Not long ago, I wrote a letter to my former Exeter classmate, Mark Zuckerberg, begging him to reconsider the corporate-driven education policies he had recently vowed to support.
Of course, I never heard back.
Zuckerberg was far more interested in hearing from elite political insiders than from teachers or those with young children like me.
Among the recently leaked emails from Wikileaks is a request from Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg to John Podesta for a meeting with Zuckerberg:
“Mark is meeting with people to learn more about next steps for his philanthropy and social action and it’s hard to imagine someone better placed or more experienced than you to help him,” she wrote.
“Happy to do,” Podesta replied.
Five months later, in an open letter to his newborn daughter Zuckerberg announced his commitment to helping “schools around the world adopt personalized learning.”
This, of course, was no coincidence.
Though education issues have been buried throughout the campaign (Common Core was deemed a “political third rail” and standardized testing referred to as an “elephant in the room” by members of the DNC and Clinton campaign), it is clear that a Clinton Administration would be poised to advance the ed-tech and Wall Street driven “personalized learning” agenda if Hillary is elected.
Young people cheer when Hillary talks about making college more affordable, but few seem to realize that the policies she is advocating are actually designed to favor the multi-billion-dollar online and digital learning industry (along with, ironically, student loan providers). Even fewer seem aware that in the future, “college” may not mean what most think it does.
The Clintons, who have benefited enormously from Bill’s speaking engagements with online learning giant Laureate Education, have used their foundation to drive the shift away from traditional credentialing to the far more profitable and corporate-friendly digital badging system, where students earn online “nanodegrees” and certificates to demonstrate their ability to perform workforce-aligned “competencies.”
“I’ve offered a few suggestions to make sure we are a bit stronger on accountability, we lead with our promise to families and students when we describe our compact, and we highlight innovation and on-line learning a bit more,” policy advisor Ann O’Leary wrote to Clinton’s speechwriters, just before Hillary unveiled her “New College Compact,” calling for “experiments allowing federal student aid to be used for high-quality career and lifelong learning programs with promising or proven records.”
Other leaked correspondence indicating Hillary’s education priorities include a note from Stanford professor and education insider Linda Darling-Hammond to Podesta, thanking him for his advice and guidance in setting up her new think thank, Learning Policy Institute, where Podesta’s close confidante, Susan Sandler, is a board member.
Darling-Hammond has been a strong advocate of forms of school accountability that enable personalized learning, especially for assessment “dashboards” that encourages data collection that goes far beyond standardized tests. (Think social-emotional learning and “school climate” data.)
“I love the idea of the dashboard,” Hillary said in a recent speech to leaders of the National Education Association.
And then there are emails suggesting who will be a priority for Hillary: one from Code.org asking Hillary to make a statement of support for computer science; another from Laurene Powell Jobs requesting a meeting with Hillary and a group of ed reformers, include Netflix executive Reed Hastings and Silicon Valley venture capitalists – all strong proponents of “personalized learning.”
So, what can education activists expect if Hillary is elected?
Here’s my dismal predication: more screen time for even our youngest children; inflated local budgets to support one-to-one tech initiatives; more (way more) invasive school-wide and individual data collection; a proliferation of low-quality online K-12 and higher education programs; and (of course) ongoing meddling and experimentation on our kids by our country’s billionaires.
Moral of the story? Keep your boxing gloves on.