“[A]s long as the global political and economic regime is characterized by the dismantlement of the welfare state, the decline of the very idea of public goods, the triumph of tinkering over structural reform, the victory of psychology over philosophy as the favorite discipline of our technocratic classes, we shouldn’t expect technology to perform much of an emancipatory function.”
– Evgeny Morozov, “Ghosts in the Machines,” October 10. 2013.
Something is terribly wrong. I’ve started to get edtech spam and I know it’s due to this blog because of the e-mail they’re using. So if you happen to have an edtech startup and you want to present in front of lots of eager investors, I know where you can go. What mystifies me is why someone might think that I would tell somebody who has a company where they can begin the process of sucking up all the resources that professors like me need to do our jobs. It’s like asking the chickens to recommend the next Colonel Sanders.
Luckily, there are at least a few of us laying the intellectual groundwork for a counterattack. If you haven’t seen the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education’s working paper on the corporatization of our “industry,” you really should take the time to read it. Here’s the part that all of us chickens should really take to heart:
[N]o corporation bluntly announces that feathering its own nest is its goal in bringing new products or services to the market. Whether it’s subprime mortgages or swiffers, the sales pitch always involves consumer-centered promises of convenience, savings, or grander “dreams come true.” In the world of swiffers, the social cost of allowing deceptive sales pitches to frame public discussion of products may or may not be problematic. But with a crucial social service like higher education, which affects individuals and societies in such far-reaching ways, the long-term cost of not looking behind corporate rhetoric can be huge.
While there are good start-ups and bad start-ups, each one of the presenters at the event I’m not mentioning is looking to score a piece of your budget. More money for expensive, administration-centered education technology means less money for you and higher tuition for your students. [Student technology fees? I thought the point of technology was to save money.] Everyone at that event will be looking to carve up your university’s budget like it’s just another broiler. The fact that this is all going on during a time of an alleged higher education financial “crisis” makes it just that much more galling.
If you don’t follow what’s going on and demand a voice in the decision-making process, they’re going to carve up your budget whether you like it or not. If you do decide to stick your head in the sand, all you’ll be able to do is hope for MOOAs, and as most administrators know exactly what’s going on I’m guessing those won’t be arriving at your university anytime soon.