I love me some good Steve Newton in the morning! Earlier today, I posted an article about a Blockchain technology bill getting a vote in the Delaware Senate. If you haven’t read that article yet, you need to now so you can understand this response by Steve Newton. Steve nailed it! But this is also why I blog. I like to get information out as well as my thoughts and predictions on it before these possible futures come to pass. The best way to fight the future is to expose that future!
I both do and don’t agree with your analysis. In the abstract what you say about the intended potential of Blockchain is correct; I don’t doubt your assessment of the motivations (profit and otherwise) of corporate reformers. In fact I share them. But…
I do not believe that Blockchain or any other internet-based platform actually possesses the power to replace public education, though I do agree that under certain conditions it possesses the power to wound or destroy it. Nonetheless I don’t see that happening as the “reformers” intend.
Mostly this is because the reformers are just about as politically inept as it is possible to be. In Delaware the reform movement is in its third or fourth distinct incarnation because it’s lost almost every round by overplaying its hand. Not only is the domination of charters cracking open, people are beginning to question the concept of “choice” as it is currently written. Communities are mobilizing, in no small part because children like your son or my grandson cannot be successfully educated that way, and because it doesn’t provide any path forward at all for children from low SES backgrounds.
People tend to miss two big points in examining public education in America. The first is how WELL the system actually works, despite all its warts. It sends literally millions of graduates well-prepared into college or a career every year, despite the best efforts of critics and enemies to wreck the system. Even many of the children the current system “fails” are actually achieving some value from the system, which is remarkably resilient.
Second, we often fail to acknowledge that the US attempts to do something amazing on a scale approached by no other country on the planet: we attempt to educate everybody’s children. It is perhaps one of the most unparalleled experiments in the limits of the possible ever conducted in human history. No other country attempts to do this on such a scale with such a heterogenous population.
Finally, Blockchain and corporate intrusion into education highlight the ultimate dynamic–centralization versus decentralization. Corporations are pretty much as interested in centralization of authority as the government–they just want to do it in order to profit from it. But the tradition of public education here is all about local control (which, we know, Rodel would like to stamp out), and the irony is that the same technology they’re pushing to use in centralizing is the very technology that makes decentralized control more functional and adaptable if we seize the tools for our own purposes.
What’s really under attack here (and I think you get this part exactly right) is the SOCIAL objective of American public education as an empowering institution for ALL children, regardless of ethnicity, wealth, or class. That’s actually the part that the reformers (sometimes unconsciously) are attacking, because an American public education system that actually levels the playing field in statistically significant ways will change both the nature of economic relationships and political power in ways that scare the hell out of them.
Those changes are actually under way and more or less inevitable. The reformers are fighting a rear-guard battle with the very tools that will in the end undo them.