Education Technology and the Future of Academic Freedom
This is part seven of my annual look at the year’s “top ed-tech stories”
It was one of the most frequently repeated stories of the year – a story that has, if we’re being honest, been repeated for decades now: college students, particularly left-leaning college students, are intolerant. The rise of “identity politics” on the left has created a moral panic of sorts on college campuses, or so we’re told, in which intellectually and politically conformist “social justice warriors” shout and stomp about and refuse to engage with ideas that might upset them, refuse to engage with “reason.” Political correctness and postmodernism have become twin threats – a “left-wing authoritarianism” – poised to dismantle the great tradition of liberalism once exemplified by the liberal arts college.
As such, universities helped create Trumpism. I mean, it’s on the cover of The Chronicle of Higher Education. It must be true.
If it sounds like a caricature… well, it is. If nothing else, pundits and politicians seem to forget that the majority of college students do not attend private institutions like Columbia or Middlebury or even elite publics like Berkeley or Madison. 40% of those in higher education attend community colleges. Two out of every three community college students experiences food insecurity; about half of community college students are housing insecure. About a quarter of all college students in the US are 25 or older. About the same percentage are single parents. 40% of undergraduate students work 30 hours a week or more. Almost three-quarters graduate with student loan debt – debt that they may well carry into retirement. The idea that college students are sheltered and pampered isn’t just wrong; it’s insulting.
But that’s the story that’s gets told. Again and again and again.
There was, no doubt, plenty of shouting and protesting on college campuses this year, as in the past. Protests at Evergreen College in Washington, for example. Protests at Reed College in Oregon. Protests at the University of Oregon. Protests when anti-feminist author Christina Hoff Sommers spoke at Williams College. Protests when Betsy DeVos spoke at Bethune-Cookman and when she spoke at Harvard. Protests when “pharma-bro” Martin Shkreli spoke at Harvard. Protests when Vice President Mike Pence gave the commencement address at Notre Dame. Protests when social pseudoscientist Charles Murray spoke at Middlebury College.
There were others certainly, but it was the Murray incident at Middlebury in March that seemed to set the tone for the year. (In hindsight, that should be totally unsurprising.)
Murray had been invited to campus by a conservative student group affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank where Murray is a fellow. Middlebury’s political science department agreed to co-sponsor the event – a decision for which its chair later apologized. The day before the scheduled lecture, hundreds of alumni and students condemned the visit, calling it “a decision that directly endangers members of the community and stains Middlebury’s reputation by jeopardizing the institution’s claims to intellectual rigor and compassionate inclusivity.” At the event itself, some students turned their backs to Murray, and some chanted loud enough to drown out his speech. After about 20 minutes, school administrators announced that the talk would be moved to an undisclosed location where a discussion between Murray and a faculty member, Allison Stanger, would be live-streamed. According to reports, as Murray and Professor Stanger exited the building, they were surrounded by protestors, some of whom allegedly attacked the pair and the car they were attempting to leave in.
The story was in The New York Times the next day: “Protesters Disrupt Speech by ‘Bell Curve’ Author at Vermont College.” The Wall Street Journal, where Murray has been a frequent contributor, weighed in with an op-ed condemning Middlebury students the day after: “A mob tries to silence Charles Murray and sends a prof to the ER.” Murray penned a piece for the AEI website: “Reflections on the revolution in Middlebury.”
“Mob.” “Revolution.” Attempts to “silence.”
Over sixty students were disciplined by Middlebury, with penalties “ranging from probation to official college discipline, which places a permanent record in the student’s file.” It’s not clear, however, that those involved in the physical confrontation of Murray were actually Middlebury students.
But the plot and the characters for the story were set: college students are not willing to listen to opposing voices or differing opinions. College students do not support free speech. (In this story, I’ll note, students’ speech rights as protestors don’t seem to count.)
White Nationalism on Campus
Charles Murray is, of course, most famous for his book The Bell Curve which argues that the IQs of African-Americans are lower than those of white Americans and that this, specifically, is a genetic and therefore inheritable difference. These are hardly unassailable or even scholarly claims – Murray’s work has been challenged by other researchers for decades, and Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, perhaps most famously, dismantles Murray’s arguments for eugenics and biological determinism.
