Data Collecting Until Every Last Movement is One Giant White Paper Reaching to the Moon

When the Coders come  marching home again,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give them a hearty welcome then
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The unemployed men will cheer and the boys and girls will Tweet
The ladies they will all turn on their apps
And we’ll all feel gay and dead when the Coders  come marching home.

Data-data-data-. Big data. How many ways to study, self-correct, study, crunch numbers, survey, monkey-around with more data, report data, white paper the things, have conferences, daily meetings on data, and new ways to collect data. Oh, the Coders are doing their job, helping the Administrative Class and the Gates Foundation and all those Silicon Valley pukes continue on with their jobs. Amazon-dot-com us into data pools. Collect-collect-collect until the world burns.

Or jobs end up pooled up in data-data, and those Coders perfect that “on-line holograms for hire, nurturing, teaching” pogrom of intellectual violence, the big brother and sis’ in the screen. Hell, more time for downloading and watching four seasons of Breaking Wind-Bad on that little-itty-bitty screen in the sweaty palm of the partially-employed hand. “You’ll have to peel that hot little iPhone from my rigor mortis stiff hand, suckah.”

To be honest, I have been doing this Higher Education thing for centuries, or at least the number of realigning, common cores, certifications, five and seven year strategic plans that I have had to face and be a part of, well, we do big data well, when the politicians and chancellors and education boards and superintendents continue to cut-cut-cut, mutilate-dumbdown-outsource education, and now it’s PK12, too,  into a shell of anything worthy of being called — bears repeating here: paideia – well, we are cooked! Because without thinkers, without fighters, without history and education and skills, without the liberal arts, without some foundation for ALL to be educated, in school and out of it, in college or just plain old high school, we are, again, cooked.

Speaking of paideia . . . .

” Cornel West praises Occupy Seattle movement at Green River Community College”

by: Paul K. Haeder , Contributing Writer

 

 Photo by: Jon Williams , Arts Editor

Princeton professor, author and activist Cornel West urged the 300 people who gathered for his Nov. 16 talk at Green River Community College to go beyond getting credentialed and pursue a “deep education.”

It would not be easy, he warned his audience, about half of them students: “In the process of being educated you have to learn how to die in order to live.”

Drawing on Plato and Malcom X, West said the death process is part of real education—paideia—a concept developed by Socrates that means deep, critical thinking.

It is the antithesis of contemporary culture: “The problem in American society is we are a culture of death-denying, death-dodging… a joyless culture where pleasure-seeking replaces what it means to be human.”

Fresh from a trip to Occupy Seattle earlier in the day, West praised the movement, which he said represents “a deep democratic awakening where people are finding the courage to find their voice.”

Greed has corroded society, he said.

“Market moralities and mentalities—fueled by economic imperatives to make a profit at nearly any cost—yield unprecedented levels of loneliness, isolation and sadness. Our public life lies in shambles, shot through with icy cynicism and paralyzing pessimism. To put it bluntly, beneath the record-breaking stock markets on Wall Street and bipartisan budget-balancing deals in the White House, lurk ominous clouds of despair across this nation.”

West said that in this age of fear, economic instability and employment challenges, young people must learn “to have a love of wisdom, love of your neighbors and love of justice.”

Such love, embedded in our cultural and social justice traditions, is powerful, he said.

“That Coltrane love, that subversive love. It’s there in the Occupy Wall Street movement. … When it’s organized and mobilized, love is a threat.”

Well, the entire force behind the adjunct movement now, it seems, is to align with precarious workers, sub-living wage people, us, the masses. Forget about the regents and the tenured track bastards of the elite-thinking bourgeois who hobble their students with the same old tired junk. Forget about the study and books and blogs and continuous re-examination, and organizations, and conferences. Forget about all that as agents of change. Sure, they have their place as little steps in the 12-step program for change — getting rid of capitalism as it is now protected by political and corporate interest.

Here’s my take on a recent article in the bloody thing called, Inside Higher Education.  It’s really a flabby thing, this on-line news (sic) thing around higher education. Trite, goofy, and, well, not an adjunct’s friend.

