Big Data Education (Joel Klein Rupert Murdoch)

joel klein

So Joel Klein, who ran the New York City school system for years, is now shilling a Rupert Murdoch scheme to get tablet-technologies into the school systems. In this article by Carlo Rotella in last week’s Sunday New York Times Magazine, we learn it’s big, big money, this education business; pretty dirty, full of conflict of interest. The problems with these kinds of technological schemes are immense. Do they work? Or do they only work to isolate students, this attempt to “individualize” and “democratize” the teaching experience? There really was no good answer in the article provided as to how to keep students from goofing off online except for the teacher to establish eye contact with those students whose gaze begin to wander, i.e. the very kind of direct contact that that these devices in fact scramble. What this otherwise excellent story does not pursue is Murdoch’s interest in this scheme, apart from selling pedagogical junk. And that interest has to do with the control of sheer mass of data that these systems are designed to generate. That’s the economic interest. A business solution to a pedagogical problem sounds like a bad deal. And in general, aren’t simple solutions better than complex ones? I think a system or a machine is only good when you can turn it off, and with this system there doesn’t seem to be an off-switch. As for me, I still like reading with a book and working through a text with my students in the classroom. My bet is that if Klein has grandchildren, they won’t be going to schools run on these systems.


About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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