A Eureka Moment is when a piercing epiphany takes an area of concern over the effects I am seeing from some education reform and I discover that those very effects were part of the original design. It’s not as dangerous as a heroic rescue from a Thai cave, but it may be about as painstaking in its approach to detail. Regular readers know that I have been concerned for a while, especially in discussions in the comments of these posts over the last two years or so that the widely circulated narratives surrounding student privacy and the social and emotional learning standards simply do not track to the documentable facts about how learning standards like the Common Core or a competency framework really work.
The second Eureka moment I will lay out was the one I wrote the previous post while expecting to explain it here and tie together a trilogy of disclosures around GDPR. That was before I saw a reference on the Acknowledgments page to the 2013 book Big Data to a Rueschlikon Conference on Information Policy that seemed to be linked through some of the same people to that Eureka Moment. Searching that out pulled up the ultimate epiphany as I learned a new earth shaking term-‘data-driven governance’ and the recommended technique–education–to gain control over people’s thoughts, emotions, and motivations to act while pretending that the regulation is a dispute over how and what to teach or, necessary to protect student privacy. The 2017 article in the European Journal of Social Theory was called “Digital, politics, and algorithms: Governing digital data through the lens of data protection.”
‘Data-driven governance’ turns out to “lie at the very heart of governing people and things” so that we begin to “understand governance not as a set of institutions, nor in terms of certain ideologies, but as an eminently practical activity that can be studied, historicised and specified at the level of the rationalities, programmes, techniques and subjectivities that give it form and effect” to quote from the above article. If you want to believe that is not what learning standards, learning technology standards, Project Unicorn, and interoperability standards actually do, when they are accurately described instead of misexplained for purposes of creating the hype that gets more data regulation like GDPR, let me quote from a different book called Reinventing Data Protection? which described the shift from a disciplinary society with a multiplicity of ‘detention’ facilities to a “control society that can increasingly do without physical constraint and direct surveillance [because] it is individuals themselves who have to impose themselves not only to respect but also to adhere to the norms, who have to integrate those norms in their biography, through their own actions and reiterations.”
If that creates a gulp moment how about the desire to accomplish these feats via the italicized “will to govern through data and the will to govern data“? All the False Narratives I have encountered and fought to dispel through my book Credentialed to Destroy, and subsequently through this blog as they arise, make perfect sense suddenly if the accurate truth might defeat the desire of the “socio-political actors” funding those narratives and enacting the tools of ‘data-driven governance’, to “straightforwardly implement technologies of governance without meeting any kind of resistance.” In other words, FERPA redrafting or Student Data privacy Toolkits will not do anything to impede the data-driven governance agenda and GDPR actually helps cements it.
Let me give another example, on June 26, 2018 Cheri Kiesecker wrote a post for the Missouri Education Watchdog blog that mentioned a World Bank paper as supposedly bolstering the workforce readiness agenda. I had previously been mystified by Cheri’s work on Project Unicorn as it appears contrary to documentable facts so I read the linked “From Compliance to Learning” paper that covered “harnessing the power of data in the state of Maryland.” The report confirmed my continuing concern that the False Narrative treats student data as a static database instead of the changes in the student at an internalized, neural, level, which are what constitute “learning.” Secondly, in the “institutionalizing a data System” the paper accurately lays out how Project Unicorn really works without calling it that. It explains in ways pertinent to ‘data-driven governance:
“Across the public, private, and social sectors in the United States, an array of organizations, associations, and communities helps to expand and institutionalize data utilization by strengthening data standards and easing interoperability issues…The first category, Consistent Data Definitions, focuses on providing a common language and structure for data, a necessary step that makes it possible to share data across different systems and applications. Structuring data so that the data can be used across different systems makes institutionalization possible. From an International perspective, UNESCO’s International Standards Classification of Education (ISCED) is a similar framework that enables comparison of educational statistics and indicators across countries on the basis of uniform and internationally agreed definitions. ISCED 2011 is the most recently revised version of the framework.”
And precisely what I warned about in the previous post that the Common Core was benchmarked to. It’s a means of governing through data at the level of the mind and personality and it has nothing to do with PII. I promised two Eureka moments and the second intends to use “bottom-up standards” https://globalcxi.org/ where “systems thinking can help us avoid repeating past failures stemming from attempts to control and govern the complex-adaptive systems we are a part of. Responsible living with or in the systems we are a part of requires an awareness of the constrictive paradigms we operate in today. Our future practices will be shaped by our individual and collective imaginations and by the stories we tell about who we are and what we desire, for ourselves and the societies in which we live.”
Of course education standards get at those levels quite well and the co-sponsor, along with MIT Media Lab, is an entity called IEEE that also happens to have created the Learning Technology Standards that are a part of Project Unicorn when it is properly described. Good reason I suppose not to accurately describe it lest there be that warned about resistance. I revisited IEEE’s involvement recently after I cited the Hoover paper on math that did not reflect what the Center for Curriculum Redesign said was the new global purpose of math activities. One of the co-authors, Ze-ev Wurman, was shown as now working for IEEE, which seemed awfully coincidental. He has been speaking at Anti-Common Core forums for years. A bit more research into the acclaim for GDPR as supposedly protecting student privacy instead of enabling noetic manipulation led me to discover that Wurman is also listed as a fellow at the American Principles Project that has done so much to create so many of the False Narratives surrounding K-12 education reforms.
It also bolstered my instinct that articles like this recent https://spectator.org/goodbye-privacy-how-new-edtech-is-turning-students-into-lab-rats/ hype function to create a demand for “data protection” that magically turns into an enacted tool of ‘data-driven governance” per international design. CXI Global wants to “develop and use broader metrics…that governs setting goals and measuring success…These metrics for success must be utilized in the setting of standards, ethical principles and policy that holistically reflect the explicit values and expectations of the communities where metrics are deployed.” We always get back to that communitarian and normative function, don’t we? We actually don’t need to speculate either on the specific type of education desired for the “evolution of our species” that will “serve inclusive and sustainable development that increases political autonomy and global democracy.”
The CXI vision cites to the template on “Happiness and Well-Being Policy as embodied in the first Global Happiness Policy Report,” which I happened to have read when it came out in February when it was released at the World Government Summit in Dubai. It pushes a vision of Positive Education that I noted after last year’s summit aligns with Betsy Devos’ rhetoric and recommended policies. http://invisibleserfscollar.com/subservient-and-malleable-students-devos-federalizes-our-moral-obligations/ What this year’s released report adds in that Policy Report is an address at the end that ties the entire agenda to a seminary across the street from Riverside Church near the Columbia University campus. In other words, what happened in Dubai was never meant to stay in Dubai at all.
Getting at the true function of data in education is not a side issue at all. I think it is why the Program on Education Policy and Governance is housed at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government as well as that Rueschlikon Conference I mentioned above. It may take place in lovely Switzerland but the Information Infrastructure Project apparently includes you and me and our children and grandchildren even if we never make it to Switzerland at all. Let me close with a recent blog post tied to this agenda https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/blog/understanding-the-potential-of-ai-for-lifelong-learning-the-need-for-a-critical-perspective/ because the goals, outcomes, prescribed learning, and metrics created for us and embodied in learning standards few will accurately describe are intended to create and “support a democratic and socially inclusive future.”
Without accurate information we are left tilting at windmills while all these plans avoid the needed scrutiny that would cause virtually all of us to resist. I hope these Eureka Moments can be the beginning of the resistance that is not bound up in narratives on data that serve as useful Guiding Fictions that actually enable ‘data-driven governance’ in the 21st century.