Education Evolutions #103

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Well, it has taken a couple of weeks to get back up and running since the start of the new school year but here is the first issue for year three of my humble newsletter project.  Hopefully, this new message finds you well and enjoying that overlapping summer-fall period where there is still plenty of daylight and beautiful weather.

Returning to this practice of culling through readings and sharing has been fun. Every year since I returned to the classroom, I think, “Can I still do this? Do I have the time?” Yet, I quite like forcing myself into a reflective look at what has been giving me a lot to think about. Considering how often I force that kind of thing upon my students, it seems only fair that I impose similar kinds of demands on myself.

This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the last one. I have regularly taken aim at big tech corporations in this newsletter. Despite being a technology enthusiast, I have long passed the point of seduction by shiny buttons where all that glitters is gold. There is no good reason why tech companies cannot be better regulated nor why better privacy laws cannot be put into place. Anyone suggesting otherwise is a con. Corporations and markets always adjust and greed never seems to go out of style in America.

Here is to a new school year and great autumn. There is no pre-season for teachers, so get rest and wash your hands more often to stay healthy. The dragging will probably disappear in a few weeks.

Here are three+ curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

Writing as a Tool for Reflection – Edutopia – Laura Lee (2-minute read)

Since I started off in a reflective mood, this short article seemed like a good place to kick off the new school year. This piece may be a bit of churnalism that rehashes some content from EdWeek‘s “Why Teachers Should Write,” which is definitely worth a read if you have a bit more time. Still, this abbreviated version is a nice reminder to us educators how writing can be a great means to reflect on the work.

The longer piece is more developed and offers some steps to get started. It is one of those pieces I wish that I would have put together myself and submitted. However, I have to admit that my first impulse is rarely to seek and submit work for publication through a mainstream outlet, although I keep thinking I ought to make more of an effort on that front.

Still, this newsletter serves as one of my means for doing some of what these two articles suggest. Even if you write reflectively and never share it with others, there can be enormous value personally. Plus, reading and writing are the coin of the realm in the academic world. If you are not as convinced, reading broadly and deeply is also pretty good practice for us educators. That is why I started this newsletter, to share a curated list of readings that colleagues may not have the time to find this kind of thing on their own.

Why College Became So Expensive – The Atlantic – Joe Pinsker (5-minute read)

This short Q & A is with anthropologist Caitlin Zaloom who wrote a book Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost. As a parent that still has college expenses looming in the future, these kinds of articles always catch my eye. This one, however, offered a bit more insight to be gleaned.

Like so many paradigm shifts occurring in the 1980s that swerved toward market-think for everything, the notion of a college education drifted toward being considered a private good rather than a public one. Decades of defunding of public universities later and we find ourselves in the midst of the impending crisis now on the horizon. The very fact that politicians are finally discussing it in their campaigns is encouraging, although certainly no promise of remedy.

Ther is no question I am of the belief that health and education are undeniable public goods, despite those obsessed with marketworld priorities that suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, there are forty years of government-is-bad messaging to overcome, when the whole point of their existence is to protect their citizenry. Defining protect as nothing more than a national defense is possibly the most narrow-minded nonsense ever.

Google Is Fined $170 Million for Violating Children’s Privacy on YouTube – The New York Times – Natasha Singer and Kate Conger (6-minute read)

As big a record-breaking fine $170 million seems, I am with the dissenters on this and believe the penalty imposed is not remotely severe enough. Google and others in the tech sector routinely claim that they are not doing things like collecting and making money off the data of minors until they are caught. Tech companies already operate in a rigged system where they use ever-changing terms and service agreements to extract nearly whatever user data they want to then turn around and profit from it in a virtually unregulated marketplace, all the while lobbying Congress with our-industry-should-be-allowed-to-regulate-itself nonsense.

Meanwhile, Google has already become practically ubiquitous in the education world. Their entire “free” ecosystem benefitted from early and aggressive marketing and has become embedded in school systems across the country. So, to not look at this settlement with anything other than suspicion strikes me as, at best, naive. There are even alternatives but convenience is this wolf’s chosen fleece.

Anyone who reads this regularly must know that I am well beyond any false belief that the giant tech companies are even remotely capable of regulating themselves. There is just far too much evidence piling up that they operate with little more than greed as a driver. Unfortunately, most people feel powerless to do much about it and our government has been dragging its feet and stocking regulatory agencies with industry-friendly former executives for decades. I keep hoping the tide is turning but remain unconvinced.

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