RE:  “Adjunct Inequities”  Jack Longmate and Keith Hoeller

Jack Longmate and Keith Hoeller are members of the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association. Longmate teaches English at Olympic College and Hoeller teaches philosophy at Green River Community College. Both are contributors to Equality for Contingent Faculty: Overcoming the Two-Tier System, edited by Keith Hoeller, forthcoming with Vanderbilt University Press (January, 2014).

I know Keith and Jack, and so kudos to them for moving along in the incremental world of academia. Unfortunately, we are missing the boat Big Time. Start talking to and activating around brethren in the PK12 ranks. Take a hard look at what teachers in public schools face, and what the administrators — V-Principal, Principal, Superintendents — dish out. Now, for a personal view, many-many special educators work 14 hour days. They have administrators making $80 to $100K a year staying after hours, and expecting their $42K a year workers to stay too. Many will burn out, and they are the GOOD teachers. So much is wrong with administrators in public education — and the mayors love the take-overs of school by hedge funders, Pearson Publishing, and the like. The same is happening in higher education.

But that’s not the only issue here. It’s the movement toward a common core written by Pearson, Gates, and others in the privatizing movement, a common core that lobotomizes youth; it’s the shuttering of schools vital to communities — i.e. people, parents, and all those that count on something more than a fast-food career, mush media and the magic of the market to bear whatever it can to pay people squat; it’s the constant drum beat that teachers can’t organize, but every Tom, Dick and Harry in every sort of business or industry can through trade associations, lobbies, PACS, and ALEC type outfits.

This disconnect to the students coming into the college classroom of those like me who are adjunct instructors, well, that is one massive tsunami about to hit anything around higher education, PT or FT: these children are now being forced into an i-Pad world, one where on-line muck is shoveled at them, and they are ready to accept a world where bricks and mortar classrooms and schools are a thing of the past. You think they are going to be ready-made college students willing to sit through a class with a live teacher, as in US, the majority, adjuncts? Don’t count on it, and look at the wave after wave of on-line-distance learning (sic) courses that have no community basis in the schools where they are offered many times. Someone in California teaching a class piped in through Canvas in Seattle. I kid you not.

How is that working out, the union thing, the adjunct thing, as we are more and more disconnected from each other?

So, while WE should strike, and we should have put the unions on notice to go from the base up, not the other way around; and we should have coalesced around what is good for student, community and teacher, what we have done is create an industry of more and more studies, more and more laments, more and more books on the fall of the faculty, the fault-lines of higher education, the felonies of the Admin Class. Study-after-study-after-listserve-after-blog-after-conference-after-controlled opposition we dance toward our graves, or the graves of sane higher education for ALL.

Look at the comments below, under Maria’s. You think that is an aberration? Those are the very riveted gauntlets that need to be disassembled and turned into under girders for more classrooms, more teachers, fewer tests, fewer studies, fewer administrators, more parental involvement, more governors and two-bit pols being taken to task.

The amoral minds that think we can just scamper away and find full-time, real work, how do we break into that NPR-Fox News-Wall Street Journal frame? What the market will bear — oh right, the market that is rigged, that is inhumane, that is bought and sold by the politicians who have never looked a tax-loophole and tax-giveway to the rich and corporate class in the mouth.

Until adjunct faculty can finally connect to the other precarious workers, the others exploited into part-time work, into cobbling together work in big and small cities, and until we have a front to neuter the nasty Libertarian thought apes, or the ones who have so many insights into capitalism and markets and economic for the rich, well, we have more books to consider. As an adjunct, well, no chance in hell of purchasing the new Vanderbilt Press book edited by Keith. And, to make the point, even in liberal Portland, Oregon, the entire county library system has two copies of Diane Ravitch’s new book, so I doubt that Multnomah County will be buying up a $100 or $200 University Press hardback on adjunct stories anytime soon.

Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools

I have a sneaking suspicion that those of us who have been fighting administrators and politicians and the like, including FT faculty and deans and department heads, well, we can sort of write the book these fine fellows will be heralding in next year. Best of luck.

