Our Children: Investment Assets?

This April, as my fourth grade students sat down to take the failed Smarter Balanced Assessment, Tom Vander Ark, former Executive Director of Education for the Gates Foundation and current CEO of Getting Smart, was busy giving a presentation in Silicon Valley titled: New Education: How to Unbundle the Potential of a Multi-Billion Dollar Market.

Last week, I wrote about Vander Ark’s efforts to usher us away from a single, “end-of-year” test in favor of a new era of all-encompassing, competency-based assessment systems. It turns out that Vander Ark is also a member of an organization called Global Education Futures – a group of wealthy elites from around the world who, in addition to giving presentations to one another about ways to make money off of our schools, quite literally get together to map out the future for our children.

They also produce 1984-like documents such as this, called “Future Agendas for Global Education,” which make big claims like this one:

The coming decades will see an era of the most radical changes in education since the appearance of national education systems. And the source of these changes will not be in the educational system itself, but rather it will be driven primarily by industries: digital technologies, healthcare, and finance.

while referring to our children as “investment assets” and “human resources” that should be “easily manageable.”

Here is a glimpse of what they envision for our future:

  • Learning through automated solutions

  • Continuous assessment in gaming-like dynamics that will “transform education into a ‘personal quest to boost a character’ in which “the ‘quest for achievement or trophy’ logic will be embedded into augmented reality systems that would award (with gaming bonuses, tokens, badges etc.) real-life professional conduct, healthy lifestyle, citizenship skills.”

  • Competence profiles that would record current state and development of individual’s knowledge & skills across different domains of professional & social life, and would accompany individuals throughout their life.

  • Assessment of learning progress through the use of objective physiological parameters, using real time biometry and neurointerfaces

If only we could dismiss this stuff as fantasy.

Unfortunately, with the support of high-powered politicians and all sorts of well-funded organizations and foundations, Vander Ark’s vision of a competency-based education system that relies on games and digital media to teach, track, and manage our children has made its way into the recent ESEA reauthorization.

Meaning that, unless something changes soon, we are well on our way to the future that these folks have been planning for us.

Is this what “unbundling” billions looks like?


Author: Emily Talmage

My name is Emily Talmage and I teach fourth grade at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. In addition to teaching in Lewiston, I have also taught special education and general education in New York City, including one year at a “high-performing” charter school in Brooklyn. I also have two master’s degrees; one in Urban Education from Mercy College, and another in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have also worked as a research analyst and assistant at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia and Oldham Innovative Research in Portland.

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