Galton and Global Education Futures Forum: Scientific Racism Looking Backwards and Forwards

Psychology, Economics and Human Capital

I spent much of my weekend researching Dr. James Heckman, Nobel prize-winning professor of economics from the University of Chicago who specializes in research around investments in human capital. I plan to write a more extensive piece on him shortly. In the meantime you can check out his Little Sis map-in-progress here. Heckman is a colleague of Arthur Rolnick (see my previous post) and Robert Dugger, host of the upcoming ReadyNation Global Business Summit on Early Childhood.

I believe the research Heckman has been conducting with “grit” expert, Angela Duckworth is extremely dangerous. The two are principal investigators for the Research Network on the Determinants of Life Course Capabilities and Outcomes based in the University of Chicago’s Center for the Economics of Human Development. I will share several excerpts from the publication they co-authored in 2008 for the National Bureau of Economic Research with Lex Borghans and Bas Ter Weel, The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits.

Duckworth’s research for the publication was supported by the Templeton Foundation. The image below shows the program areas to which Templeton gives: Science & The Big Questions; Character Virtue Development; Individual Freedom and Free Markets; Voluntary Family Planning; Genetics; and Exceptional Cognitive Talent and Genius.

Templeton Foundation Funding Areas

 

Heckman’s research was supported by the National Institutes of Health; the J.B. Pritzker Consortium on Early Childhood Development, a funder of the Chicago early learning social impact bond; and the Pew Charitable Trusts, sponsor of the Invest in Kids Working Group that became ReadyNation.

Their work makes it clear Social Emotional Learning (SEL) data collection is about developing profiles for economic and labor forecasts.

Heckman Duckworth Econ:Psych 2008

I found the next quote incredibly disturbing. Our children’s personalities are not theirs to mine for “soft skills.” Our children are not human capital to be molded to the demands of a dysfunctional economy, offered up to future employers at the lowest possible wage. This sexist, racist excerpt shows why it is imperative that our children’s social-emotional lives not be shoved into rubrics, NOT be collected, and definitely NOT be allowed to fall into the hands of the kinds of people who would put forth pronouncements like this. Keep in mind this research was, in part, funded with money from the National Institutes of Health, NIHR01-HD043411.

Heckman:Duckworth Econ Pych 2008-2

The next section makes it clear the psychological data collected will be used to benefit those who are managing labor, and employees should expect to be profiled and manipulated through the use of incentives that pressure them to fall into line.

Heckman:Duckworth Econ:Psych 2008-3

The final excerpt amplifies concerns I have had about neuroscience and “learning engineers” in public education. See my post about Melina Uncapher’s work at Neuroscape at UC San Francisco here.

Heckman:Duckworth Econ:Psych 2008-4

After finishing the report I couldn’t help but feel I’d been transported back to the time of Duckworth’s role model, Sir Francis Galton, a Victorian pioneer in the field of eugenics; only now with genetic sequencing, machine learning, and artificial vision. Note the feature image at the top of this post taken from a clip of one of Duckworth’s Coursera lectures, timestamp 55 seconds.

Global Education Futures Forum: Future of Education Map

Later that morning, I got caught up in an online discussion about educational technology with an “innovative” educator and a software engineer both of whom felt any concerns parents may have with 1:1 device implementation in schools must simply be ones of improper implementation. It was difficult to get them to understand that technology use in classrooms is increasing in order to generate data that will facilitate evaluation of social impact investments. I tried to emphasize my concerns about student data collection and the profiling that was taking place via classroom devices. I wanted them to grasp the power behind the policy changes we are seeing, so I directed them to the Global Education Futures Forum website. One of the people threw out the “tin foil hat” line, at which point I asked them to review the list of GEF advisors.

These are the members based in the United States:

Howard Rheingold, Stanford University

Charles Fadel, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Tom Vander Ark, Learn Capital (Former Education Director, Gates Foundation)

Henry Etzkowitz, Stanford University

Leah Rosovsky, Vice President Strategy and Programs, Harvard University

Andrea Saveri, Bay-Area Consultant, Former Research Director Institute for the Future

They had to agree those people are hard to dismiss.

