FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Death of the Teacher

Then Socrates sat down, and “How fine it would be, Agathon,” he said, “if wisdom were a sort of thing that could flow out of the one of us who is fuller into him who is emptier, by our mere contact with each other, as water will flow through wool from the fuller cup into the emptier. If such is indeed the case with wisdom, I set a great value on my sitting next to you.

– Plato, Symposium

The de-naturalization, or alienation, of our humanity by the enveloping darkness of technology is now even reaching into the most humane of environments, education.  The current unrest in schools around the world is not only about the neoliberal drive to privatize education, it is about the survival of teaching itself.

The most recent setback in this struggle has taken place in Ontario, Canada. The new fascist government, which refers to itself as “FordNation,” announced on March 15th, 2019 that all high school students will be required to complete fourmandatory online credits. The Education Critic Marit Stiles of the Social Democratic, “New Democrat Party” in Canada (NDP), has said that the long-term goal of “FordNation” is to “shuffle teachers out of classrooms and replace them with online classes.”

But teaching is dead once it’s setting in a human relationship is removed. From Plato to Freud educational theorists have argued that the development of rapport between student and teacher, and the management of disruptions in this relationship, is the teacher’s key “method.”

Ironically, it is so-called “conservative” politicians who are ready to ignore such traditional wisdom, and recklessly kick the scala amoris out from under the feet of today’s student. It will build student “resiliency” exclaimed Ontario’s Education Minister Lisa Thompson, parroting the words of American Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, (if it does not crush them, one is tempted to add).

According to the Toronto Star, Ontario is breaking new ground on this issue: “Requiring four online courses for graduation would be a first in North America.” Following Michigan’s lead in 2006, Florida in 2011, Virginia in 2012, and Arkansas in 2013 also introduced online learning requirements. More recently Alabama joined the group and now requires that all students complete one online/technology enhanced course or experience prior to graduation.

Other states, including Georgia, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and West Virginia, have passed rules or legislation encouraging but not requiring online learning. In addition, some schools and districts in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Idaho have created online learning requirements.

According to the Atlantic, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has touted this trend toward virtual schooling as a particularly ripe area for expansion, emphasizing its flexibility and potential to offer courses that a student’s traditional school might not have. But what she and other pro-market reformers in the education field are really interested in is the fact that most online (virtual) schools, are privately run, for-profit, and lucrative.

They use the same funding mechanism as charter schools — the operators get public funds for each child who signs up—but they do not have to maintain buildings, provide transportation, or pay for full staffs. One teacher can follow scores, even hundreds, of students as they tap their way through digital lessons on their own computers.

The fact that the evidence is strong that these “virtual schools,”deliver significantly lower academic results than public schools with face-to-face educators seems to be of no concern to FordNation or Devos. For example, according to the Hechinger Report, researchers from Stanford University have found that “online-only schools tend to attract and harm the most vulnerable students. Ohio students with low test scores who enroll in online-only schools tend to fall even further behind. High-performing students fare better, but they still do worse than they would have done if they had not enrolled in a virtual school.”

It was also found that students attending “virtual schools” in Ohio, “do worse in both reading and math – far worse in math – than other schools. It is as if students at online charters in Ohio skipped 47 days of reading classes in a year and 136 days of math classes.”

Of course, the fact that just 9 percent of virtual charters are currently unionized may not concern Betsy Devos, but it does concern the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teacher’s union in the United States. The NEA supports the use of online education but is “concerned about the growth of “cyber-charters,” because they are “run by for-profit businesses.”

Similarly, the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF), has taken a stand against any conception of education that does not recognize the critical role of relationships:

“OSSTF/FEESO has supported the effective use of technology to support teaching and learning. However, education is a human centric activity and cannot be replaced by technology; only enhanced by it. According to Dr. James Comer, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” Human interaction is critical for success in developing all cognitive areas and not just in the delivery of facts and knowledge; the path to learning is highly individualized and can only be mapped from the real-time interaction between people.”

It should be pointed out that the relationship issue is not just about academic achievement, it is also about mental health. Computerizing education will only intensify the alienation of teachers and students already suffering high levels of anxiety and depression because of neo-liberal competitive pressures eg., standardized testing, mark inflation, school closures etc…

An apt comparison may be with the early modern weavers who felt so threatened by new stocking frame technologies they became “Luddites,” and machine-breakers; will teachers have to turn to raids on “virtual schools,” and “computer-smashing,” in order to survive?

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
Paul Street
The Dismal Dollar Dems and the Subversion of Democracy
Dave Lindorff
Conviction and Removal Aren’t the Issue; It’s Impeachment of Trump That is Essential
Ron Jacobs
Law Seminar in the Hearing Room: Impeachment Day Six
Linda Pentz Gunter
Why Do We Punish the Peacemakers?
Louis Proyect
Michael Bloomberg and Me
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold
Joseph Natoli
What We Must Do
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Global Poison Spring
Robert Fantina
Is Kashmir India’s Palestine?
Charles McKelvey
A Theory of Truth From the South
Walden Bello
How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True
Evan Jones
BNP Before a French Court
Norman Solomon
Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War
Torsten Bewernitz – Gabriel Kuhn
Syndicalism for the Twenty-First Century: From Unionism to Class-Struggle Militancy
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: From Banja Luka to Sarajevo
Thomas Knapp
NATO is a Brain Dead, Obsolete, Rabid Dog. Euthanize It.
Forrest Hylton
Bolivia’s Coup Government: a Far-Right Horror Show
M. G. Piety
A Lesson From the Danes on Immigration
Ellen Isaacs
The Audacity of Hypocrisy
Monika Zgustova
Chernobyl, Lies and Messianism in Russia
Manuel García, Jr.
From Caesar’s Last Breath to Ours
Binoy Kampmark
Going to the ICJ: Myanmar, Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Gamble
Jill Richardson
Marijuana and the Myth of the “Gateway Drug”
Muzamil Bhat
Srinagar’s Shikaras: Still Waters Run Deep Losses
Gaither Stewart
War and Betrayal: Change and Transformation
Farzana Versey
What Religion is Your Nationalism?
Clark T. Scott
The Focus on Trump Reveals the Democrat Model
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Do Bernie’s Supporters Know What “Not Me, Us” Means? Does Bernie?
Peter Harley
Aldo Leopold, Revisited
Winslow Myers
A Presidential Speech the World Needs to Hear
Christopher Brauchli
The Chosen One
Jim Britell
Misconceptions About Lobbying Representatives and Agencies
Ted Rall
Trump Gets Away with Stuff Because He Does
Mel Gurtov
Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the Insecurity of China’s Leadership
Nicky Reid
Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard and the Slow Death of the Democratic Delusion
Tom H. Hastings
Cross-Generational Power to Change
John Kendall Hawkins
1619: The Mighty Whitey Arrives
Julian Rose
Why I Don’t Have a Mobile Phone
David Yearsley
Parasitic Sounds
Elliot Sperber
Class War is Chemical War
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail