By Thomas Ultican / Tultican
Last year, IBIS Capital produced a report for EdTechXGlobal stating, “Education technology is becoming a global phenomenon, … the market is projected to grow at 17.0% per annum, to $252bn by 2020.” Governments in Europe and Asia have joined the US in promoting what Dr. Nicholas Kardaras called a “$60 billion hoax.” He was referring specifically to the one to one initiatives.
An amazing paper from New Zealand, “Sell, sell, sell or learn, learn, learn? The EdTech market in New Zealand’s education system – privatisation by stealth?” exposes the promoters of EdTech there as being even more bullish on EdTech. “The New Zealand business organisation (they spell funny) EDTechNZ, indicates on its website that educational technology is the fastest growing sector of a global smart education market worth US$100 billion, forecast to grow to US$394 by 2019.”
These initiatives are fraud based agendas because they focus on advancing an industry but are sold as improving schools. Unfortunately, a good education is not the driver; money is. Speaking this month to a class at MIT, Audrey Watters shared insights into the phenomena,
“But I do believe we live in an age where technology companies are some of the most powerful corporations in the world, where they are a major influence – and not necessarily in a positive way – on democracy and democratic institutions. (School is one of those institutions. Ideally.) These companies, along with the PR that supports them, sell us products for the future and just as importantly weave stories about the future.”
As Trevor Noah explains in this short video this influence is not called “bribery”.
I was the head “tribologist” (study of things that rub together) at Sunward Technologies in San Diego, when in 1995 it was purchased by Read Rite Corporation of Milpitas (Silicon Valley). Three years earlier, every interview for graduating engineers at San Diego State University was canceled because of the downturn in demand. In 1993, our personnel department screened more than 100 resumes before I was asked to interview five candidates for a job opening in my lab. The final decision was difficult because all five were well-qualified.
When I arrived in Silicon Valley in 1996 there did not seem to be any difficulty hiring engineers, but corporations were cannibalizing each other. As soon as a company made a technical advancement, their engineers were being pursued by competitors. This looked to be a significant motivator for hi-tech corporations lobbying for H-1B visas. H-1B visas tied the worker to the company that sponsored the visa.
In January of this year, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren introduced a bill to reform the H-1B visa abuses. Her press release said,
“My legislation refocuses the H-1B program to its original intent – to seek out and find the best and brightest from around the world, and to supplement the U.S. workforce with talented, highly-paid, and highly-skilled workers who help create jobs here in America, not replace them,” said Lofgren. “It offers a market-based solution that gives priority to those companies willing to pay the most. This ensures American employers have access to the talent they need, while removing incentives for companies to undercut American wages and outsource jobs.”
To me, this is the same malarkey she was spreading in 1996 when I arrived in the Bay Area. In 1998 the Tech Law Journal Congressional Scorecard rated Lofgren, a Democrat from Silicon Valley, in the top ten for supporting the high-tech industry. The Law Journal explained its ranking metric,
“All 100 Senators and all 435 Representatives were rated on a 0 to 100 scale on the basis of their support for high tech. The scorecard utilized five objective criteria (roll call votes on, and sponsorship of, bills pertaining to encryption, Internet tax moratorium, securities litigation reform, H1B visas, as well as membership in the Internet Caucus.” [emphasis added]
Before the H-1B visa program, when a technology change eliminated a function, the engineers and technicians effected would be transferred to other departments. After H-1B, they were laid off and hiring firms would find ways to claim that only an H-1B applicant could fill the jobs in those other departments. The corporations gained indentured servant-like control and wages stagnated.
By 2001, I was in graduate school at UCSD where I first heard about the need for schools to help train more STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) professionals.
Like most people, I drank the Kool-aid. But, we were all victims of a misinformation campaign being waged by leaders in high-tech. As Jay Schalin observed,
“The real facts suggest that, in many STEM specialties, there is a labor glut, not a shortage.”
“The apparent misinformation continues to this day. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been particularly vocal about supposed shortages of skilled labor in the computer industry.”
By 2004, a Rand Corporation study was already questioning these claims.
“Concerns about the size and adequacy of the U.S. scientific, technical, engineering, and mathematics workforce have grown amid fears of a dwindling labor pool and concern that this may erode U.S. leadership in science and technology and could complicate mobilization of appropriate manpower for homeland security. In the past, such fears have failed to materialize, and surpluses have been more common than shortages.”
In a 2014 Atlantic magazine article, Michael S. Teitelbaum reported,
“No one has been able to find any evidence indicating current widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations that require bachelors degrees or higher, although some are forecasting high growth in occupations that require post-high school training but not a bachelors degree. All have concluded that U.S. higher education produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings—the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more.”
The trumpeting of a “STEM shortage crisis in America” is and always was a hoax. This same con is deforming public education. The new Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards were motivated respectively by Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Louis Gerstner (IBM). As a result, they devalue humanities and glorify science and engineering based on this same fraudulent STEM claim. There must be a thousand charter schools that advertise themselves as STEM academies.
