Education's Ecology

This page and its links explore three elements of our schooling system for education that are now so embedded that thinking about educational alternatives is seriously impaired. Almost all of what follows could be labeled "The Education Industry" because each element—textbooks, testing, technology—makes up a notable if not huge sector of the economy. While these sectors may be secondary within the gross economy and of the education workforce, they are tightly mixed with property assets in the form of buildings and land, vehicles and equipment. These elements exist as much or more for their commercial value as for any educational value. As will be emphasized throughout these pages, the drivers of these elements are profit, pure and simple; the link to education is markets and market share. Education is a market ripe for exploitation and has not gone unnoticed by the creators and makers, manufacturers and marketers of textbooks, tests and technology. Of course, beyond all of that is the combination of contribution and detraction the elements have for educational values. It will be argued that none of these elements are enough for education even as they stand in as icons for education.


Textbooks are teachers between covers. They are the result of flesh and blood teachers being inadequate, among other things. Criticism of teachers and textbooks are inevitably linked.  It is the intent of this section to explore how textbooks both contribute and detract from education and what could be done differently. We will stipulate at the outset that our efforts are daunting because the publication of textbooks is a huge industry. This industry has grown from its origins with Gutenberg and the invention of moveable type. Now here comes the Big So What! 

If education is to advance in a new direction that leverages the contemporary changes in society, alternatives to textbooks for dissemination of educative information must emerge. We believe that the time is ripe for emergence.

A recent related encounter has energized efforts to supervene across the enterprise of textbook publishing. My encounters with a small local production effort with video communications in the space of cable television and the streaming of video via YouTube has suggested another way for information dissemination but more importantly for vetting the information content. The game-changing idea is combining the enormous content of Wikipedia or its counterparts with the visual interest and coherence of YouTube or its counterparts. Still in its infant development, the project takes search of Wikipedia content and uses the search terms for uncovering YouTube content. The potential is to eliminate the top-down legacy of textbooks and impose a massively collaborative system for rating the quality of audio/visual media as a learning tool. We are working with others on a demonstration of concept and testing of efficacy.


The contemporary spectacle of testing in education has spawned another industry and specialization among the ranks of educators. The so-called cost of education has acquired political leaning toward business principles, management practices, and marketing measures. "You can't manage what you don't measure" emerged from the business management guru Peter Drucker. A knee-jerk by a devil disguised as educators on school boards, professional educators in leadership positions as well as a groundswell of public sentiment caused a tsunami of business-like management and measurement for schools. The result has been a disaster for education. Large corporations and entrepreneurs have dollar signs dancing in their brains. A little arithmetic reveals a large market by simple-minded application of just a few dollars per student per year. It is an absolute wonder that mass testing has so far been limited to about only three grade levels.


Education is abuzz with expectations for technology and the myriad ways that it holds transformative potential. We will argue that the contemporary forms, while occasionally exciting, are merely a placeholder in the implements of expectation for making education better and different. The march of new technologies is not going to stop as long as markets exist. It would be almost unfathomable to imagine a world without existing and growing technologies. Every new advance of technology carries with it a new demand for education. Industry demands workers with skills to adapt the relevant technology for an industry. As technologies replace workers, new forms of work are created.  Industry expects the systems for education to produce and provide workers for the new forms of work. Where isolated schools and universities are response there are accolades. Where schools are unresponsive there is conspicuous criticism. The result is a ground swell of sentiment to add technology to schools. Unfortunately, when it come to technology in schools, the rich get richer and the gap expands beyond abutments for bridges. What good is information from Wikipedia and YouTube if you don't have the wires and devices to receive Wikipedia and YouTube. And, if you teachers are puzzled by all of the technology progress, you may just have to sit quietly and stare at a chalkboard while the teacher drones on.

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