Whatever “the science” says or doesn’t say, it is an incredible stretch to suggest that students at Middlebury – or anywhere really – need to be exposed to arguments about the superiority of white people. Again, who do we assume “college students” are?
It’s probably one of the major weaknesses of almost all the punditry you’ll find about campus “intolerance”: the handwringing about “free speech” tends to overlook the very real prejudices – in speech and in action – that students experience, on and off campus. And in 2017, under President Trump, things have (arguably) taken a turn for the worse. Taken a turn for the worse, to be clear, at institutions that already have a long history of structural biases built in to them – many institutions literally built by slaves. There are Confederate monuments on campuses. Schools named after Confederate leaders. Confederate flags displayed in classrooms. Nooses left in public places. Anti-Semitic fliers on campus. Bomb threats. Schools defaced with Swastikas. White supremacists recruiting on campus. Violent, racially motivated assaults. Racist roommates. Racist professors. Racist teachers. Racist principals. Racist school board members. Racist textbooks. Racist assignments. Murders of college students at the hands of white supremacists. White supremacists, carrying torches, marching around the statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia.
It’s impossible to watch that video and argue that the greatest threat to “free speech” today involves political correctness on campus. Or so you’d think. It’s impossible to look at the statistics about hate crimes and bias incidents across K–12 and higher education in 2017 and argue that students aren’t simply getting enough exposure to ideas like Charles Murray’s. Or so you’d think.
Universities have been lambasted for curbing free speech, all while hosting a number of high profile members of white nationalist and alt-right movements on campus. Richard Spencer, Ann Coulter,Milo Yiannopooulos, perhaps most notably. The latter has toured the US, trolling colleges and daring them to cancel his appearances. (Doing so fits quite neatly with the narrative that colleges are opposed to the free expression of ideas.) And some school have canceled, citing threats of violence and the high cost of security. UC Berkeley, The New York Times reported, spent $1.5 million between February and September to provide security for conservative speakers invited to campus.
The security is necessary. A white nationalist allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters the day after the Unite the Right rally at UVA, killing a young woman. A member of the IWW was shot by a supporter of Milo Yiannopoulos at a protest outside his speech at the University of Washington. Three supporters of Richard Spencer shot at protesters outside his speech at the University of Florida.
But the story persists: college students are the real threat.
Legislative Threats to Free Speech
In response to campus protests – or so we’re told – state legislatures around the country have proposed (and in some cases passed) bills that purport to protect free speech on campus while cracking down on students’ abilities to protest: a proposed bill in California, for example, that would prevent speakers from being disinvited and would remove existing free-speech codes on campus. A bill in Colorado, signed into law, that would ban “free speech zones” on campuses in the state. A proposed bill in Florida that would ban any student or faculty member from disrupting a campus event. A proposed bill in Illinois that would require public universities to suspend or expel students who infringe on the “expressive rights” of others. A proposed bill in Louisiana that would require freshman orientation to focus on free speech issues. As with the Illinois bill, Louisiana students who violate free speech policies twice would be expelled or suspended. A bill in North Carolina that would bar conduct that “substantially disrupts the functioning of the constituent institution” or “substantially interferes with the protected free expression rights of others.” A bill in Oregon that would require students be expelled if convicted of rioting. A bill in Texas that would bar free speech zones on campuses. A bill signed into law in Utah that defined free speech policies for campuses, adding that those who violate these can face legal action. A bill signed into law in Virginia that says “No public institution of higher education shall abridge the constitutional freedom of any individual, including enrolled students, faculty, and other employees and invited guests to speak on campus.” A proposed bill in Wisconsin that would require freshman orientation to address free speech issues, would prohibit students from interfering with the free speech rights of others, and would require institutions remain “neutral” on political issues.
