Cyber ‘earning’ the big enchilada

I posted what you will read below back in 2009 but now that Verizon is joining the multi-billion dollar educational fray (http://www.dailycensored.com/2012/07/26/look-at-whos-partnering-with-verizon-to-deliver-common-core-offal/) as well as the newly created Rupert Murdoch’s ‘educational’ division headed by Joel Klein, cyber learning from K-16 and beyond is the new venture plan and has been for some time (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jun/28/news-corp-split-rupert-murdoch).

Now, the issue is the Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs where teachers will become “mediating agents” and students commodified and monetized by Wall Street and the venture capitalists.  Learning online is like losing weight online.

Interestingly, as an aside, the for-profit colleges that offer their educational products online are light years ahead of the public institutions and this is not surprising. While public institutions have to interact with people, for-profit colleges offer their products online and thus minimize the costs of labor and with it, the culture of dialogue and interaction that accompanies real education and campus life.  But they are being looked at as beacons for the move into K-12 education, even though K12, Inc. and Connections Academy (recently bought by Pearson Plc out of England) have already entered the new educational market.

 

Alas, it is Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the gluttonous billionaires like Gates, Elye Broad, the ‘Waltons’ and their ilk that are behind the whole rotten mess.

 

What many have called ‘online learning’ is now a permanent part of our educational landscape.  Many techno-handwringers have argued about the effect on student learning and rightly so. But contemporary Luddite philosophy will not erase the fact that the computer and internet will be a dominant force in learning for generations to come.

 

The real issue is not ‘technology versus no technology’, the issue is who will control the new technology, for what purposes will it be used, how will it benefit students, teachers and learning (or will it) and what will it do to both the amount of teachers employed in the nation as well as the quality and skills needed to work within a technological environment? These, and many more questions must be confronted by labor unions, students, parents and progressive policy makers and soon for the whole notion of turning education over to automation is moving faster than millionaires are to other countries.

 

Some ideas of the hideous agendas for education worked out in private retreats

 

On January 18, 2012 a statement was issued by the California Community Colleges, Chief Instructional Officers (CCCCIO) which was drafted and worked out in a clubby retreat on November 8-9, 2010 out of purview to the general public. It stated in part, regarding community colleges:

 

“1) Larger percentages of budgets are shifting to electronic resources from print. The down side is that colleges no longer own their content when they lease electronic resources, however, the benefit is the increase in resources available to students (e.g., 300 print magazines versus 20,000 in a database). 2) Reducing hours across the state, 3) Ratio of FT faculty to students decreasing” (http://www.ccccio.org/documents/CIOMinutes1-18-12final.pdf).

 

Working hand in hand with the CCCCIO is of course Bill Gates and his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; this was one of the first salvos to begin the move towards implementing contract education at community colleges in California.  It won’t be the last by any stretch of the imagination.

 

Below is a quote from the report on Gates and Skills for America’s Future:

 

“The Gates Foundation: Completion by Design

Completion by Design

“An initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to dramatically improve community college graduation rates by building on proven, existing practices to implement model pathways making the college experience more responsive to today’s student’s needs and education goals. The competitive grant program is a $35 million investment over five years to 3-5 multi-campus groups of community colleges in nine states serving the largest populations of low-income students (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington). Completion by Design supports tough-minded campus- or college-based analysis to learn where along the education journey students are being lost and to design an intentional educational pathway that employs proven and promising practices at every critical moment from enrollment to credential completion.

Skills for America’s Future

Skills for America’s Future is another new, industry-led initiative to dramatically improve industry partnerships with community colleges and build a nation-wide network to maximize workforce development strategies, job training programs, and job placement.  Skills for America’s Future will build high-impact partnerships with industry, labor unions, community colleges and other training providers in all 50 states, all in support of the President’s goal of 5 million more community college graduates and certificates by 2020 (http://www.ccccio.org/documents/November2010FederalRelationsUpdate-1.pdf).

Actually, the Skills for America Foundation is a right-wing ALEC related reactionary market ideological driven foundation that seeks to dismantle all of public education.  Take a look at its partners: http://www.skillscommission.org/?page_id=133).

