Off the Wall: Educating Tomorrow’s Paradigm Today

Today, while checking the jobs board at my local school district I noticed a new position (new to me).  Here it is:

Digital Learning Coach: Coach serves as part of multiple educational teams, providing job-imbedded and ongoing professional development for teachers, staff, and administration.  Position plays a very strong role in the analysis and utilization of student achievement data to impact instructional decision-making in order to determine best technology integration practices.  Coach provides professional development and guidance for teachers and students to improve content knowledge and instructional strategies through the use of technology.

It’s a full-time gig and there are currently 2 posts, each a different elementary schools–hook ’em young, I guess.

I’m not exactly sure how to parse the description though.  One thing I do know, “job-imbedded” doesn’t make any sense.  But it sure does sound “techy” and “militaristic.”  And you have to imagine this role is going to be powerful as the person will play a “very strong” role in impacting and determining tech integration practices.  This “coach” will be “determinative” of teacher and student content and strategy.  Yikes.  Looks like this will be the most powerful position in the district, doesn’t it?

I asked one of the curriculum directors via email how this position was created and under what impetus.  His answer was brief and less than illuminating: Positions like this exist in other districts already.  I believe the position was conceived here based upon models that have worked in other districts in response to a desire to expand the use of digital learning in classrooms.

I pressed: Can you direct me to the “other districts” as well as the “models that have worked” and also where we might locate the “desire to expand the use of digital learning in classrooms,” (i.e. whose desire)?

I have not yet received a response but when/if I do I will update this post.

Interestingly, it put me in mind of this.

From a Democracy Now! interview with William Binney who served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could “create an Orwellian state.”

National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reveals he believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush. He estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion “transactions” — phone calls, emails and other forms of data — from Americans. This likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States. Binney talks about Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and challenges NSA Director Keith Alexander’s assertion that the NSA is not intercepting information about U.S. citizens.

I’ve excerpted a portion below that is near the end of the interview.  Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez are the hosts of this program and the other participant below is Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher who has volunteered with WikiLeaks. He is a developer and advocate for the Tor Project, a network enabling its users to communicate anonymously on the internet.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip of Congress Member Hank Johnson—he’s the Georgia Democrat—questioning National Security Administration director, General Keith Alexander, last month, asking him whether the NSA spies on U.S. citizens.

REP. HANK JOHNSON: Does the NSA routinely intercept American citizens’ emails?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: No.

REP. HANK JOHNSON: Does the NSA intercept Americans’ cell phone conversations?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: No.

REP. HANK JOHNSON: Google searches?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: No.

REP. HANK JOHNSON: Text messages?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: No.

REP. HANK JOHNSON: Amazon.com orders?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: No.

REP. HANK JOHNSON: Bank records?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: No.

REP. HANK JOHNSON: What judicial consent is required for NSA to intercept communications and information involving American citizens?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: Within the United States, that would be the FBI lead. If it was a foreign actor in the United States, the FBI would still have the lead and could work that with NSA or other intelligence agencies, as authorized. But to conduct that kind of collection in the United States, it would have to go through a court order, and the court would have to authorize it. We are not authorized to do it, nor do we do it.

AMY GOODMAN: That was General Keith Alexander, the NSA director, being questioned by Democratic Congress Member Hank Johnson. Bill Binney, he’s the head of your agency, of the NSA. Explain what he’s saying—what he’s not saying, as well.

WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, I think it’s—part of it is a term, how you use the term “intercept,” as to whether or not what they’re saying is, “We aren’t actually looking at it, but we have it,” you know, or whether or not they’re actually collecting it and storing it somewhere.

JUAN GONZALEZ: So the mistake of the congressman was not to ask, “Are you collecting information?”

WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, he also said things like, “We don’t collect” — or, “We don’t collect against U.S. citizens unless we have a warrant.” And then, at the same time, he said that we don’t—at the same interview, he said, “We don’t have the capability to collect inside this country.” Well, those are kind of contradictory.

AMY GOODMAN: Is he lying? Is General Keith Alexander lying?

WILLIAM BINNEY: I wouldn’t—you know, the point is how you split the words. I wouldn’t say “lying.” It’s a kind of avoiding the issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Jacob Appelbaum, how does this relate to you? And how powerful is General Keith Alexander?

JACOB APPELBAUM: I was saying to Bill that I think he’s probably the most powerful person in the world, in the sense that—

AMY GOODMAN: More powerful than President Obama?

JACOB APPELBAUM: Well, sure. I mean, if he controls the information that arrives on Obama’s desk, and Obama makes decisions based on the things on his desk, what decisions can he make, if—except the decisions presented to him by the people he trusts? And when the people he trusts are the military, the military makes the decisions, then the civilian government is not actually in power.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Binney, you’re nodding your head.

WILLIAM BINNEY: Yes. I mean, well, for example, their responsibility is to interpret what they have and report up echelon. So, I mean, that’s the responsibility of all the intelligence agencies. So, they basically filter the information to what they believe is important, which is what they should do, because, you know, they’re occupying—it takes time for leaders to review material to make decisions. So they have to boil it down as best they can. So it’s a function of their processing, but it is important that they do it correctly to make sure the information that gets there is correct and complete as it can.

AMY GOODMAN: Is General Alexander more powerful than President Obama?

WILLIAM BINNEY: In the sense of making—of presenting information for decision making, sure.

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Earlier today, I asked, also via email, a local newspaper editor the following regarding our Brave New World.  I asked because I sincerely want this kind of public position to be scrutinized instead of having it accepted without deliberation.