That last element of the Wisconsin legislation underscores how these bills aren’t so so much about protecting speech but about curbing speech and curbing academic freedom. (This all happened alongside proposals in several states this year seeking to end faculty tenure – in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri.) Lawmakers in Tennessee sought to create an office to monitor “intellectual diversity” at the universities in the state. A bill in Iowa proposed requiring “partisan balance” in any hiring on the state’s campuses – a department would be prevented from hiring if that person’s political party affiliation shifted the “balance” of the department as a whole. A bill in Arizona proposed banning any classes or activities that addressed social justice or racial equality. The governor of Florida signed a bill that would allow any resident to challenge a school textbook or other classroom material.
For its part, the Justice Department indicated that it would investigate what it deemed to be free speech violations on campuses – at Pierce College, for example, and at Georgia Gwinnett College. “Freedom of thought and speech on the American campus are under attack,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a crowd at the Georgetown University Law Center in September. “The American university was once the center of academic freedom – a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas. But it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.” Sessions compared student protestors to the KKK – both wear masks, he ever so astutely observed. Sessions also expressed support for President Trump’s condemnation of NFL players who “took a knee” during the National Anthem. “The president has free speech rights too,” Sessions explained. All this, let’s not forget from a Justice Department that prosecuted a woman for giggling during the Attorney General’s confirmation hearing.
If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2017
It’s almost as though some people do not understand the US Constitution at all…
Dark Money on Campus
There’s a reason why so many state politicians were prepared with legislation to tackle the campus free speech issue this year. They were drawing on a proposal crafted by the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based libertarian think tank. The Institute released the text of its proposed legislation on January 30 (over a month before the Charles Murray incident at Middlebury College and just a day before violence at UC Berkeley prompted the school to cancel a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos). The institute’s language served as the basis for the bills in almost all the states where free speech measures were proposed this year.
The Goldwater Institute has ties to ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a well-known right wing “bill mill” that writes conservative legislation at the state and local level. (For its part, ALEC’s legislative advocacy focuses on three “free speech” areas: campus speech, the privacy of donors to campaigns and 501(c)(3)s, and commercial speech.) The Goldwater Institute is also backed by the Koch Brothers, the libertarian mega-donors who were one of the key figures in Jane Meyer’s 2016 book Dark Money.
The campus free speech controversy is all about dark money. And so too, quite likely, is the future of academic freedom.
While inviting controversial speakers to speak at colleges was often positioned as satiating a demand by campus conservatives for more intellectual diversity, all this was much less a grassroots campaign among local college students than it was the work of a handful of well-funded, national groups backed by the Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires – billionaires who seek to further a certain narrative about higher education and shape the discourse and the scholarship that occurs at universities.
The New York Times profiled one of these, the Young America’s Foundation, in May. The group has sponsored and organized campus talks by Richard Spencer, Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro and others:
The speeches are a part of the group’s mission of grooming future conservative leaders – Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller, a White House adviser, are among its alumni – and its long list of donors has included the television game show host Pat Sajak, the novelist Tom Clancy, the billionaire brothers David H. and Charles G. Koch, and the Amway billionaires Richard and Helen Devos, who gave $10 million to endow the Reagan Ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif., which the foundation runs as a preserve. (Their daughter-in-law, Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, is not a donor, the group says.)
Over the past two years, armed with a $16 million infusion from the estate of an orthodontist in California, Robert Ruhe, the organization has doubled its programming, including campus speeches. In 2016 that meant 111 speakers on 77 campuses. On the group’s website, it boasted of “dispatching” 31 speakers to colleges last month alone.
The Chronicle of Higher Education profiled Turning Point USA in May, a conservative student group that created a “Professors Watch List” to identify and monitor faculty members who it believes have a “radical agenda.” The group, which is also active in supporting conservative candidates for student government, is funded by the Ed Uihlein Foundation, the family foundation of Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, the family foundation of healthcare products company CEO Vince Foglia, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus’ foundation, and the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, among others. (Gee, that last name seems familiar.)
In March, MuckRock broke the story that Milo Yiannopoulos’s college speaking tour was being bankrolled by Robert Mercer, the secretive hedge fund billionaire behind Trump’s run for President. Mercer backs a network of conservative enterprises – enterprises at the heart of right-wing mis- and disinformation campaigns. Buzzfeed reported this fall, for example, that Mercer funded Project Veritas, the discredited activist media organization run by James O’Keefe. Mercer is also an investor in Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm that worked for the Trump campaign, as well as an investor in Breitbart News, the right-wing news site that once employed Yiannopoulos and that was run by Steve Bannon before he became Trump’s campaign manager.
