I’ve heard lots of local tech workers complain angrily that, in a region that’s home to Microsoft and Amazon, there is really no excuse for schools staying open. Digital learning, they argue, is already preferable. And now, they say, it’s necessary.
But that just strikes me as wildly uninformed — although that’s never stopped the tech industry from intervening in education before. It’s an assertion that rests on the assumption that ed-tech is good, that it can replicate at home what happens in the classroom. “This may be our moment,” ed-tech folks exclaim, giddily sharing lists of their favorite digital learning tools (with little concern, it seems for questions of accessibility, privacy, or security) and tips for quickly moving “to the cloud.” Of course, education technology — as a field, an industry, a discipline, a solution, what have you — has had decades and decades and decades to get this right. It still hasn’t. So when you hear “this is our moment,” you should recall perhaps the thesis of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. What we’re poised to see in response to the coronavirus — and not just in education, to be fair — is more disaster capitalism, and “disaster capitalists share this same inability to distinguish between creation and destruction, between hurting and healing.”
In my town, a non-trivial portion of the kids would not be able to eat a decent breakfast or lunch if they weren’t going to school, but the ed-tech types never seem to think about this sort of thing. Nor do they think about all the people who don’t have high-speed internet and laptops. What about all the families that depend on school-sponsored after-care programs because parents and guardians can’t be at home?