Ravitch, in a Washington Post interview:

So there are two elements in “Reign of Error” that, in my humble opinion, are game-changers. First, I assembled documentation from the website of the U.S. Department of Education to demonstrate that the central narrative of the corporate reform crowd is wrong. Contrary to what we have heard from Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and others, American public education is not failing. In fact, test scores have never been higher for white students, black students, Hispanic students, and Asian students. Graduation rates are not falling. In fact, they have never been higher for white students, black students, Hispanic students, and Asian students. Similarly, for all of these groups, the dropout rate is the lowest ever in our history. Instead of celebrating the progress of our public schools, we have a movement dedicated to tearing them down.

The second game-changer is that the book contains a dozen proposals to improve the lives of children that are based on solid research, not on theory or hunches or hopes.

Q) What does the “hoax of the privatization movement” mean? And please explain what corporate education reform means.

A) The central hoax of the privatization movement is that our public schools are failing. They are not, for all the reasons stated above. Then there is the hoax of [president George Bush's] No Child Left Behind. NCLB has been a failure; plenty of children are still left behind. [President Obama's] Race to the Top is a hoax. It offered billions of dollars to incentivize states to engage in activities for which there is no research or evidence, like evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students. RTTT is hardly different from NCLB, and it demoralizes educators while encouraging the establishment of more privately managed schools. Replacing experienced teachers with young college graduates who have five weeks of training is a hoax. Pouring billions into testing instead of addressing the needs of children is a hoax. And the biggest hoax of the privatization movement by far is that replacing our nation’s public schools with vouchers and charters is the “civil rights issue of our time.”

I am referring to their piece, here:

“Adjunct Inequities”

For the layperson, the solution to the problem of low wages for part-time workers might be simple: a full-time job. But for part-time professors in U.S. post-secondary education, the hopes of landing a full-time job can be about as remote as winning the lottery — especially in disciplines where part-timers outnumber their tenured full-time colleagues.

The layperson might also assume that full-time professors and their unions naturally favor equal pay since their jobs could be undercut by cheaper part-timers. But in the case of tenured faculty, their full-time jobs are guaranteed by tenure and thus they have little to gain from equal pay for part-timers. The fact that full-time faculty are tenured and are paid more per course has given rise to the elitist notion that full-time faculty are superior and more deserving.

And that in turn affects consideration of proposed legislation like California’s AB 950 (which was proposed this year), which would protect the ability of full-timers to teach up to 150 percent of full-time while depriving part-timers of the chance to teach those sections. Often seen as an entitlement by the full-timers, faculty overtime has caused disputes; in Wisconsin, an American Federation of Teachers part-time union challenged its AFT full-time counterpart. But inequities go far beyond overtime pay. For faculty and administration, it may take exposure to the egalitarianism of a system like Vancouver Community College’s in British Columbia — where part-timers have equal pay, equal work, and job security — to realize how internalized notions of full-time faculty elitism are manifest in U.S. higher education:

Disguised Low Pay

Not only are professors off the tenure track paid at a much lower rate — in violation of the principle of equal pay for equal work — their low wages are rarely disclosed in a forthright manner. The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, for example, has long reported “part-time” faculty salaries as a percentage of what “full-time” faculty earn, as 60 percent of the average full-time faculty salary of $58,000, or $34,500 a year, which to the layman would seem a reasonably handsome average income for “part-time” work.

But a note in the same board report explains that $34,500 is not actual but hypothetical earnings — what a part-timer would earn if he or she taught full-time. A more realistic average part-time faculty workload would be half-time, which would yield $17,400 a year, which is below the 2013 federal poverty level of $19,530 for a family of three. Indeed, since part-time faculty are not allowed to work full-time, reporting their income as if they were full-time is misleading.

Lack of Raises for Experience and Professional Development

Many full-time faculty are granted automatic step raises in recognition of experience/promotion in rank and professional development, but not most part-timers. In Washington State, from 1999 to 2004, 90 percent of all appropriations for salary step increments went to the full-timers (who represented only one-third of the faculty), which contributed to the state’s current biennial disparity of over $115 million between part-time and full-time faculty salaries.

