The New Gold

Only a short time ago, I thought my husband was being paranoid when he asked me if I’d read the security agreement for an app I was about to download.

“Does it tell you how it will use your data?” he asked.

I shrugged and told him to relax. What could they possibly find out about me that would be of concern?

A year or so later, I still have a tendency to give out personal information with far too much haste, but – for the most part, at least – I no longer think my husband is paranoid when it comes to concerns over data collection.

 (You’re welcome, dear.)

The fact is, big data = BIG money  – this article even goes so far as to call it “the new gold”– and where opportunities for profit exist, boundaries will be pushed as far as possible.

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We are in uncharted territory, and – inconvenient though it may be – we need to be on our toes with this, lest we end up traveling down the same road as China.

China, you may or may not have heard, has recently unveiled something it calls “Sesame Credit” – which is, essentially, a giant game where you earn points for doing things (buying the right stuff, having the right friends), and get rewarded for good behavior with hard-to-access travel paperwork and loan approvals.

It may sound bizarre, but look closely and you’ll see that here in the United States, we are creeping toward similar practices.

Did you know, for example, that Facebook recently acquired a patent for a program that would allow lenders to use the credit scores of your friends in determining whether or not to grant you a loan?

“It’s nothing to lose sleep over for people with decent credit history, but it could potentially affect those who are borderline to begin with,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for

Well gee, that makes me feel better.

Also of concern is the fact the concept being promoted in China is also promoted by Global Education Futures, who suggest in this document:

 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.

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you know that despite the Orwellian picture of it paints of the future, GEF is actually a remarkably influential group, with connections to UNESCO, the Gates Foundation, and the Foundation for Excellence in Education. More than handful of policies they advocate – including mass “personalized” learning and competency-based assessment – made their way into the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

So, the fact that they not only managed to predict but also appear to advocate the bizarre, dystopian game with which China is now experimenting should give one pause.

Like, serious pause:




All of this, meanwhile, has huge implications for our kids, whose data is being collected in more ways that most of us realize.

Check out the video below that was posted recently on Youtube, which gives a brief but important overview of the ways that big data and education are now intersecting in your child’s classroom:


It’s a brave new world out there.



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.

8 thoughts on “The New Gold”

  1. Emily, are you referring to the Brave New World of Aldous Huxley ? The novel that predicted psychological manipulation and conditioning, that could profoundly change society – this appears too big bite for us parents and educators at this time. Our social conditions and intellectual makeup is not analogous to China. I could write a separate essay about this embracing several centuries of making. – Whatever is moving in China the “Sesame Credit”, the Chinese students are eager and interested to learn and work hard in school. Teachers are respected, listened and they are allowed to teach.

    I do not doubt that our crisis in education is as serious as it could be. As a teacher you may see that teaching is replaced by nonsensical, endless, “make work” worksheets to students to fill out after reading some deadly boring chapter in an overpriced textbook. I have not even mentioned the testing.

    Our hope is, that a large cross-section of the society will notice this and stand up against it – people whose common denominator is, that they are parents or grandparents or siblings of those who have children and in so many different ways have concern for the future of our nation and security.


  2. This article hits home when you compare China’s methods of social control with those of the “no excuse” charter schools. Charter schools use a very similar system of rewards and punishments to control their students’ behavior. Teachers are expected to be ever on the alert “scanning the room” for student misbehavior, things as small as not “tracking” the speaker, or sitting straight. Merits for “good” behavior and demerits for “bad” or undesirable behavior. The “bad” behavior is generally behavior that is challenging to the teachers’ authority in some way. It’s called (in typical Orwellian double-speak), “consequences,” because, of course, children are in complete control of their “choices.” Basically, they are teaching children to accept authority without question, be polite, follow orders, and not make any waves. The ones who do challenge the school’s authority end up in endless deans’ office visits, detensions and suspensions until they either conform, or leave the school. The well behaved students earn points for their merits that eventually can be spent on prizes at the end of each quarter, including “get out of jail free” cards for detentions. What does this teach students? Well behaved citizens who accept authority and play by the rules earn rewards, those who don’t get punished until they learn that they cannot escape the system and had better change their ways. Sound familiar?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yeah. It sounds like the real world outside the classroom. It’s called obeying the law and being a responsible citizen and member of the community. You know, discipline and self control? Oh the horror!


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