Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
January 13, 2003

On the Road Again... Today's newsletter is very early and comes to you from my living room in Moncton. Tomorrow's will be quite late (and possibly quite short) and will come to you from a hotel room in Edmonton. If you find yourself in need of an emergency news supply, click on the link above and visit Edu_RSS, my automated education news aggregator. By Stephen Downes, January 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Free to Be In yesterday's 'Education Life' section the New York Times took the opportunity to stake out a conservative agenda in education coverage. It is an agenda dominated by anti-unionist, anti-givernment and anti-intellectual sentiment, one in which private and elite education is favoured. To illustrate the full range of this agenda, I have selected a number of articles from the supplement.

In this first article we get the story of Japan's 'Free Schools' - no doubt the words used in the translation were carefully chosen, as we are supposed to think from this article that Japan is embracing the charter school movement. By Alan Riding, New York Times, January 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The New E.U. The European universities have lost their way, according to this article, but may find redemption through embracing elitism instead of accessibility, private ownership instead of government management. "Europe has been slow to recognize that its integration is being hampered by the archaic structures of its universities, which are, in the main, government owned... 'Traditionally,' he says, 'European educational systems focused on accessibility. Now they are realizing that they have to compete for top talent on a global level.'" By Alan Riding, New York Times, January 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Speaking in Tongues The anti-intellectualist centerpiece of this collection of articles. In this diatribe, the author complains that "Education suffers from a glut of hyphens, and hyphens are an enemy of transparency" and that "When education is described as standards-based, brain-based, site-centered, teacher-tested, results-oriented, business-backed, community-based, gender-neutral, Web-based or family-friendly, who really knows what's going on? Not the listener, and perhaps not the educators mouthing the words." By John Merrow, New York Times, January 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Beyond the Blackboard Keeping things traditional and in-class, today's whiteboard is depicted in this article as an alternative not to the blackboard, but to the laptop. "We believe laptops can be isolating, and students could be working on other things and not maintaining their concentration." By Michael Mariott, New York Times, January 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Fly Girl Another plug for alternative schooling, this article also manages to express wide-eyed astonishment at the idea of girls working on aircraft engines. "At Aviation High School, Martina Garcia is a trailblazer. She likes to shop at Bloomie's, and overhaul jet engines." By Melanie D.G. Kaplan, New York Times, January 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Baby Ivies A happy, happy look at the joys of Manhattan's most exclusive nurseries, a step up for those who can afford it.

None of these articles alone indicates a conservative trend. But taken together, in the selection of topic, of tone, and of interpretation, the message is pretty clear.

I have never claimed that OLDaily is a neutral observer of events, and I'm not about to. I want to be very clear about my opposition to the agenda being flouted in yesterday's Times. Privatized and commercialized education would be a disaster for the world, especially for those parts of the world unable to pay for things like 'The Baby Ivies'. It exaggerates the cleave between rich and poor and entrenches those who can afford it with all the opportunities offered by a good education. The privatization of education also removes from nations the opportunity to advance social objectives alongside economic objectives, to instill a sense of citizenship and responsibility, of critical reflection and democratic decision-making. Education always reflects the needs and the interests of the provider, and when the will of the people is removed from that equation, the will of some self-serving segment of society is substituted instead. We tread on dangerous ground when we abandon the social responsibility to educate our young. By Victoria Goldman, New York Times, January 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Steal This Book? A Publisher Is Making It Easy More coverage of the "Bruce Perens' Open Source Series" of books being published by Prentice Hall and released under an open publication license that allows you to download and copy the book at will. By Steve Lohr, New York Times, January 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Reign of the Netocrats I'm not sure I would approach this topic in the same way, but I reach much the same sort of conclusion as the authors of the book being reviewed in this article: "The more information technology dominates, the more culture, society and the economy change. It's the birth of a 'whole new world' a world undergoing a paradigm shift right under our noses." Fair enough, but rather than reordering of the class structure, I think that the change will dissolve the class structure. By Matthew Buckland, Mail and Guardian, January 10, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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