Smaller Raises and Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs)

Bargained pay raises and cost of living adjustments are routinely calculated on an equal percentage basis for the part-time and full-time faculty. But since part-time salaries are lower, their pay raises and COLAs are lower too, which also contributes to increasing the pay disparity.

Workload Limitations or Caps

Few people are aware of the limitation on non-tenured faculty workload, often called “caps,” which prohibit non-tenured faculty from working full-time and from qualifying for tenure.

Rather than pressuring institutions to create more full-time positions, caps have encouraged an “easy come, easy go” approach to using cheaper contingents who can be hired or laid off at will and who have become the majority of faculty.

In California, a part-time faculty member’s workload within a community college district is now capped at only 67 percent of full-time; this restriction is set by state law, section 87482.5 of the California Ed. Code. But whether 60 percent, 67 percent, or some other percentage short of full-time, this limited workload means hardship for many of California’s 38,000 part-time professors who teach in the state’s 72 college districts, especially given the discounted part-time rate of pay.

Overtime for Full-Time Faculty

The cap, however, does not apply to the system’s 14,000 full-time faculty. Full-timers not only have a guaranteed full-time teaching load, they have the right to teach overtime if they desire. Full-time faculty are allowed to select their classes, including overtime assignments, before the remaining classes are offered to part-time faculty.

In Washington State, these “overloads” make up 13 percent of all full-time instruction in community colleges, and over the last five years, the “moonlighting” of full-timers has increased by 8 percent in Washington (page 58 of this report).

California Bill AB 950

This year California legislators considered but didn’t pass (though it could come back next year) AB 950, for which the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), the state’s affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, provided backing. AB 950 would have instituted a new state regulation on full-time faculty workload, not by prohibiting overtime, but formally allowing full-time faculty to work overtime, up to 150 percent of full-time.

The bill is frequently pitched as benefiting part-time faculty, and some of California’s 38,000 part-timers support it: limiting full-time faculty overtime (overloads) to no more than 150 percent of full-time would seem to protect the jobs of part-time faculty. Also, since the bill is sponsored by the CFT, some part-timers who are union members feel it is a show of good faith to stand in solidarity with their union to support the bill.

But the bill would NOT benefit part-time faculty. Of the roughly 14,000 full-time faculty in the California community college system, only 172 have accepted workloads in excess of 150 percent.

What the bill would do, however, would be to write full-time faculty overtime into state law, giving sanction to all 14,000 to teach up to 50 percent more, that is, up to 150 percent of a full-time load. The bill could result in more full-time faculty overtime and thus undermine part-time faculty jobs.

One consequence of enactment would be to doom appropriations in future years for faculty pay increases too — if some full-time instructors are customarily teaching 125 or 150 percent of full-time, it makes it very difficult to claim that all full-time instructors are overworked and deserving of higher pay.

Also, since the general public surely expects full-time tenured professors to be working full-time, establishing the voluntary option of full-time faculty overtime in state law would seem tobe a terrific public relations liability, especially at this moment, as many federal civil servants are taking forced furloughs and could resent the unfairness of tenured faculty working overtime for additional pay at will.

The practice of allowing full-time faculty to teach overtime whenever they wish reflects a failure of full-time faculty to self-regulate, since the workloads of full-time instructors’ non-teaching duties — campus governance, research, curriculum development, etc. — are fundamentally self-directed and are the primary justification often offered for the pay differential between full-time and part-time faculty.

Whenever a full-time faculty member elects to teach more than a full-time load, he or she displaces a part-time faculty member’s job. If AB 950 passes in some future year, and a higher percentage of the 14,000 full-time faculty members feel empowered to teach course overloads, fewer classes will be left for part-timer faculty to teach. In this way, AB 950, presented as a means to limit full-time faculty who abuse their ability to teach course overloads, could actually end up taking away part-time faculty jobs and thus should be seen as a wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing.

