Looking For A Plan B

I should have anticipated the response to my Blockchain video would be muted. Digital wallets for e-vouchers and lifelong learning badges probably seem like a distant threat to most people. And yet as we begin a new school year I can’t help but reflect on the fact that more than a handful of people I know have felt sufficiently harmed by current public education policies to put their children into private schools, leave town, or in some cases move to a whole other state only to find the situation there just as bad or worse than it was back where they started.

Many students are spending their first weeks of school being issued devices, having logins set up, creating accounts for various “personalized learning” programs, and taking surveys to identify their workforce pathway options. Meanwhile, parents lie awake in the middle of the night nervously calculating the ages of their children against how fast they anticipate badging and apprenticeship programs will come online. We’ve hit a moment of fight or flight. The stress is palpable. It’s nothing a mindfulness session can ease away. The dread is growing.

So which is it? Fight or flight? Though I am fortunate in that my child graduates next spring, I keep wracking my brain for a “Plan B.” For years I have fought to save authentic, human-based learning in neighborhood schools; first on the standardized testing front and lately on the tech front. But the odds feel so very long and progress slow and people are in deep, deep denial about the scope of the problem. In those moments I think perhaps flight is warranted. If the adults in schools don’t want saving, perhaps it is best to walk away and find people who want to build something else.

Nationally, there are groups calling for the wholesale withdrawal of children from public education systems that have been commandeered by ed-tech interests with the apparent blessing of both major political parties. Pennsylvania has many, many families that enroll in cyber-school. This of course is not an answer to the ed-tech conundrum, because while conducted “at home,” it is a corporate franchise charter school education carried out on a surveillance device. In Philadelphia, there are also sizeable home school and un-schooling communities. This model is more traditional in approach, often drawing on local cultural offerings to supplement a home-based curriculum. It’s labor intensive and not something many families have the time or income to sustain over the long haul.

As Education Savings Account programs gain momentum, I feel I must point out that flight is not going to be a workable option either, even if a family goes the traditional home school route. You see ESAs are early stage e-wallets. Social impact investment markets will demand education impact data in exchange for “equitable” funding. No question. The reformers see the e-wallet concept as an elegant solution, well suited to the needs of investors. Digital money can be programmed by the authorities and spread around “out of school” and online education providers using Blockchain micro-payments. Student data, lots of it, will in turn flow in. There will be synergy between digital payments and digital data. The child is transformed into a vehicle through which the capital of the neoliberal financialized education system can flow.

So, if you are a parent who decides to go the low-tech, traditional home school route, what happens when all the civic and cultural spaces in your community sign on to the learning ecosystem program and start taking ESAs? Well, at that point they’ll be pulled into the system of payment / data exchange. The programs on offer will have to be redesigned for check-the-box impact demonstration. They will likely move towards more tech-integration. They’ll need it to capture the quantity of data required by the social impact dashboard systems.

The e-wallet transformation, once fully implemented, will hijack recreation centers, art spaces, theater groups, science meet-ups, sports leagues, outdoor programs, even public libraries, turning them into badge-issuing nodes of the learning ecosystem. They will be expected to monitor the behavior and emotional regulation of students and report back. At that point there will be no place to flee, unless we organize parallel community spaces that refuse all public funds and the strings of data harvest that will come along with them.

So I sit here on a rainy Friday night seeing storm clouds on the horizon, wanting to fight but not sure who is fighting with me. I’m still looking for a viable Plan B. Got any ideas?



6 thoughts on “Looking For A Plan B

  1. LisaM says:

    I’ve got no plan B for you…..sorry. My plan B is that we have pulled child #2 from public school and are paying to have him in private high school. Although not perfect, private schools are still far behind public school in regards to the data madness. In our area, the private HS’s are jammed packed with parents fleeing the public school systems because of the adoption of common core, the over testing, the mis use of SEL etc etc. It’s sad.

