Monday, January 14, 2013

The Lost Children of the 21st Century

by Kris Alman

In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable and help to change it. Ernst Fischer

Portland is a haven for artists who express themselves through the tools of their trade. Sue Mach is a rare breed. An award-winning playwright, Mach translates the narrative of our time into two theatrical premiers, "A Noble Failure" and "The Lost Boy." 
That the playwright (who’s also a teacher) takes the side of the traditional education establishment doesn’t diminish the play’s value as a springboard for discussion.  -- Marty Hughley in his review of "A Noble Failure" for the Oregonian.
The teaser for Mach's other play“The Lost Boy” asks, “In a culture of fear and exhibitionism, who preys upon whom?” The setting for this true story is the robber baron era. Most people would recognize today's austerity in this Wikipedia entry: By the late 1800's, the term was typically applied to businessmen who used what were considered to be exploitative practices to amass their wealth. 

In the play, P.T. Barnum is a pivotal character who offers support to the grieving father of a kidnapped boy. He persuades the father to join the circus to air his grief and peddle his book, knowing the public ached to hear his story and would flock to the circus to hear it. Critic Hughley writes:
What Mach is after with the circus motif is a critique of the sensationalism and commodification of trauma that often attends the public response to tragic events. 
Commodification of privacy is at the heart of corporate education reforms today. The public's response to the tragedy of "failing" schools endangers democracy, vulnerable to the plutocrats who can manipulate the media to manage human capital. "Human capital management (HCM) is an approach to employee staffing that perceives people as assets (human capital) whose current value can be measured and whose future value can be enhanced through investment. Hold employees accountable for achieving specific business goals, creating innovation and supporting continuous improvement."

Perhaps Mach is asking us to think more deeply when the great showman P.T. Barnum says to the father, "Think of us as your net." The "net" could be the Internet and other technology that help promote yellow journalism of the 21st Century. In "The Net Delusion," author Evgeny Morozov is dubious about the Twitter Revolution and other seemingly noble initiatives claimed by "cyber-utopians." Certainly we should be wary when the investment arms of the CIA and Google back "a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future." Surveillance and propaganda may be the price we pay. 

Yet self-marketing desensitizes us to privacy loss—a meme that promulgates the media circus. Surely we would hope that social media can bring Kyron homeBut when a Rupert Murdoch tabloid hacks cell phones, interfering police investigations of a child’s abduction and murder, we are furious. And when Anonymous claims vigilante justice, hacking the Sun to falsely proclaim Murdoch's death, the media is spoofed for the circus it has become. 

Is there a dark side of the education cyber-world that deserves our attention? 

Big business demands BIG DATA, claiming, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Education  researchers also want BIG DATA. No wonder the Harvard Business Review proclaims the data scientist as the “sexiest job of the 21st Century.” 

BIG DATA poses huge threats to privacy since attempts to anonymize confidential data are not working.  Identity thieves target children for unused social security numbers. Children are 51 times more likely than adults to be victims of financial fraud when these numbers are stolen. Social security numbers can be predicted from public data--all the more likely when these numbers are assigned at birth. 

Mathematical algorithms to safeguard data may be insufficient.
“We’ve learned that human intuition about what is private is not especially good. Computers are getting more and more sophisticated at pulling individual data out of things that a naive person might think are harmless. Privacy is a nonrenewable resource. Once it gets consumed, it is gone. There’s another resource that has the same property — the hours of your life. There are only so many of them, and once you use them, they’re gone. Yet because we have a currency and a market for labor, as a society we have figured out how to price people’s time. We could imagine the same thing happening for privacy.” Frank McSherry of Microsoft Research Silicon Valley in Mountain View, Calif.

Let's call this what this really is:
Private data is currency in the 21st Century marketplace. This is the key reason why Margaret Spellings, former US Secretary of Education, sees a gold mine of data in MyEdu

Manage college

Tell your story

Employers find you

And for MyEdu investors, It's FREE! FOREVER!

The "For Sale" must be colossal at the global media holding company, News Corporation. Rupert Murdoch is King of the world's second-largest media conglomerate. His acquisitions include Wireless Generation.The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is developing a "next-generation assessment system" for Oregon and 24 other states. SBAC awarded Wireless Generation the contract to develop an "online, open source solution for reporting student results."  

Former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Joel Klein is Murdoch's CEO for Murdoch's new education division, Amplify. 

Amplify will offer digital learning tools for the K through 12 market and will focus on three areas: assessments and learning analytics, digital curriculum (Common Core-aligned content for math, language arts and science), and content delivery.

Amplify students' lives*.
*Registration Information may include, for example, name, email address, gender, zip code and birthday.

Coincidentally, just three pieces of information identify YOU! Gender and zip code and date of birth.

MyEdu says "Privacy Matters." Oh yeah?
We use Personally Identifiable Information to provide you with "best fit" services, enhance the operation of the website, improve our marketing and promotional efforts, analyze website use, and to tailor your experience with Third Parties.

When Mach urges you to critically think about Bain Capital's investment in MyEdu, think twice. Bain Capital and other vulture capitalists are destroying good jobs and social safety nets. And when privacy is for sale, we perform high flying acts without a safety net to capture us when we fall.  

Privacy should not be commodified. We must stop this circle of insanity!

Opt out of standardized testing. 
Opt out of data collection.