At a time when U.S. higher education is seen as a job prerequisite and is the subject of reform from the highest levels of public policy discourse, it is very long past time for non-tenured faculty to be respected as professionals, not as casual workers without job security, job protection or equal pay, whose jobs can be raided at will. The true solution would be to move toward the Vancouver model, where full-time faculty may teach full-time, and no more, which then permits part-time faculty to have job security, and to allow part-time faculty to work up to full-time.

The number of commentators who continue to think adjunct faculty are hobbyists, and that we deserve poverty and mistreatment because we failed to see the writing on the wall (that all markets will bear the weight on us, until we die), failed to leave Dodge to find some farm in Wyoming to ply our skills, failed to realize that the American Dream is about One Percent and their 19 percent Little Eichmanns and little followers, or the ones that we so-lovingly call, blue collar aristocrats, you know, with the plumbing business, driving a new dually pick-up truck, towing behind it the 35-foot Bayliner on their way to their second cabin in the woods by the lake.

Here:

I recently read Gone for Good by Stuart Rojstaczer (Oxford U. Press, 1999). This is still of interest, even nearly fifteen years later. One point he makes is that tenure is likely to disappear, at least from public universities. He notes that tenure is becoming harder and harder to get; you need to be a truly major player to have a chance at it.

This could have the following consequences. There is no reason for high-flying tenured faculty to be concerned about people, such as adjuncts, who failed the admission test into the tenure world. In fact, it would be more natural, even rational, for the tenured group to keep the adjunct faculty in their place, at a distance, out of the loop, and paid as little as the market will bear. After all, they might argue, you don’t have to take or keep this adjunct job, and if you do it is your problem.

[...] A comment I keep hearing: If so-and-so has worked for decades as an adjunct with adjunct wages, that shows that what he got was a market wage for such services. You can take it from there.

Simple retort, of course, is the key to the problem dealing with capitalism:

Paul Halsall

Markets are amoral.

I will let Keith pine in on the comments section to his own article:

With increasing adjunct demands for equal treatment, tenured faculty have been forced to ask themselves the following question: “Why am I paid so much more, and treated so much better, than all of these starving, complaining adjuncts?”

Many tenure-track faculty feel they deserve the superior treatment afforded to them by the two-track system. It does not seem to occur to many of them that the adjuncts are deserving of equal treatment. So they are forced to resolve the cognitive dissonance the two-track system creates.

With the call for “equal pay for equal work,” the anonymous Perry has replied that the tenure-track faculty are deserving of their superior treatment because they do more work, and the adjuncts are asking to be paid for work they do not do. In other words, you adjuncts don’t do equal work, so you don’t deserve equal pay. It is the adjuncts, not the tenure-track faculty and administrators, who are being unfair.

The argument is a shibboleth for several reasons.

First, it does not take into account that tenure-track faculty also receive additional compensation in the form of benefits, such as health insurance and retirement, sabbaticals, summers off, private offices and office support, professional development, raises for promotions and experience. Any executive figuring out the cost of a new line item must include benefits often amounting to an additional 30-40% of a full-time salary.

Second, adjuncts incur many costs that tenure-track faculty do not incur. If they were treated as “independent contractors,” they would probably be paid in excess of the tenure-track faculty, to compensate them for their offices, advertising, time lost without work, etc. When government employees move to consulting for government, they are often paid at a higher rate.

Third, many adjuncts do engage in many of the same non-teaching activities, but they are not compensated for them.

Fourth, if indeed there are significant non-teaching duties to be done, pro-rate them for part-timers and pay them for it.

I describe this in more detail in my article, “Equal Pay for Equal Work “http://chronicle.com/article/E…

Jack Longmate and Frank Cosco describe the Vancouver system in their article, “Part-timers Deserve Equal Pay for Equal Work.” http://chronicle.com/article/P…

But, really, back to the Big Data, around collecting more and more and more on us, Adjuncts. Ya think our lot has improved? Think hard. Nope.