Mercer announced this fall that he was retiring and selling his stake in Breitbart – selling it to his daughters, that is. In that announcement, he expressed regret for funding Yiannopoulos’s work: “In my opinion, actions of and statements by Mr. Yiannopoulos have caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate.” The statement of contrition came on the heels of a lengthy investigation by Buzzfeed into Breitbart’s ties to white supremacists – including an article that showed Yiannopoulos singing “America the Beautiful” as a crowd full of white men, including Richard Spencer, raised their arms in Nazi salutes.
Some people are just sorry they got caught.
Dark Money and Academic Freedom
This summer, John Villasenor, a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA, received funding from the Koch Foundation to survey students about their thoughts on free speech. Among his findings: 20% of undergraduates believe in using violence to silence someone who makes “offensive and hurtful statements.” There was no peer review of the study; he simply posted it to his website. And yet somehow – somehow! – almost every media organization picked up the story. It made for great headlines, after all. It fit the narrative about illiberal college students perfectly. But the science – the sampling, the polling – was “junk.”
Good science doesn’t matter to the Koch’s. They’re interested in specific outcomes, specific ideas, specific stories. They’ve been the major backers of climate science denial campaigns, backing one non-peer-reviewed study, for instance, that claimed polar bears are not endangered by climate change. Many of these disinformation campaigns have been orchestrated through the Koch’s financial support of right-wing think tanks, but they have also used their sizable donations to influence what happens at universities.
As Meyer chronicles in Dark Money, the Koch Brothers have sought to establish a beachhead in higher education to expand their libertarian, “free market” ideas. According to IB Times, Charles Koch gave $50 million to higher education institutions in 2016 to fund projects like the Center for the Study of Free Enterprise at Western Carolina and the John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise at the University of Kentucky, as well as several different institutes at George Mason University. Quite often, the money that the Koch Brothers donate to schools comes with explicit ideological strings attached: giving the billionaires oversight over who is hired, for example, over what gets taught, over what gets researched and what the outcomes of that research will be.
(The Koch Brothers are just one example of how industry tries to shape the curriculum, particularly when it comes to climate science, environmental science more broadly, and computer science. More on the latter in an upcoming article in this series. But if I were to recommend one area to pay attention to in the coming months and years – me, ed-tech’s Cassandra – it is “the curriculum.” It is, after all, what the Gates Foundation says it plans to focus its future funding efforts on. It’s what education reformers and education technology investors alike have expressed interest in lately. Prepare yourself for more “canon wars.” Prepare yourself for the billionaires behind the alt-right and the billionaires in Silicon Valley – Randians alike – to try very hard to shape what that curriculum consists of.)
What happened to Jane Meyer when she wrote about the Koch Brothers in Dark Money is quite instructive here, particularly if we scrutinize how and when “free speech” gets invoked and the tactics that are used to make sure some speech will not be uttered. The Kochs hired investigators to probe Mayer’s background and her friends’ backgrounds. They contacted her employer, The New Yorker, and claimed that much of her writing was plagiarized. They attempted to organize a smear campaign to delegitimize her and her work. It’s akin to Peter Thiel’s tactics when Gawker wrote something about him that he did not like: sue the organization into oblivion, destroy journalism.
First Amendment and “free speech” be damned.
Social Media and Weaponized Data
Indeed, there should be a giant asterisk next to the “free speech” that many politicians and pundits have fretted about this year. They’ve expressed little to no concern, for example, over Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an assistant professor of African-American studies at Princeton University, who after calling President Trump a “racist, sexist megalomaniac” has been forced to cancel her public talks because of death threats. Little concern over threats made to Trinity College professor Johnny Eric Williams over statements he made on social media about Republican Congressperson Steven Scalise. Little concern when a school canceled a speaking engagement by activist Bree Newsome, the woman who pulled the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina state house in 2015. Little concern when Essex County College in New Jersey fired adjunct faculty member Lisa Durden after she appeared on FOX to defend a Black Lives Matter event that was open to Blacks only. Little concern when Drexel University placed political science professor George Ciccariello-Maher on leave after statements he made on social media about race. Little concern when the National Parks Service yanked funding for UC Berkeley professor’s documentary on the Black Panther Party. Little concern when Harvard rescinded a fellowship offer to Chelsea Manning or grad school admission to Michelle Jones. Little concern when the the University of North Carolina system Board of Governors voted to bar litigation by the UNC Chapel Hill School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights.