The Lumina Foundation

And then there is the Lumina Foundation which is real wizard behind the curtains. The Lumina Foundation is an ALEC affiliated organization which I will have much more to comment on in the future. They are behind the insidious California AB515 that failed in California last year and that would have set up a toll-booth educational process for community college students.  This is the Lumina’s Foundation recipe for decimating education as a human endeavor and turning it into a turn-key factory to pump out low-level, low paid wage workers and it is indeed obvious when reading their literature.  Take a look at their ties to ALEC (http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Lumina_Foundation_for) for they support the reactionary, legal boiler plate factory they hope will impose contract education on the entire community college system (American Legislative Exchange Council, “Solutions for the States,” 38th Annual Meeting agenda, on file with CMD, August 3-6, 2011).

As was noted by the American Federation of Teachers Guild, local 1931 of AFT in California:

‘When Lumina joins forces with ALEC it means more than just a move toward influencing legislative policy, it means they are part of a larger network of moneyed interests pushing our country further toward plutocracy and corporate domination. That is why there is nothing about creating educated citizens for our democracy in the BOG report, because that is simply not part of their agenda. Corporate interests collaborating to impose the business model in public higher education want efficient workers trained to follow top-down orders, not critical thinkers who might question their agenda or buck up against the slow creep toward “outcomes based funding” that would serve as a Trojan horse for privatization” (http://aftguild.org/hot-topics/whos-behind-completion-a).

The Lumina Foundation is the big player behind the faux organizations that take Bill and Melinda Gates’ money like panhandlers looking for a long awaited meal.  If they get their way, no longer will community colleges serve as a right-of-passage to a contemplative life or a safe and secure geographical and educational site to gain skills, socialize with other sentient human beings, and have human contact with both learning and those learning and teaching.

No, now the community colleges will be factories for a corporate economy that continues to spiral downward to banana republic levels. Business will play the leading role, as they have already in determining what classes will be offered, to whom, why and for how long. Democracy is reserved for the elite on retreats where they formulate the misery they call education and which they foist on our children as deprivation.

Technology: the new God of Education and the public-private partnership

Technology will provide the new panoptic surveillance for the educational holding tanks called schools and will also constitute the bulk of teaching and ‘learning’.  Students will be reduced to clerks, or in the words of President Pilati of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (http://www.asccc.org/):

“Pilati concluded by updating members about a meeting at El Camino College where demonstrations were held on the use of MYEDU, which will be touted as a technology tool that will help respond to the Student Success Task Force recommendations. MYEDU is a mechanism by which students self-report their grades and courses in order for them to keep track of their progress” (approved minutes March 2nd and 3rd of 2012 (FINAL MINUTES EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEETING, June 1-2, 2012, https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:cL0_06LZQQcJ:www.asccc.org/sites/default/files/Final%2520Minutes%2520June%25202012.doc+SB+1550+and+the+Lumina+Foundation&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShcQ8Jxr2CmLTehG-fB_VUoSychBPd2zr_acH587EbPVHKBTKYaixaK8km3nN_AkSv639ZjQitmIXbpQAiEXiWXYPExJXi359Kdy3oty31Ct7OuNvJ8XmMV3XGuHl5Kvs771kLU&sig=AHIEtbQOWE8JE5Cu4Vsr4ZF6aPJriCrE6A).

 

Take a look at the California Community College former Chancellor, Jack Scott’s pathetic plea at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LfDzAH82pw when it comes to the ‘new educational plans’ that await students and the public  This is the same man who wanted to contract with for-profit Kaplan University (http://archive.truthout.org/neoliberalism-and-for-profit-predatory-educational-industry-you-cant-regulate-a-criminal-enterprise6) as a solution to lack of public funding and inaccessible classes for students at public institutions.