Not Too Expensive to Fix October 16, 2013

Collecting better data on adjunct employment on campus. Inviting adjuncts to participate in departmental meetings and curriculum design. Some of the biggest ways institutions can improve the working conditions of adjunct faculty are free or cost little, debunking a common argument against rethinking higher education’s changing faculty make-up.

Or so argues a new paper from the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, a partnership between the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education and the Association of American Colleges and Universities to examine and develop the role of adjunct faculty.

Read more: 

Inside Higher Ed

I will let the comments take this post out:

The most important issue for me is inadequate compensation. The Reagan Revolution has meant that businesses do not need to pay a living wage. Ancillary to Reagan’s Social Darwinist economic program were free trade, massive immigration, the opportunity provided by feminism to double the number of available workers, and automation, which in particular vastly increased worker productivity while wages flat-lined.

Related to compensation is college governance. All organizations are managed for the benefit of the managers. This is substantiated by the cancerous growth of college administrations. There the managers increase their share of revenue by increasing the number of their subordinates.

Richard Wolff has made a good case that worker-cooperatives are the optimum workplaces. There is historical precedent for this in education in that colleges were originally trade guilds of professors, and universities were organizations of their students. Professors and students were managers and administrators. Universities were semi-autonomous communities with special privileges and rights.

And,

who gives a F… about your committees – how about paying us living wages? – like what you make. How hard is to get it? Would you like to work full time and live on 16,ooo a year?

and,

I was an adjunct lecturer. Since our pay and benefits stunk, I don’t understand why they also had to kick us while we were down, ie. not invite us to department staff meetings, not give us support services, and not invite us to on campus professional development. If I was around the faculty offices, they made me feel like I was an intruder

and,

“Inviting adjuncts to participate in departmental meetings and curriculum design. Some of the biggest ways institutions can improve the working conditions of adjunct faculty are free or cost little.”

Are free or cost little TO THE UNIVERSITY. They are very expensive to the adjunct who now has to do even more work for free. If they refuse, the university shifts to another adjunct who is more willing to work for nothing.

and, and, and . . .

 My friend, I fear that you have no idea just how easy it is for administrators to simply ignore you; regardless of any data you have to support your claims to a bigger slice of the pie. To suggest that administrators (or admininstrations, for that matter) employ “stalling tactics” is to suggest that absent such tactics, they would have to confront and address the problems that are raised to them by people such as adjuncts. I am afraid that this is not even close to the truth. The easiest thing for an administrator to do in such cases is to simply ignore the squeaky wheel. Any good administrator can win 95% of all arguments (and shut them down faster than a bolt of lightning) by telling the people at the top of the food chain “We just don’t have the funds to do it,” or “This is going to cost a lot more than these people say it will.” And they’re not lying, either. If the former statement is not correct in some situation, then the latter one almost certainly will be. I hate to break it to you, but most administrators have no interest in dividing and isolating you or anyone else. You are not that important to them, and in our dollars and cents world, most of them just don’t care. For better or worse, it always comes down to the numbers.

******************

“Data-driven decision making” is a fad buzzword of the moment. Most administrators only value the data that confirms their biases.

******************

There’s a big block, reminiscent of 12-step programs: in order to get better, we must acknowledge that there is a problem. The administrative class wants to avoid this, as they think they have bigger fish to fry, much like the NFL saying more study is needed on brain research and concussions, or even Big Tobacco denying a cancer link. The final paragraph in the article is scary.

Quoted here:

Ronald Ehrenberg, a professor of economics and labor relations at Cornell University who served on that institution’s board as an elected faculty member and now serves as a gubernatorial appointee to the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York, said that institutions do and will continue to rely heavily on adjuncts for scheduling flexibility, in turn “filling in holes” and relieving them as instructors at the last minute based on course enrollment.

The adjunctification of higher education can’t be stopped, he said. “Although it’s not something I’m happy about,” Ehrenberg guessed that in 10 to 15 years, nearly all professors will be off the tenure track — some as full-time lecturers with basic guarantees of employment, and others not even that — with only elite institutions preserving the tenure track.

