structural ideology > deficit ideology

With this in mind, my purpose is to argue that when it comes to issues surrounding poverty and economic justice the preparation of teachers must be first and foremost an ideological endeavour, focused on adjusting fundamental understandings not only about educational outcome disparities but also about poverty itself. I will argue that it is only through the cultivation of what I call a structural ideology of poverty and economic justice that teachers become equity literate (Gorski 2013), capable of imagining the sorts of solutions that pose a genuine threat to the existence of class inequity in their classrooms and schools.

Source: Poverty and the ideological imperative: a call to unhook from deficit and grit ideology and to strive for structural ideology in teacher education

The Direct Confrontation Principle: There is no path to equity that does not involve a direct confrontation with inequity. There is no path to racial equity that does not involve a direct confrontation with interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism. “Equity” approaches that fail to directly confront inequity play a significant role in sustaining inequity.

The “Poverty of Culture” Principle: Inequities are primarily power and privilege problems, not primarily cultural problems. Equity requires power and privilege solutions, not just cultural solutions. Frameworks that attend to diversity purely in vague cultural terms, like the “culture of poverty,” are no threat to inequity.

The Prioritization Principle: Each policy and practice decision should be examined through the question, “How will this impact the most marginalized members of our community?” Equity is about prioritizing their interests.

The “Fix Injustice, Not Kids” Principle: Educational outcome disparities are not the result of deficiencies in marginalized communities’ cultures, mindsets, or grittiness, but rather of inequities. Equity initiatives focus, not on fixing marginalized people, but on fixing the conditions that marginalize people.

Source: Basic Principles for Equity Literacy

In the U.S., we have become so accepting of the fact that poverty is not a symptom of a grossly unequal economy, or the result of numerous systemic failures, or the product of years of trickle-down economics, but instead, that the only thing standing between a poor person and the life of their dreams is their own decisions, their own choices, and their own failures.

Source: If You’ve Never Lived In Poverty, Stop Telling Poor People What To Do

Tech Regrets, Structural Ideology, and the Addiction Metaphor

I’ve noticed that the Center for Humane Technology shares some common ground with the worst of ed-tech. First, they frame things in terms of fixing individuals instead of systems.

In this post I want to focus on how the Center has constructed what they perceive as a problem with the digital ecosystem: the attention economy and our addiction to it. I question how they’ve constructed the problem in terms of individual addictive behavior, and design, rather than structural failures and gaps; and the challenges in disconnection from the attention economy.

Source: The Center for Humane Technology Doesn’t Want Your Attention – Cyborgology

Education is awash with efforts to bikeshed the deficit model that ignore structural problems and, instead, tinker with individuals.

The marketing of mindsets is everywhere. Fast psycho-policy & the datafication of social-emotional learning dominate ed-tech. Grit, growth mindset, project-based mindset, entrepreneurial mindset, innovator’s mindset, and a raft of canned social-emotional skills programs are vying for public money. These notions are quickly productized, jumping straight from psychology departments to aphoristic word images shared on social media and marketing festooned on school walls.

Source: Mindset Marketing, Behaviorism, and Deficit Ideology

Instead of adopting a more structural ideology, our reflex is to turn inward toward psychology, blame down, and overlook the privilege, supremacy, and injustice in our systems.

Turning inwards to psychology, rather outwards to the political context, is precisely what gives us ‘lone wolf’ analyses of white supremacy.

Source: No, ‘cognitive strengthening exercises’ aren’t the answer to media literacy – Long View on Education

The meritocracy myth, prevalent in tech and Silicon Valley, makes it all the harder to think structurally. I wonder how much that contributes to framing solutions in terms of individuals rather than systems.

A second area of common ground is the use of pathologizing medical model framing.

The Center for Humane Technology constructs the problem in terms of addiction and therefore as one of individual attention. And while they acknowledge the importance of lobbying Congress and hardware companies (Apple and Microsoft will set us free as if they don’t lock us into digital ecosystems and vie for our attention?), they emphasize a focus on individual action be that of tech workers, or users. By invoking ‘addiction’ as a metaphor, they see the problem as being about individual attention, and eventually, individual salvation. Naming the co-founder of the Center, Harris, as the ‘conscience’ of Silicon Valley evokes a similar emphasis on individual rather than community, political, or structural dimensions to the attention economy and its dismantling, or restructuring. The use of the addiction metaphor has been criticized for at least twenty years and most notably by Sherry Turkle; and mostly because it is neither apt, nor it there enough evidence of how it works as an addiction. ‘Diet’ metaphors and relationships-with-food metaphors may work better, perhaps, to characterize our relationships with technology.

Source: The Center for Humane Technology Doesn’t Want Your Attention – Cyborgology

The addiction metaphor has caused so much harm. Rarely is it accompanied by an understanding of the difference between addiction and dependence, of addiction as a learning disorder, or of harm reduction.

I want people to understand that addiction is a learning disorder. If you don’t learn that a drug helps you cope or make you feel good, you wouldn’t know what to crave. People fall in love with a substance or an activity, like gambling. Falling in love doesn’t harm your brain, but it does produce a unique type of learning that causes craving, alters choices and is really hard to forget.