 

In that article, written back in September of 2010, I reported:

 

“The community colleges of the state of California, reeling from debt, entered into a memorandum of understanding this year which would have allowed students to take courses at Kaplan University, the private, online school. When the manure began to ripen, and it was discovered that the “units” would not be transferable to UC or Cal State campuses, the deal was canceled. (Larry Gordon, “Community colleges cancel deal with online Kaplan University,” Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2010)

The plan, basically contracting out education for profit, was intended in part to offer students at the state’s 112 community colleges a way to take courses that might have been canceled or overcrowded because of state budget cuts. But some faculty, concerned about getting entangled with a proprietary school, especially one like the notorious disaster college Kaplan, revolted. Kaplan, in its efforts to commodify education, planned to charge students a whopping $646 for a three-credit class, compared with $78 at a community college. Why? This is part of their business plan and how they take Title IV money (90 percent of their money comes from Title IV government monies).

Walmart recently announced a deal with the for-profit American Public University System (hardly public, the stock is traded daily on the New York Stock Exchange and is the brainchild of Jim Etter (“The Chronicle of Higher Education, Why do you think they’re called for-profit,” July 30, 2010). The “university” is better known as the American Military University, which has developed into a publicly traded, for-profit behemoth that now sucks in veterans, either those in active duty or retuning from war. The university is also the home of Larry Forness, the “professor,” who lectured students on the best means of using torture, such as injecting Muslims with pig blood (“Does the American Military University (AMU) teach torture to its students or has it taught torture in the past?” WikiLeaks, March 29, 2010). Now, with the veteran market cornered, the American Public University seeks to train nine-dollar-an-hour employees for Walmart under the auspices of higher education, using government funds and especially Title IV monies.

This is the public-private partnership you have heard such laudable stories about.  It is private, that is for sure, for the profits are privatized and it is public, insofar that it is publicly funded and subsidized but it is not publicly owned, nor are the decisions publicly made.

Ah, if it only stopped there; but it doesn’t.  According to Dean Bruner from the University of the Virginia Darden School of Business heady times lie in wait for the future of cyber ‘earning’ with even Hollywood getting into the act:

“Venture capitalists and other “smart money” are pouring into the online aggregators because higher ed looks like a replay of what happened in the music and filmed entertainment industries: disintermediate the incumbent distributors and gain rights to distribute the content that someone else paid to develop.” …

UVA MOOCs, faculty reports: “The task force, made up of 53 faculty and staff from across the university and the College at Wise, sampled nearly 200 individual online education efforts, including everything from supplemental materials to online degree programs.”

So with that in mind let us digress a bit into the past so that we can catch a glimpse of what will be a dystopic future if not arrested.

The following was posted at Daily Censored, August 15, 2010 (http://www.dailycensored.com/2010/08/15/top-of-the-world-ma-microsoft-cisco-and-intel-target-global-education-2/)

Dateline: LONDON — Jan. 13, 2009

From - The Microsoft ‘news center’, little more than a corporate rag for Bill Gates and his prevarications and low-self esteem attacks on public education. The ‘self-delusion center’ would be the best bet for such trash but this is the global economy, year 2010, and it resembles an episode of Twilight Zone.

According to Gates’ free-wheeling and self-promoting website, three leading technology companies announced January 13, 2009 they would embark on “a collaboration aimed at transforming global educational assessment and improving learning outcomes” (Cisco, Intel and Microsoft Lead Collaboration to Improve Global EducationAssessmentshttp://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2009/jan09/01-13EducationMeasurePR.mspx). Lovely, isn’t it?

At the Learning and Technology World Forum in London, Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corporation and Microsoft Corp. unveiled plans to underwrite a multi-sector research project to develop new assessment approaches, methods and technologies for measuring the success of 21st-century teaching and learning in classrooms around the world. You bet it will be heavily funded and publicly traded on stock exchanges across the world. In fact, it is already, if you haven’t noticed. This is Race to the Top on steroids.

During the January 2009 session, the three companies called upon educational leaders, governments and other corporations to join in their efforts. When Gates, Cisco and Intel ‘call upon’ someone they are really demanding compliance and servitude, the ideas of ‘choice’ and market fundamentalism. These three multi-billionaire companies and their CEO’s and major shareholders call upon no one; they demand obedience and the price one pays for not giving it is more than a twelve step program or lock down in an ICU unit.