******************

Oh sure — you’re a contingent hire, and you’re invited to participate in faculty governance. We’ll let you do lots of scutwork, but you’d better not even suggest any policy change that the administration opposes — or that the tenured faculty in your department oppose — or you’ll be out on your ear. That’s why relying on adjunct faculty is so bad for the intellectual quality of the institution — the power relationships tamp down independent thought.

Tenure’s major purpose is not to make faculty economically secure, but to protect the independent thinker, be he or she a controversial researcher or a critic of the university administration.

Yes, it would be good to adopt a statement on academic freedom and say it applies to adjuncts (the AAUP has already written the statements), so except for paying the secretary to type it into the college web page this costs the college zero dollars. Adhering to the statement is what matters.

Oh, heck, back to PK12 — Ravitch:

Technology can inspire creativity or dehumanize learning

Technology is transforming American education, for good and for ill. The good comes from the ingenious ways that teachers encourage their students to engage in science projects, learn about history by seeing the events for themselves and explore their own ideas on the Internet. There are literally thousands of Internet-savvy teachers who regularly exchange ideas about enlivening classrooms to heighten student engagement in learning.

The ill comes in many insidious forms.

One of the malign manifestations of the new technology is for-profit online charter schools, sometimes called virtual academies. These K–12 schools recruit heavily and spend many millions of taxpayer dollars on advertising. They typically collect state tuition for each student, which is removed from the local public schools’ budget. They claim to offer customized, personalized education, but that’s just rhetoric. They have high dropout rates, low test scores and low graduation rates. Some have annual attrition rates of 50 percent. But so long as the virtual schools keep luring new students, they are very profitable for their owners and investors.

Another dubious use of technology is to grade essays. Major testing companies such as Pearson and McGraw-Hill are using software to score written test answers. Machines can grade faster than teachers, but they cannot evaluate factual statements or the imaginative use of language. A student may write that the World War II began in 1839, and the machine won’t object. Students will learn to write according to the formula that the machine likes, at the expense of accuracy, creativity and imagination. Worse, the teacher will abandon the important job of reading what his or her students write and will be less informed about how they think. That is a loss for the quality of education. Frankly, it is a problem with online assessment in general, as the job of testing is shifted from the teacher to a distant corporation; the last round of state testing saw computer breakdowns in several states. In addition, it is only a matter of time until students hack into the tests.

The most worrisome use of technology is to accumulate and store personal, confidential data about every public school student. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation put up close to $100 million to create the Shared Learning Collaborative, now called inBloom, with partners Wireless Generation (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation) and Carnegie Corporation. It will gather student data from several districts and states, including New York, Georgia, Delaware, Kentucky and Louisiana (some of these states are reconsidering because of objections from parents). The data will be stored on a cloud managed by Amazon. On the cloud will be students’ names, addresses, grades, test scores, disability status, attendance, program participation and many other details about students that teachers and schools are not allowed to release.

Who needs all this personal information, and why is it being shared? Advocates say that the goal is to create better products for individual students. Critics believe that the information will be given or sold to vendors, who will use it to market products to children and their parents. No one knows whether the data will be secure; snoops frequently hack into databases and clouds.

Until recently, the release of personal student data without parental consent would have been prohibited by a 1974 federal law known as FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). In 2011, however, the U.S. Department of Education revised the FERPA regulations, making this data project legal. The electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has sued the Department of Education in federal court for watering down FERPA and allowing students’ data to be released to third parties without parental consent.

Here is the conundrum: teachers see technology as a tool to inspire student learning; entrepreneurs see it as a way to standardize teaching, to replace teachers, to make money and to market new products. Which vision will prevail?

And, the scary-scary look at the Coders, the High Tech wonks, the people who hate, well, most of the PEOPLE!

Big data and schools: Education nirvana or privacy nightmare?

Paul Haeder has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington, and with life long learners and gifted and talented high school students. Poetry and short fiction, the novel and creative non-fiction are also his stem cells. Check out his stuff at www.cirquejournal.com. He can be reached at: paul@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.