It’s compulsive behavior that persists despite negative consequences. Once you realize that that’s the definition of addiction, you realize that what’s going on is a failure to respond to punishment. If punishment worked to stop addiction, addiction wouldn’t exist. People use despite their families getting mad at them, despite losing their jobs and being homeless. And yet we think the threat of jail is going to be different? Addiction persists despite negative consequences. That doesn’t mean that people don’t recover through coercive means, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to get there.

My problem with addiction memoirs has always been that this is a deeply political problem and none of them have any political consciousness. They typically tell the story of sin and redemption, an individual story that can stand in for everyone else’s story. That’s just not true.

Source: Why Addiction Is a Learning Disorder

In her book Unbroken Brain, Maia Szalavitz poses addiction as a neuro-developmental learning disorder, one usually developed while trying to cope with trauma, poverty, shame, or an overreactive nervous system.

Source: Harm reduction, addiction, tough love, 12 steps, neurodiversity, and the troubled-teen industry

More people than ever before see themselves as addicted to, or recovering from, addiction, whether it be alcohol or drugs, prescription meds, sex, gambling, porn, or the internet. But despite the unprecedented attention, our understanding of addiction is trapped in unfounded 20th century ideas, addiction as a crime or as brain disease, and in equally outdated treatment.

Challenging both the idea of the addict’s “broken brain” and the notion of a simple “addictive personality,” Unbroken Brain offers a radical and groundbreaking new perspective, arguing that addictions are learning disorders and shows how seeing the condition this way can untangle our current debates over treatment, prevention and policy. Like autistic traits, addictive behaviors fall on a spectrum – and they can be a normal response to an extreme situation. By illustrating what addiction is, and is not, the book illustrates how timing, history, family, peers, culture and chemicals come together to create both illness and recovery- and why there is no “addictive personality” or single treatment that works for all.

Source: Unbroken Brain – Maia Szalavitz

The addiction metaphor is fire. Don’t play with it. You don’t understand its history of oppression. You don’t know what you’re doing. When you invoke this metaphor, communities of neurodivergent, mentally ill, and disabled people—experts in the many forms of ableism—shake their heads at your ignorance.

So, we have a Center for Humane Technology that proposes individual instead of structural changes and uses the addiction metaphor to do so.

Audrey Watters has their number,

And I think there’s something about all these confessional narratives (and their hopes, I think, of becoming redemption narratives) that is also deeply intertwined with individual rather than structural change. These stories rarely situate themselves in history, for example, and as such really cannot offer much insight into how or why or even when things might’ve “gone wrong.” They rarely situate themselves among other thinkers or scholars (or activists or “users”). They are individual realizations, after all.

So then, I have to wonder: why should we trust these revelations (or revelators) to guide us moving forward? Why not trust those of us who knew it was bullshit all along and who can tell you the whole history of a bad idea?

Source: The Tech ‘Regrets’ Industry

Previously,

Tech Regrets and The Ethics of Ed-tech

Tech Regrets and The Ethics of Ed-tech

There’s a new tale that’s being told with increasing frequency these days, in which tech industry executives and employees come forward – sometimes quite sheepishly, sometimes quite boldly – and admit that they have regrets, that they’re no longer “believers,” that they now recognize their work has been damaging to individuals and to society at large, that they were wrong.

These aren’t apologies as much as they’re confessions. These aren’t confessions as much as they’re declarations – that despite being wrong, we should trust them now that they say they’re right.

Source: The Tech ‘Regrets’ Industry

I’ve been following the humane tech and tech ethics beat for awhile. As part of that, I collect tech regrets into Twitter moments. Here are the past several months worth.

Many of us tech workers are grappling with the ethics of what we have wrought. Pieces from high profile developers and designers on our ethical failures are regular features.

If we cannot ask why we lose the ability to judge whether the work we’re doing is ethical. If we cannot say no we lose the ability to stand and fight. We lose the ability to help shape the thing we’re responsible for shaping.

Technology companies call these people edge cases, because they live at the margins. They are, by definition, the marginalized.

We’re killing people. And the only no I hear from the design community is about the need for licensing. If why and no are at the center of who we are, and they must be, the center has not held.

We need to slow. The. Fuck. Down. And pay attention to what we’re actually designing. We’re releasing new things into the world faster than Trump is causing scandals.

Yes. You will sometimes lose your job for doing the right thing. But the question I want you to ask yourself is why you’re open to doing the wrong thing to keep your job.

Twitter’s profit came at the cost of democracy. When an American autocrat chose it as his platform of choice to sow hate, disparage women and minorities, and dogwhistle his racist base Twitter rallied.

Profit justifies everything. Silicon Valley, the engine that powers the end of America needs profit to survive, and it needs them at scale. We remain enamored with our ideas, and blind to their effects.

we’re just beginning to realize how dangerous software can be, especially in the hands of companies led by ethicless feckless men.

Source: Design’s Lost Generation – Mike Monteiro – Medium

Though many of these tech regrets are performative and lacking in apology, they’re something. Ed-tech needs to do this self-examination too, and do it better.

Because this is where we’re at.