Interestingly, at the same conference the three companies also announced the appointment of Barry McGaw, currently the director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, as executive director of the project. The corporations love supplicants that can carry water for them and McGaw will oversee an executive committee, project lead team, and up to 50 leading experts and innovators in academia and government, to collaborate on the research and assist in influencing the development of future international and national assessments. In other words he will do the bidding of the new global ruling class; assuring education is taken out of ‘education’ in the name of training and corporate reform. It’s an old card trick. This is not the first time we have seen it. Go back to the Dewey-Lippmann debates of the 1920’s and you can see the same old hammering. Mark Twain once said, “History does not repeat itself but it sure does rhyme a lot”.

According to Microsoft, with an extensive background in academia and research, McGaw has served as the director for Education at the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) where he was involved with international education assessments in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) (ibid). Are we supposed to be impressed by these lofty paid-for credentials and apprenticeships by McGaw or concerned and frightened? For my money it is the latter.

McGaw, bowing to market fundamentalism and the demands of his plutocratic handlers, smoothly stated that:

“Shrinking resources and market pressures mean that education can no longer be the sole responsibility of governments… Building the future workforce will require a commitment from the private sector to partner with public institutions. Reforming assessment is essential to enabling any systemic change in education. And change on a global scale is required to equip students of today with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce of tomorrow. PISA’s international education assessments focus on key competencies in reading, mathematics and science. In PISA 2003, we took a step by adding an assessment of problem solving, but one limited to analogical reasoning. We hoped to add information and communications technology (ICT) competence in PISA 2006 but did not succeed. We all need now to work together to advance assessment practice” (ibid).

This is all horseshit but the kind that even the best jockeys or stable cleaners can’t supply. The truth of the matter is that McGaw was selected for his salesmanship abilities and his sophistry, not for any ideas he could bring to the table. The gut wrenching fact is that McGaw brings nothing to the table; he takes it with him from the table to the toilet.

Microsoft goes on to pet themselves lovingly, stating that:

“The assessment research and development project spearheaded by Cisco, Intel and Microsoft has received the support of major international assessment organizations. Specifically, OECD and the International Association of the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) have expressed interest in using the evidence-based and verifiable output of the 21st-century skills assessment to inform the development of the next versions of PISA and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), their respective international benchmarks” (ibid).

Evidence based my ass, the only evidence we can see is the wholesale destruction of intellectualism as Gates and his corporate pals boil education down into pabulum. But it gets worse. Andreas Schleicher, head of Education Indicators and Analysis, OECD, another corporate client remarked:

“In the global economy, it is the world’s best-performing education systems, not simply improvement by national standards, that have become the yardstick for educational success,” said. “That is why more and more countries measure the relative strengths and weaknesses of their education systems with OECD’s global PISA assessments. To do so effectively, it is crucially important that these assessments continue to evolve to reflect the skills that matter for individuals and economies. Technology-based assessments will be critical to this and the project brings together key partners that can help PISA make this happen.

IEA is committed to the greater integration of IT into all its assessments, especially TIMSS and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study,” said Seamus Hegarty, chair of the IEA. “This reflects the changes in learning environments and the potential of technology to enhance the teaching and learning process. We look forward to working with the collaboration to achieve our common goals for young learners” (ibid).

As if these monsters were interested in authentic learning and authentic assessment. They are setting up a cattle feed for the destruction of the mind; obedience training centers they can celebrate as ‘learning centers’ while they heft profit, invade countries, batten down the hatches on wages, dress up servitude as freedom and bottle the whole thing as educational reform. It is enough to make one gag.

Based on extensive research conducted by the corporate prevaricators themselves, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft concluded that most education systems have not “kept pace with the dramatic changes in the economy” and the skill sets that are required for students to succeed. These skills, according to the corporations include the ability to think critically and creatively; to work cooperatively; and to adapt to the evolving use of technology in business and society.

Right, as if the values and dispositions of completive global capitalism actually pronounce or excel human values. Capitalism, as an economic system based on inequality, oppression and its acceptance, bases its morals and values on go-it-alone individualism, hand to hand competition, status seeking and narcissm, consumerism as the font for happiness – acquiring things in an attempt to make up for boring, tedious, underpaid and meaningless production, interest in the lives of the rich and famous, the ethics of material acquisition and buy, buy, buy to make one happy, as well as treating people as a means to an end in the struggle for both survival and profit. This then is the morality of capitalism and you can see it in every phase of daily life. As Marx noted, “The ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class”.

Nowhere can this be seen best than within the corridors of the minds of the Gates’ of the world, the Cisco’s and their corporate henchmen and in Intel, all monopolies of the world who mouth competition like they would a male or female organ.

The new educational ‘deform’ project will focus on, in the weasel words of Microsoft:

“several key areas that will offer the most promising opportunities for transforming education and assessment. Teams of educators and academics will focus on enabling education assessment methodologies and technologies, effective learning environments, and replicable ICT-enabled teaching and assessment methods that foster the development and assessment of the skills students will need to succeed. To accelerate the project in time to influence the next versions of PISA and TIMSS, the project will review successful classroom practices for the teaching and testing of 21st-century skills and draw implications for large-scale assessments.

Notice how these perfidious destroyers of life use terms such as ‘associate’, ‘teams’, ‘best practices’, ‘innovative assessment methods’ and the like? In their world up is down and down is up. We’ve gone down Alice’s rabbit hole and we never even noticed who was choreographing the entrance or guiding our entry.

Cisco, another large monopolist with no hunger for anything competitive let alone a ‘capitalist market’, also weighed in. Michael Stevenson, vice president of Global Education, Cisco was quick to remark:

“Cisco believes a holistic transformation of the global educational system requires a long-term, multi-stakeholder commitment from the public and private sector. We believe the collaboration between Cisco, Intel and Microsoft can serve as an impetus in creating and implementing an international assessment standard to measure skills and abilities that are critical for student success in the 21st-century (ibid).

Cisco, Intel and Microsoft are three legs of the new ‘stool’ we all are being forced to accept and sit on. Ask yourself: when was the last time these corporations ran their innovative plans by you?

Will Swope, Intel’s Vice President and general manager, of what is called the ‘Corporate Sustainability Group’, noted:

“Cisco, Intel and Microsoft each have a long commitment to global education and enabling and empowering educators. The collaboration will help us to reach our common goal of transforming education around the world. Specifically, we are aiming to resolve the gap that exists between what goes on in schools and what goes on in the real world and better measure the skills that are truly needed for the 21st-century (ibid).

Are they ‘enabling educators’ or disabling education and turning educators into at will dispensaries for the type of propaganda you are reading from them here? The shame of it all.  But don’t be dismayed. In the words of Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president for the Unlimited Potential Group, the Education Product Group, and Technology Policy and Strategy at Microsoft:

“As we continue to engage with government leaders, institutions and educators, one of the most important points that are consistently raised is the need for public and private sectors to unite in an effort to extend access to quality education, increase graduation rates and create a consistent way to measure success. Through this collaboration, we hope to inspire others to join the mission because we believe that, together, we can make greater impact towards ensuring students of today are better prepared for the workforce of tomorrow (ibid).

Collaboration, critical thinking, team work, project leaders, frosty tomorrows and all the rest: all of this would make the most educated serf cringe with delight as if s/he was receiving a suppository for the first time after a long march burdened with constipation.

The real conversation has yet to begin, people. It will though, soon. for the ‘three legs of the corporate stool’ fail to deliver an economy that can even feed people let alone sustain their for-profit visions of a new world. Like their elders whom they never learned from, they will eventually fall on their own petard and are certain to be led to the guillotines or injection gurneys for a brighter future for us all. It is simply a matter of time.

In the interim, for more information about the exciting privatized resort the corporations have in mind for the global world, you can contact Barry McGaw about getting involved in the project, bmcgaw@unimelb.edu.au . If you choose not to, then get involved in the resistance. It will be a long hot tomorrow.