Some of the loudest advocates of “free speech” seem less interested in defending principles than in defending prejudice. And unfortunately, many colleges seem unwilling or unable to defend the speech of faculty – particularly of faculty of color.
As sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom has pointed out, many colleges are utterly unprepared for the onslaught that occurs when “culture wars go digital” and when a faculty member’s remarks – on- or offline – go viral. The conservative and alt-right media – the Breitbarts and the Campus Reforms – know this. They’re better at this – at manufacturing a PR crisis for schools. They have formed, as The Chronicle of Higher Education describes it, “an assembly line of outrage that collects professors’ Facebook posts, opinion essays, and classroom comments and amplifies them until they have become national news.”
Facilitated by education technologies and technology platforms, education’s online futures – a topic I explored in the previous article in this series – will likely be increasingly intertwined with this assembly line as student speech/data and teacher speech/scholarship/data alike are now so easily trackable, sharable, exploitable. Education technology is also utterly unprepared.
No-Platforming in a Platform Economy
I haven’t made the connection to education technology explicit in this article, but I hope – particularly with what I’ve said about “fake news,” “the innovation gospel,” the Trump administration and its connections to white nationalism, the billionaire Betsy DeVos’ holy war on education, the platform economy, the privatization of education, surveillance technologies on campus, algorithmic discrimination, and the weaponization of education data – that one might see how the future of scholarship and academic freedom might be at risk, how a push for more and more education technology exposes “what we know” and “what we say” (in the classroom and beyond) to the politics of industry, the politics of billionaires, and a certain libertarian ideology that talks a lot about “openness” and “meritocracy” but in practice privileges extraction and exclusion.
Silicon Valley famously loves “free speech,” of course, although 2017 has been something of a reckoning for the high tech industry as to what in fact that love might mean, who it might actually protect. Twitter and Facebook are clearly vehicles for the alt-right and vectors for the spread – manually and algorithmically – of disinformation, misinformation, and hate speech. Hate is networked; hate is emboldened; hate is entrenched online.
In May, ProPublica profiled the content delivery network Cloudflare and the protection it offers the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer: “How One Major Internet Company Helps Serve Up Hate on the Web.” Cloudflare has long been criticized for providing services for The Daily Stormer, but its CEO Matthew Prince has insisted that “a website is speech. It is not a bomb.”
The white supremacist Unite the Right rally at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia this summer and the murder of Heather Heyer were a wake-up call, of sorts, for many tech companies that had, up until then, shared Prince’s sentiment – it’s just speech – and had accepted white supremacist and white nationalist clientele. On the Monday following the weekend rally, GoDaddy booted The Daily Stormer from its hosting service. When the site tried to move to Google, Google refused, shutting down The Daily Stormer YouTube channel in the process. Email service Sendgrid and the productivity suite Zoho announced they were terminating their services to the site. Reddit announced it would ban some subreddits associated with the extreme right. Facebook banned eight alt-right groups and removed the Unite the Right’s event page. Spotify removed a bunch of white supremacist artists from its platform. The messaging service Twilio announced that it would add “an explicit prohibition of hate speech” to its Acceptable Use Policy. Apple and PayPal stopped accepting payments on some websites that were selling neo-Nazi apparel. And on the Wednesday of that week, Cloudflare finally pulled the plug on The Daily Stormer, terminating its account.
Prince, Cloudflare’s CEO, sent an email to employees, stating,
Let me be clear: this was an arbitrary decision. It was different than what I’d talked talked with our senior team about yesterday. I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet. I called our legal team and told them what we were going to do. I called our Trust & Safety team and had them stop the service. It was a decision I could make because I’m the CEO of a major Internet infrastructure company.
