What Developing States Might Teach Modern Edu About Mobiles

on mobiles, in MISC mag

Inspirations reading Collings, Patrick. “Africa: Innovating the Mobile Consumer Experience” MISC Magazine. Fall 2014: 65. Print.

On the African continent, “Education is the second largest application of mobile connectivity behind messaging.” So, the question I have is whether that means the phenomenon of mobile delivery of education is simply better than nothing–and so give their druthers, Africa states would adopt our brick-and-mortar model–or if their might be something we in the developed West can learn about thinking differently about what it means to be going to school.

Several things make me wonder:

This 1964 CBC Massey Lecture series, The Real World of Democracyby C. B. Macpherson. Delivered at the height of the Cold War, Macpherson’s lecture explored the rival ideas of democracy–communist, Third World and Wester-liberal–and suggested that the West has nothing to worry about if it is willing to change its values. I read the transcript back (way back, but not that far back) in university and need to reread it now because the details of his argument have faded. Nevertheless, the Real World of Democracy was a bucket of cold water in my face. The seminal read made me look for the first time at the contextual complexities of the real world and the possibility that my world view and my values might not be as neutral as I believed. That idea transfers to ideas about education, too.

This is reinforced by this morning’s reading of Carol Black’s Occupy your Brain: On Power Knowledge and Re-Occupation of Common Sensea critique of introduction of centralized control of education in traditional cultures and, by extension, of our own modern culture. It’s not easy to stand against the idea of a global standard (or any standards in education)–there are some things that every human ought to know, aren’t there? But Black isn’t taking issue with what people should know but about who controls that knowledge and the delivery of it:

Once learning is institutionalized under a central authority, both freedom for the individual and respect for the local are radically curtailed.  The child in a classroom generally finds herself in a situation where she may not move, speak, laugh, sing, eat, drink, read, think her own thoughts, or even  use the toilet without explicit permission from an authority figure.  Family and community are sidelined, their knowledge now seen as inferior to the school curriculum.  The teacher has control over the child,  the school district has control over the teacher, the state has control over the district, and increasingly, systems of national standards and funding create national control over states. In what should be considered a chilling development, there are murmurings of the idea of creating global standards for education – in other words, the creation of a single centralized authority dictating what every child on the planet must learn.

We’d be wrong to take say Black fails to appreciate the social contract that is public education. To see the danger, Black asks us to look at the difference between public-supported education and centrally-controlled education

The crucial confusion here is between the idea of publicly supported education and the idea of centrally controlled state-administered education.  To really get your hands around this distinction simply replace the word “school” with the word “radio” in the following sentences and see what you get:

I am in favor of publicly supported radio.

I am in favor of centrally-controlled state-administered radio.

Not the same thing, are they?

This brings to mind an old post, Public Education is Like the Roman Empirein which I say schools ought to run more like cities and less like empires. “Cities work because they create conditions, rather than outputs, and because civic governments largely stay out of the way of the people they govern.”

Macpherson’s and Black’s message takes a sharper edge in this video, Why is my curriculum white?

And the same message gets a laugh from my friend, the very witty Yong Zhao, who calls standards-based education, sausage-making:

Zhao keynote

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