Please, if you have the time, I’d like to know your feelings on this proposition: Technology is a “dehumanizing” Power.  What are some extreme applications that are now commonplace?  A Middle East war fought digitally via drones “piloted” in New Mexico.  If we integrate this into our daily existence–the detachment that comes with distant action without “blood” so to speak–then we become more like the machine than a human and we operate on the same sphere of intellection and conscience.

Where else now are we pushing hard to integrate this mode of “distant, bloodless action?”  What will it bring with it?

Here is an opening announced on the MCCSC job board:

Digital Learning Coach: Coach serves as part of multiple educational teams, providing job-imbedded and ongoing professional development for teachers, staff, and administration.  Position plays a very strong role in the analysis and utilization of student achievement data to impact instructional decision-making in order to determine best technology integration practices.  Coach provides professional development and guidance for teachers and students to improve content knowledge and instructional strategies through the use of technology. 

“Technology Integration Practices”–with a whimper…

Integrated and “job-imbedded,” a new kind of education paradigm and a new kind of life-coach.  (If this is what we are to call life.)

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I have been told that Indiana spends tens of millions annually on testing materials and programs while allocating less than an IU Basketball coach makes on “remediation.”

Therefore we value the poet. All the argument and all the wisdom is not in the encyclopaedia, or the treatise on metaphysics, or the Body of Divinity, but in the sonnet or the play. In my daily work I incline to repeat my old steps, and do not believe in remedial force, in the power of change and reform. But some Petrarch or Ariosto, filled with the new wine of his imagination, writes me an ode or a brisk romance, full of daring thought and action. He smites and arouses me with his shrill tones, breaks up my whole chain of habits, and I open my eye on my own possibilities.  (Emerson, “Circles”)

What we see as “remediation” is only a deadening repetition of our “old steps” and this is a blocking of the “new wine” of imagination.  There is no “truth” to remediation as a success in our educational systems.

However, the human is always “remedial” in every moment if attentive to what may break our “chain of habits.”  In other words, we cannot be different by repeating social cycles that care not for a new breath of spirit as spirit is often dangerously antinomian.

I’m sure it’s a cost (“remediation”) with which they mean to tax the municipal districts–thereby creating another burden for local budgets.  In this they are like the Obama Department of Education requiring state and local education departments to create testing schemes for ALL subjects on their own dime.  That means standardized Arts testing.  Imagine, or rather, lack thereof.

So you see the next step is to make remediation the only “work” of schools and that will be so expensive and futile that the state will need to remove local governance of school districts (no more school boards!) and replace these with the real estate scheme schools (Imagine, Paramount, etc.).  It’s pretty well-planned it seems to me–and I’m sure this plan has been at the ready for decades.

In all honesty, I’m not sure what this does besides further “splinter” social arrangements.  As the bulk of citizens become more poor the only thing to do is create “labor” camps that wear us out and then send us home to watch tv and get lit to numb our being.

There is no “purpose” other than to make technological “non-beings” of most of us.  So that deciders can do with us what we will–same as animals.  In fact you might say that our animal industry has paved the way for a future “human industry” that only “cares” about making our horrible lives “pain free.”

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The flourishing of science has been so vigorous that we have not yet had time to make a spiritual readjustment adequate to the changes in our resources of material an knowledge.  There are disorders of the social system which are caused solely by our undigested wealth (the basic disorder being, perhaps, the phenomenon of overproduction: to remedy this, instead of having all workers employed on half time, we have half working full time and the other half idle, so that whereas overproduction could be the greatest reward of applied science, it has been, up to now, the most menacing condition our modern civilization has had to face).  It would be absurd to suppose that such social disorders would not be paralleled by disorders of culture and taste, especially since science is so pronouncedly a spiritual factor….

Proposition: The hypertrophy of the psychology of information is accompanied by the corresponding atrophy of the psychology of form….

…[F]orm [in art] is the creation of an appetite in the mind of the auditor, and the adequate satisfying of that appetite….the great influx of information has led the artist also to lay his emphasis on the giving of information–with the result that art tends more and more to substitute the psychology of the hero (the subject) for the psychology of the audience….

Consider, for instance, the speech of Mark Antony, the “Brutus is an honorable man.”

[Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.]

Imagine in the same place a very competently developed thesis on human conduct, with statistics, intelligence tests, definitions; imagine it as the finest thing of the sort ever written, and as really being at the root of understanding Brutus.  Obviously the play would simply stop until Antony had finished.  For in the case of Antony’s speech, the value lies in the fact that his words are shaping the future of the audience’s desires, not the desires of the Roman populace, but the desires of the pit.  This is the psychology of form as distinguished from the psychology of information….

…good prose [is]…prone to the temptations of pure information…cannot bear repetition since the aesthetic value of information is lost once that information is imparted.  If one returns to the work again it is purely because, in the chaos of modern life, he has been able to forget it.  With a desire, on the other hand, its recovery is as agreeable as discovery….once [a dramatic] speech is known, its repetition adds a new element to compensate for the loss of novelty.  We cannot take a recurrent pleasure in the new (in information) but we can in the natural (in form).

From Kenneth Burke’s Counter-Statement (1931) with some interpolations.

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We compensate for the loss of novelty by living ONLY in novelty.  Technology is ONLY novelty.  It is the shallowest of inventions providing the easiest, emptiest pleasure.

We are out of our depth and off the wall.

photo credit: MarieBrizard’s photostream

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