    • Karen Bracken says:

      Your Plan B is THE proper plan. We need to STARVE THE BEAST. Parents must do all they can to either home school or put their children in private school. The public school system cannot be saved. So many parents know what is going on but refuse to take the necessary steps to save their children and the future of this country.

  2. Mary Porter says:

    I’m going to stay and fight, with everything left of my strength. This thing is evil.

    One vision-impaired child in my extended family has just “graduated” from online abuse into dropout status as soon as he hit 16. He has a little brother going through now, a baby sister coming up. I’d go and teach them if I could. Their mother gives them everything she has: mountains, waterfalls, springs, lakes and seacoasts, but they need more.

    There is no plan B for the children dear to me, millions of them.

  3. Steve Whetstone says:

    I have a fantastic plan B for you. What if schools were given a formulae that allowed them to charge more tuition to rich people and less tuition to poor people automatically. What if this formulae could be proven mathematically and economically to make the school a profit? I believe I have developed a method to do this in a free market that is convenient and scalable.

    First lets ask what is the value of the education, because that affects how much a school can charge. The value of education varies based on the wealth of the student’s parents in general and works as a percentile increase in lifetime earnings. A student who’s parents make $100,000/year will generally have kids who grow up to make $100,000/year assuming average education and no class mobility as seems the status quo assuming the students get a status quo education. BUT, a student with a great education will make 20% more than their parents and a student with a poor education will make 20% less than their parents. That 20% marginal difference is more money for a rich family with an income of $500,000/year than a poor family with an income of $5,000/year. So in a free market the 20% better school can charge more to the rich family for the same education as they charge to a poor family because the rich family gets more value from the education.

    Next lets imagine that the for profit school is trying to make the most money possible. They have a profit motive to charge more to rich families than to poor families because that makes them the most money. But how can they do that? They need a pricing Plan B that lets them charge more to rich parents than to poor parents on a sliding scale and that is convenient, and fair and uses a formulae so it can be scaled to large numbers of students easily. I have a project for a Plan B type of pricing solution that I’d like to share with you and get your thoughts on. My plan B proposal isn’t just for schools and education, although it works well for that. My plan B proposal is for pricing everything in the free market at higher prices to rich people and lower prices to poor people in a way that is guaranteed to make the seller a profit. If you’re intrigued and interested, I’d ask you to consider some videos I made personally (excuse the low production quality) of the plan B pricing solution at https://goo.gl/c6DC8i.

    Thanks for your time and I hope this is something you are interested in. I’m poor myself and am looking for supporters to make my plan B pricing solution a reality and to share this idea that I think has a lot of potential to solve inequality. By my estimates, based on 7 trillion in annual retail sales in the USA this would increase retailer profit by 2 trillion dollars/year and result in a transfer of wealth from the richest to the poorest Americans of 3.5 trillion dollars a year. For education I have a rough guess based on a $620 billion dollars on K-12 education each year in USA based on a google search. Not very good data, but maybe you can help? I’m not actually sure how this would work with public funded education which is already somewhat priced higher for rich people based on a progressive income tax and general funds. For higher education at for profit universities the economics and political arguments are easier to make and based on $536 billion dollars/year we could expect the University system to profit by an additional $100 billion dollars while simultaneously saving the poor half of the student body a ballpark estimate of $200 billion dollars and charging the richest half of the student body and additional 300 billion dollars.

    • Karen Bracken says:

      Sorry but the real issue/problem is NOT money and decades of pumping billions into poverty areas with no positive benefit proves this out. The real problem is parental engagement, unwed mothers who for the most part will never be able to dig their way out of poverty, stress and chaos fill these children’s lives. Of course there are exceptions to every answer but for the most part the family environment plays a much bigger role and now government wants to become the parent by feeding kids, providing mental health screenings and physical exams. Not because they care about the kids but because this is how we indoctrinate kids to believe the government takes care of us and is the answer to all our problems when in fact they are the direct cause of many of these conditions……it has all be a well planned agenda spanning many, many decades. All they needed to fulfill their desire for control was technology and now they have that one missing link.

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