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Automated Education + Chasing Skills + Debt = Social Control

Reposted with permission from Wrench in the Gears.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 3.49.21 PM

I posted the scenario below in November of 2015 as a Facebook note. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across a number of items having to do with skills, automation, and human capital management, so I thought I would pull it back out to share. Below are a couple of articles that caught my eye:

New Tools Needed to Track Technology’s Impact on Jobs, Panel Says by Steve Lohr of the New York Times

The EIDCC, The Experience Graph, and the Future of Human Capital Analytics by Shelly Blake-Plock of Yet Analytics

The Omidyar Network and the (Neoliberal) Future of Education by Audrey Watters

I’m a parent activist, not an educator or economist. But after reading and listening to a wide range of sources, I came up with the construct below. In the 18 months since I wrote it, many indicators seem to confirm this is where we are headed. I’d be interested in hearing your feedback and welcome comments explaining how this is all wrong.

Originally posted to Facebook November 2015:

Emily Talmage
noticed a connection between ed reformers, those funding CBE, and student loan financing. I was thinking about it today, and I think I see how it will play out. Follow the money. Who stands to gain?

1. Move to the idea of online credentialing. Call it standards-based skills mastery, etc. Get everyone on board with CBE.

2. Break down old-fashioned notion of “seat time.” Everything is “student-centered” and “self-paced.” You don’t need true distinctions between high school and community college and four-year college and professional certifications. It’s all just one process of gathering up the “bits” of education required.

3. Collecting badges is seamless, and you just transition without any real breaks. If they can get rid of physical school buildings and campuses and move learning into online virtual worlds, that will be a natural progression.

4. Accept that a four-year liberal arts education will be beyond the financial reach of most people. Provide some public funding for community college.

5. Take over the boards of the community colleges to ensure they only offer coursework that is pre-professional and serves industry’s short term needs.

6. Have the government underwrite or subsidize Associates degrees to boost college completion for more students. At the end of the process, however, students will need more training.

7. Online, for-profit companies will offer students the chance to obtain credentials at a price considerably lower than tuition for a liberal arts college, but most will still need to take out loans.

8. Accept the fact that companies will no longer pay to train you for their jobs. They don’t want thinkers with raw potential. They want a set of credentials to do the job they have right now.

9. Algorithms sift through online applications demanding the exact credentials listed for each job. This is being done now, but imagine the increased efficiency when each skill is given a unique number, like a healthcare code. A person who doesn’t have the entire complement of codes up front will be out of the running.

10. When industry outsources your job or makes it obsolete, they lay you off and put up another online ad for a job with different competencies/skills.

11. People throughout their life (lifelong learning) will chase the newest set of in-demand credentials. Rather than paying for a four-year college, plus some higher degree, they’ll get a baseline pre-professional education and try to accumulate competencies/credentials that will allow them to keep up with a job market shaped by AI automation.

12. A liberal arts education is less and less valued unless you have a job at the highest levels of a company. Those jobs will go to the graduates of elite universities who secure positions through their networks. Children of the elite will not have to run the gauntlet of algorithms.

13. Companies will no longer do on the job training in a real sense. You will need to be serviced by these online education providers for training and professional development.

14. There will be a big new market for student loan financing that will be repeated throughout your life. That’s where Lumina and Nellie Mae come in.

15. Redefining education as a largely online process will benefit technology companies as well as Internet providers (but not human teachers or those whose job it is to support school operations and facilities). Plus, data!

16. There will be zero quality control. People pay education providers up front to try and get the credential for mastery, but if they don’t ever attain mastery, they don’t get their money back. The debt, however, stays with them.

I believe that is why interests associated with student loan finance are working so hard to transform K12 education into digital data farms that can be mined for profit and used for social control.

 -Alison McDowell
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2 comments on “Automated Education + Chasing Skills + Debt = Social Control

  1. maryellen cardella
    April 25, 2017

    thanks. This is so helpful. All of the “research” on Edgenuity and its kind come from these types of outfits.

  2. Gayle
    April 25, 2017

    Thank you, excellent analysis.

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