yes, to a great degree. It's certain that the NSA would collapse without them, and many of these firms would collapse without the NSA (though many have other ... ahem, international ... clients, which starts an entirely different discussion).

As another example, the role of mega-lobbying firms as a fourth branch of government was explored here. Same idea.

In the case of the security firms, one might say they have been "folded into" government. In the case of the lobbying firms, one might say they have "infiltrated" government. I hope you notice the difference; both modes of incorporation occur.

Second, consider how in general the "world of money" and the parallel world of "friends of money" — its enablers, adjuncts, consiglieri and retainers — flow in and out of the world of government, of NGOs, of corporate boards, of foundation boards, attends Davos and the modern Yalta (YES) conference, and so on. Now consider how someone like Hillary Clinton — not money per se, though she has a chunk, but certainly a "friend of money" — ticks off most of those boxes (foundation board, corporate board, government, Davos, Yalta, and so on). There are many people like Hillary Clinton; she's just very front-and-center at the moment.

What we're about to see is the infiltration of "friends of money" into key positions in the eurozone, and in particular, the infiltration of friends of money from one huge repository of money and guardian of its perquisites — the megabank Goldman Sachs — into those governmental positions.

We've got privatization -- charters, vouchers -- and the other prong is this infiltration of private moneyed interests into government. I don't think this was the grand plan circa 1998 or something, but it's clearly where we're ending up, and it isn't just an education phenomenon.

Another Innovative Experiment!

Me, commenting:

It would be nice if we could stop saying this type of school is "experimental" or "innovative." We've been doing and undoing the same experiments and innovations in Providence high schools for about 40 years.

What David Coleman has Wrought, Globally

I was speaking this morning to someone who runs Montessori pre-schools in Africa and needs to track achievement of various Montessori tasks/activities. OK. Makes sense. Then she said, "And we're working on tying those to standards. We're using the Common Core from the US." Sure, we can do that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I'm Sure Blending Learning is Going to Work

Maciej Cegłowski:


This is the prevailing vision in Silicon Valley.

The world is just one big hot mess, an accident of history. Nothing is done as efficiently or cleverly as it could be if it were designed from scratch by California programmers. The world is a crufty legacy system crying out to be optimized.

If you have spent any time using software, you might recognize this as an appalling idea. Fixing the world with software is like giving yourself a haircut with a lawn mower. It works in theory, but there's no room for error in the implementation.

This vision holds that the Web is only a necessary first step to a brighter future. In order to fix the world with software, we have to put software hooks into people's lives. Everything must be instrumented, quantified, and networked. All devices, buildings, objects, and even our bodies must become "smart" and net-accessible.

Then we can get working on optimizing the hell out of life.

Marc Andreessen has this arresting quote, that ‘software is eating the world.’ He is happy about it. The idea is that industry after industry is going to fall at the hands of programmers who automate and rationalize it.

We started with music and publishing. Then retailing. Now we're apparently doing taxis. We're going to move a succession of industries into the cloud, and figure out how to do them better. Whether we have the right to do this, or whether it's a good idea, are academic questions that will be rendered moot by the unstoppable forces of Progress. It's a kind of software Manifest Destiny.

To achieve this vision, we must have software intermediaries in every human interaction, and in our physical environment.

But what if after software eats the world, it turns the world to shit?

Reality Check for Impatient Futurists

Doug Henwood:

Yes, it seems inevitable that someday "the end of work" will arrive, robots and computers will displace almost all workers, and we'll have to figure out what to do with the rest of us. The problem is with getting the timing right. This chart, and the rest of Doug Henwood's post, suggest that we're still not at that point yet.