Having made that decision we now need to talk about why it is so dangerous. I’ll be posting something on our blog later today. Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.
Perhaps no one should, but they do. And these companies have the power to decide “who’s allowed on the Internet” not just by banning sites like The Daily Stormer but by not banning them as well. Because then it’s Jewish people, people of color, white women, queer folks, trans folks, immigrants, and others who struggle to exist online. The alt-right and white supremacists are doing their damnedest to make sure many of us are not welcome online.
That’s what many of these campus “free speech” stunts are too: making sure these people are not welcome in academia either.
UC Berkeley comparative literature professor Judith Butler recently gave a talk at a forum sponsored by the university’s faculty senate on the limits of free expression. I apologize for quoting at length:
The “Principles of Community” adopted by the University of California at Berkeley include, as you know, a commitment to “sustaining a safe, caring and human environment,” an affirmation of the link between diversity and excellence, and the dignity of all individuals. So what happens when by honoring freedom of expression we permit an attack on the dignity of some individuals and groups on campus? It would seem that if we place the First Amendment above all other constitutional mandates, then it is merely considered unfortunate that the dignity of those individuals was attacked, and it is accepted to be the price we must pay for free speech. And if forms of harassment occur that would be disciplined were they to happen in the classroom or between any two members of the UC Berkeley community, and they are not disciplined or proscribed because, as public speech, they are protected by the First Amendment, how then are we to understand the difference between the norms that govern members of the community and those that are binding on individuals invited to speak to that community? We move from one framework of legality to another, and the effect on the mind is shocking and disconcerting. And it is not just that local norms and rules clash with constitutional ones, since equal treatment is a constitutional protection as well. The “clash” between these two principles can only take place if we consider harassment and incitement to be protected speech, which, I believe, they should not be. But much depends on the terms we bring to bear on identifying expressive activity and its limits.
If the commitment to free speech provisions under the First Amendment takes precedence over Title IX, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Berkeley Principles of Community, then I suppose we are being asked to understand that we will, in the name of freedom of speech, willingly allow our environment to be suffused with hatred, threats, and violence, that we will see the values we teach and to which we adhere destroyed by our commitment to free speech or, rather, to a very specific – possibly overbroad – interpretation of what constitutes expressive activity protected by that constitutional principle. Of course, if we admit that free speech is one founding principle, and that there are other founding principles as well, or those that have become historically clear to us as slavery was abolished and discrimination outlawed, we are then obligated to engage in the practice of judgment that allows us to sort these conflicting and imperative demands.
Indeed, in a world of changing technology where incitement and harassment take on new forms, we are faced with hard cases, real dilemmas, the need for concrete interpretation of cases and outcomes, and informed judgments. If we are free speech absolutists, then free speech not only takes precedence over every other constitutional principle, and some argue that every other constitutional principle will be regarded as structurally dependent on the First Amendment. That is one view – a kind of domino theory – but surely not the only one. If free speech is not the only constitutional right we are obligated to defend, then we are surely in another sort of quandary, figuring out how best to defend rights that sometimes do clash with one another, and where the clash takes new forms in different moments of history when new expressive technologies force us to reconsider the meaning of expressive freedom. If free speech does take precedence over every other constitutional principle and every other community principle, then perhaps we should no longer claim to be weighing or balancing competing principles or values. We should perhaps frankly admit that we have agreed in advance to have our community sundered, racial and sexual minorities demeaned, the dignity of trans people denied, that we are, in effect, willing to be wrecked by this principle of free speech, considered more important than any other value. If so, we should be honest about the bargain we have made: we are willing to be broken by that principle, and that, yes, our commitments to dignity, equality, and non-violence will be, for better or worse, secondary. Is that how we want it to be? Is that how we must be?
Proponents of education technology would also do well to be much more honest about this bargain. It simply isn’t the case that the “new expressive technologies” of the classroom make education “more equitable, more just.” Without a better ethical framework for ed-tech, it will continue to further the agenda of its wealthy donors and investors. That is, after all, who seems to be winning all these “free speech” fights.
This post first appeared on Hack Education on 16 December 2017.