Here in California, this same lie is being used to promote yet another attack on local control of public schools. In July, Raul Bocanegra (D-San Fernando) announced new legislation that would create a State authorized STEM school for 800 students. It would be privately managed and sited in Los Angeles County.
The news organization Capital and Main stated, “For a district that is already the largest charter school authorizer in the nation and is still gun-shy after recently fending off a takeover attempt by billionaire school choice philanthropist Eli Broad, any scheme that promises further stratification is an existential threat.”
Diane Ravitch claimed, “LAUSD already has STEM schools, but this is Eli’s STEM school, and he really wants it.” The billionaire real-estate mogul and insurance salesman is widely believed to be the driving force behind this legislation.
The proposal would be an end run around local control. Instead of local school districts supervising the new charter school, the state board of education would be the authorizer and supervisor. It is an extreme idea that perverts further an already perverted state charter school law.
Strangely, that did not stop the two most important newspapers in southern California from supporting it.
The Los Angeles Times which gets $800,000 a year from Eli Broad wrote a really strange editorial in which it admitted that the law would be problematic and undermine local governance. But it fell back on a favorite billionaire inspired reform reason for supporting the law, “But right now, the overriding concern should be providing as many great public schools for low-income kids as we can manage.” Those billionaires just love love love poor and minority children.
The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial page gushed over the idea of creating a new privatized school based on the fraudulent STEM premise and thwarting local control. The main beguiling point was delivered in this paragraph;
“So it sounded like a great idea when two San Fernando Valley Democrats — Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra and state Sen. Anthony Portantino — introduced a bill to build a pioneering state-run STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) middle and high school in downtown Los Angeles. The idea is even more appealing because it called for educating talented minority students from poor communities without the same opportunities enjoyed by students in wealthier areas. The cherry on top was that deep-pocketed Angelenos with a desire to make the California tech world more diverse are behind this concept — that could be a model elsewhere — and are eager to provide supplemental funding.”
It seems the fourth estate no longer ferrets out fraud and corruption but is instead complicit in these nefarious plots.
Unfortunately, Education Technology is Greed Driven
Hi-Tech and digital initiatives are careening down a dark road. Because of the extreme power of hi-tech corporations like Apple, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and many others, the development of education technology is being driven by their needs and not the needs of students. Students have become their guinea pigs as they release one untested technology after another into America’s classrooms.
Technology has a potential to enhance education but it also has the potential to cause great damage.
A century ago, there were people taking correspondence courses and getting great value from them. Today, the modern equivalent of the correspondence course is the online class.
However, students at screens like correspondence students will never achieve equal benefit to students with a teacher, because the teacher-student relationship is the most important aspect of education.
Teacher-student relationships are different than those with friends, parents or siblings. My personal experience was that I felt a genuine selfless love for my students and we communicated about many things; often personal but mostly academic. I also felt a need to protect them. In America’s public schools, a student might have that kind of close relationship with more than 40 adults during their 12 years in school. This is where the great spark of creativity and learning leaps from teacher to student.
I have put students at screens in my career, but I never found great benefit in the exercise. On the hand, I have found technologies like graphing utilities to be highly beneficial, but it was the interaction with my students that was of most value for deep learning, enhancing creativity and developing a love for learning. If technologies destroy these relationships then they become a net evil.
I quoted Audrey Watters speaking to an MIT class about hi-tech corporations and the stories they weave. Here is his description of those stories:
“These products and stories are, to borrow a phrase from sociologist Neil Selwyn, ‘ideologically-freighted.’ In particular, Selwyn argues that education technologies (and again, computing technologies more broadly) are entwined with the ideologies of libertarianism, neoliberalism, and new forms of capitalism – all part of what I often refer to as the “Silicon Valley narrative” (although that phrase, geographically, probably lets you folks here at MIT off the hook for your institutional and ideological complicity in all this). Collaboration. Personalization. Problem-solving. STEM. Self-directed learning. The ‘maker movement.’ These are all examples of how ideologies are embedded in ed-tech trends and technologies – in their development and their marketing. And despite all the talk of ‘disruption’, these mightn’t be counter-hegemonic at all, but rather serve the dominant ideology and further one of the 21st century’s dominant industries.”
A faculty colleague of mine said, “the last thing 21st century students need is more screen time.” I believe Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me and iGen would enthusiastically agree. She recently wrote an article for Atlantic magazine describing the dangers of screen time to the current teen generation she calls the iGen. Based on her research she said,
“Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan. (That’s much more than the risk related to, say, watching TV.)”
“The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.”
“There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness.”
“In 2011, for the first time in 24 years, the teen suicide rate was higher than the teen homicide rate.”
Obviously, many of our institutions have been corrupted by the immense power of concentrated wealth and especially by hi-tech industries. The money being chased is enormous, but there are more of us. If we educate ourselves, our families and our neighbors we can reform these greed driven forces into forces for good, but we need to pay attention.
Thomas Ultican taught high school physics and mathematics in a school with more the 50 percent English Language and 75 percent Title 1 students. He said, “In 1999, I got tired of doing research in Silicon Valley and decided to teach. It is the hardest job I ever had and I liked it!”