‪Ed-tech combines the dismal ethics of tech, Silicon Valley, and market fundamentalism with the dismal ethics of behaviorism and the deficit model and mainlines it all into public ed.‬

Source: Ryan Boren on Twitter: “Ed-tech combines the dismal ethics of tech, Silicon Valley, and market fundamentalism with the dismal ethics of behaviorism and the deficit model and mainlines it all into public ed.”

The zero-sum games of attention and engagement…

Facebook’s DNA is that of a social platform addicted to growth and engagement. At its very core, every policy, every decision, every strategy is based on growth (at any cost) and engagement (at any cost).

Facebook is addicted to growth and engagement. Engagement gets attention, and attention is a zero-sum game. Time spent on Facebook (or Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp) means that’s attention not spent on Twitter, Snapchat, or anyone else who dares to compete with them.

Source: The #1 reason Facebook won’t ever change – Om Malik

…and the corruption of exponential growth…

There is no higher God in Silicon Valley than growth. No sacrifice too big for its craving altar. As long as you keep your curve exponential, all your sins will be forgotten at the exit.

It’s through this exponential lens that eating the world becomes not just a motto for software at large, but a mission for every aspiring unicorn and their business model. “Going viral” suddenly takes on a shockingly honest and surprisingly literal meaning.

The goal of the virus is to spread as fast as it can and corrupt as many other cells as possible. How on earth did such a debauched zest become the highest calling for a whole generation of entrepreneurs?

Source: Exponential growth devours and corrupts – Signal v. Noise

…are not things to invite into public education, yet we have. We have reduced kids, learning, and childhood to a business model.

Our tech regrets must extend to ed-tech. So far, I’m not seeing much in the way of ed-tech regret from the tech side. Bill Gates, for example, hasn’t learned.

Millions of students harmed.

The damage done to public schools most likely unable to be repaired in my career.

Learn a lesson: Billionaires do not teach kids. Money does not teach kids. Businesspersons do not teach kids. Politicians are dumb as dirt on education issues.

Source: Angie Sullivan to Bill Gates: No Thanks for the Sand | Diane Ravitch’s blog

much of the $15 billion Gates has put into education projects and programs since the organization was founded has gone to companies not schools (and that’s not counting the Gates grant money that schools have been awarded and then directed to companies too).

“Evolving.” Why make this speech now? Why does Gates want to project a willingness to learn? (I mean, other than everyone’s supposed to have a “growth mindset” these days.) Does Gates wish to differentiate himself and his organization from others in education reform? (And do others in education reform wish to differentiate themselves from the Trump Adminstration?) Who cares if you’re “evolving”? The damage is done. “Evolution” doesn’t undo that.

Source: ‘I Can Change’

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation could have saved itself millions and taxpayers billions if they had the humility to heed the rebel principals’ advice. However, even after the findings of the final report they have no regrets and instead blame the victim. In a statement to Business Insider, Allan Golston, who is in charge of the foundation’s education initiatives, said, “this work, which originated in ideas that came from the field, led to critical conversations and drove change.”

Change for the sake of change — the nearly $1 billion project in disruption. I wonder what “growth score” Golston will get in his evaluation this year.

Source: How the Gates Foundation could have saved itself and taxpayers more than half a billion dollars – The Washington Post

So many technologists–particularly ones with billions–seem really bad at systems thinking. Their prescriptions for education never get beyond more deficit model, more assessment, more behaviorism, more mindset marketing, more surveillance, more “accountability”, more data, and more software to feed on all of it. Their solutions are always to look to psychology, behaviorism, manipulation, and compliance for ways to “fix kids” instead of fixing our systems. This is a total failure of empathy and imagination. Their pedagogy lacks any sort of confrontation with injustice. “It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student”, and mainstream ed-tech has chosen to damage students.

There is no path toward educational justice that contains convenient detours around direct confrontations with injustice. The desperate search for these detours, often in the form of models or frameworks or concepts that were not developed as paths to justice, is the greatest evidence of the collective desire among those who count on injustice to give them an advantage to retain that advantage. If a direct confrontation of injustice is missing from our strategies or initiatives or movements, that means we are recreating the conditions we’re pretending to want to destroy.

Source: Paul C. Gorski – Grit. Growth mindset. Emotional intelligence….

Fix injustice, not kids. Channel tech regrets into building an indie ed-tech that confronts injustice instead of amplifying it. Let’s get structuralsocial, and equity literate instead of repeatedly, endlessly bikeshedding the deficit model with new coats of mindset marketing and behaviorism.

And I think there’s something about all these confessional narratives (and their hopes, I think, of becoming redemption narratives) that is also deeply intertwined with individual rather than structural change. These stories rarely situate themselves in history, for example, and as such really cannot offer much insight into how or why or even when things might’ve “gone wrong.” They rarely situate themselves among other thinkers or scholars (or activists or “users”). They are individual realizations, after all.

So then, I have to wonder: why should we trust these revelations (or revelators) to guide us moving forward? Why not trust those of us who knew it was bullshit all along and who can tell you the whole history of a bad idea?

Source: The Tech ‘Regrets’ Industry