Edujournalism and the Continuing Adventures in Post-Truth: Technology Edition

Mainstream America appears, as usual, to be a bit behind the times, but in Trumplandia, there is a sort of shallow postmodernism going on (although postmodernism has been supplanted by post-postmodernism and a slew of other -isms since its heyday).

The media is, in fact, nearly consumed with a meta-analysis of itself as almost everyone has now confronted that the U.S. is a post-truth nation.

The handwringing is mostly shallow, mired in the false claims that post-truth is something new (the U.S. has always been post-truth) and that there are some fringe faux-news outlets (spurred by the evils of Social Media) that are spoiling the game for mainstream media (which ignores that mainstream media are just as complicit in post-truth as the extremes).

A subset of the failures of mainstream media is edujournalism, trapped in a both-sides mentality that masks its essential nature as press-release journalism.

Think tanks and entrepreneurs feed edujournalism, and edujournalism simply passes on the propaganda.

In post-truth Trumplandia, then, we now are confronted with what passes as credible edujournalism, an Orwellian formula that defies logic:

Earlier this week, Khan Academy, the College Board, and Turnitin released tools to give all students the chance to practice for the SAT without having to drop hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get the kind of relevant practice required. The companies have combined their technology tools to bring free Official SAT Practice to Khan Academy with added writing instructional tools provided by Turnitin. Read more details about the news here on The Tech Edvocate.

That’s right three discredited organizations—Khan Academy, the College Board/SAT, and Turnitin—have combined, according to Education Week to create equity because:

I’ve long been an outspoken advocate of technology tools for education. Technology can break down barriers, bring new materials and relevancy to instruction. It can excite students with its interactivity. It can help the teacher cut down on busy work and get right to the act of teaching and guiding students. And as in this case, technology–pretty exciting technology– is leveling the playing field for every student willing to invest their time in preparing for the SAT.

The basis for these grand, but false, promises is what can fairly be called post-truth—all belief not grounded in credible evidence.

Technology has been idealized for decades in education and has never fulfilled the educational promises, but has filled the coffers of technology commerce.

Edujournalists as willing propagandists for entrepreneurs fail education and equity, actually.

We would be much better served to listen to experts, such as Audrey Watters, who confronts the conventional wisdom:

And yet the dominant narrative – the gospel, if you will – about education and, increasingly education technology, is that it absolutely is “the fix.”

Education technology will close the achievement gap; education technology will close the opportunity gap. Education technology will revolutionize; education technology will democratize. Or so we are told. That’s the big message at this week’s ASU-GSV Summit, where education technology investors and entrepreneurs and politicians have gathered (registration: $2995) to talk about “equity.” (Equity and civil rights, that is; not equity as investing in exchange for stock options and a seat on the Board of Directors, I should be clear. Although I’m guessing most of the conversations there were actually about the latter.)

Watters, in fact, pulls the curtain back on the grand pronouncements of the Wizard:

Anyon’s work is critical as it highlights how students’ relationship to “the system of ownership of symbolic and physical capital, to authority and control, and to their own productive activity” are developed differently in working class, middle class, and elite schools. Her work helps us to see too how the traditional practices of school might be reinforced, re-inscribed by technology – not, as some like to argue, magically disrupted, with these hierarchies magically flattened. Menial tasks are still menial if done on a computer. To argue otherwise is ed-tech solutionism – dangerous and wrong.

And thus:

Despite all the hype and hope about revolution and access and opportunity that these new technologies are supposed to provide us, they do not negate hierarchy, history, privilege, power. They reflect those. They channel it. They concentrate it, in new ways and in old.

For example, we must ask, how will combining these forces eradicate the current and historical fact that the SAT reflects and perpetuates privilege, that the SAT is the antithesis of equity? (Hint: It will not and cannot):

Technology and edupreneurs as mechanisms for equity are post-truth mythologies, and edujournalism remains a willing accomplice in the sham propagated by the combined forces of the Khan Academy, the College Board/SAT, and Turnitin—none of which should be endorsed alone, much less heralded in combination as forces for equity.

Please read in full Ed-Tech’s Inequalities, Audrey Watters

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