I was glad the conversation had taken place, because it presented an opportunity for me to revisit the Future of Global Education Map. It had been some time since I’d looked at it, and it was stunning to see many items echoing emerging developments in digital economy, blockchain digital identity, neural interfaces, augmented and virtual reality, inappropriate use of technology for our youngest learners, de-professionalization of teaching, human capital engineering, and direct talent investment. I took a screenshot of a portion of the map to post on that thread, and then thought it would be good to pull some of the items to share more widely as a follow up to the information I had found in the above publication and my prior piece on Rolnick’s and Rothschild’s work on Human Capital Performance Bonds.

GEF Human Capital Slide

The map spans the timeframe 2015-2035, but the items featured below are all positioned between 2016 and 2020. You can look over the complete infographic here. It’s breathtaking in terms of what is envisioned, and how quickly we’re progressing.

From the website:

“This map has been created as part of a Global Education Futures initiative, prepared by the Re-engineering Futures Group. This map is the result of five years of work that brought hundreds of Russian and international experts into co-creative vision building for the future of education. This map represents key trends driving the transformation of educational systems, and the forecast of events and technologies that will make significant impact on the future of education. In the context of this project, education is understood as a multitude of institutions that support training, nurturing, professional and personal development throughout our human life-including kindergartens, schools, colleges, universities, and other types of educational institutions.”

“Obligatory universal net ID is introduced.”

“Independent digital currencies become real alternatives to national currencies.”

“Crisis necessitates cuts in education budgets. New education formats are in high demand.”

“Establishment of a platform converting alternative merit-based currencies or earned points to pay for online education services.”

“Crowd-schooling: self-organized schools where boundaries between teachers and students disappear, and curriculum is assembled by crowdsourcing measures.”

“IT companies emerge as leaders in the global education market.”

“Successful passage of a computer game counts as education course.”

“Online virtual games form personal values.”

“Pre-school and primary school become playgrounds that use augmented reality technology.”

“New models of investment into promising youth – “human futures” – adopted by pension funds and private investors.”

“Personal data and advanced big data models allow efficient mass-scale recommendation services for education and career tracks.”

“Periodic online assessment of psychophysical status to adjust individual educational trajectory.”

“Free will donations via social networks to people one considers important in advancing their career.”

“Technologies that enable prenatal education based on big data, audiovisual stimulation, and biofeedback.”

“Students get individualized recommendations on their education in accordance with their genotype.”

“Virtual jail-compulsory education of prisoners occurs in virtual reality simulators.”

“Developing countries attract students by creating educational spaces free from strict state regulation.”

See the complete info-graphic of the image below here.

GEF Education Finance Map

So, are we ready for this?

 

3 thoughts on “Galton and Global Education Futures Forum: Scientific Racism Looking Backwards and Forwards”

  1. I am reading the paper by Heckman et al. Monetizing of the worth of individuals based on their genetic traits and marketable personality traits is bad enough but the PR and funding enlisted by Heckman and Duckworth (et.al.) is really troublesome in that so many educators are unaware of the end-game. Your excerpts and framing make it clear that the concept of investing in human capital according to the “demands” of labor markets is perfectly aligned with the use of eugenic models in education that have been cleverly packaged and marketed as benign strategies for addressing social-emotional skill sets.
    You are aware that Duckworth’s Character Lab is being enlisted as a partner for training in the Relay Graduate School of Education, likely meaning some amalgam of her schemes for character development with Doug Lemov’s no-nonsense discipline. I see the partnership as a practical example of a move to demand student compliance with a limited range of values, these clearly linked to multi-year performance measures, including workplace productivity as well as performances at the championship level–witness the Olympic athletes enlisted as if models for teachers, children, and proper education. It is good to remember that Duckworth’s concept of grit came from research and theorizing about traits of cadets in the nation’s premier military academies.

    I have one question. If there a link to the infographic ( with ME in the center)? The left side is cut off in the online version. The long term trajectories for versions of “education” remind me of the future scenarios from KnowledgeWorks, but with far greater attention to social and political implications.

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    1. Good point. I added a link above the info-graphic, but here it is: https://www.edu2035.org/images/people/Poster%20on%20Learner-centered%20education-ilovepdf-compressed.pdf

      I am going to be writing more on Duckworth and behavioral economics, “the nudge.” Check out her video from the MacArthur 100 and Change contest-particularly stop it at the brief glimpse of her partners. They include education and healthcare. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dUUqtRQG_Y

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