By John Klyczek
Note: This article first appeared in the July edition of the Counter Markets newsletter.
In 1982, Special Advisor to the Department of Education’s Office of Research and Improvement, Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, blew the whistle on Project BEST (Better Education Skills through Technology). A sub-project of President Ronald Reagan’s Private Sector Initiative, Project BEST was a plan to corporatize the American education system through public-private partnerships with Big Tech companies which replace human teachers with Skinnerian “teaching machines” programmed with psychological conditioning algorithms that train students for workforce placement in a planned economy.
Now, almost fifty years later, the next phase of Project BEST is being rammed through under the duress of COVID-19 lockdown, which has forced the entire US education system to shut down brick-and-mortar classrooms with human teachers in order to convert to virtual schools that deliver online instruction through “adaptive learning” software (the modern digitalized version of the “Skinner box” teaching computers engineered for Project BEST) and “socio-emotional learning (SEL)” biofeedback wearables (devices that data-mine students’ “stimulus-response” biometrics to implement Skinnerian operant-conditioning).
While teachers and students are held virtual hostage during COVID lockdown, “Disaster Capitalists” are using the “Shock Doctrine” of “Creative Destruction” to exploit the crisis by deregulating the new federal rules for “Distance Learning and Innovation” (85 FR 18638), which relax the oversight requirements for “adaptive learning” systems of “artificial intelligence,” such as Knewton and Clever, which are both funded by Bilderberger Peter Thiel: the speech writer for former US Secretary of Education Bill Bennet, who was in charge of Project BEST. At the same time, emergency COVID funds are being dished out by the current Secretary of Ed, Betsy DeVos, as the Department of Ed is paying out federal CARES Act aid to finance school districts in their efforts to “upgrade” their “technology infrastructure” with adaptive-learning AI and SEL data-mining that can be facilitated through virtual charter-schooling corporations, such as K12 Inc., which was set up by Bennett and funded by DeVos.
Fueled by this windfall of CARES stimulus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on May 5th his emergency COVID plans to “Build Back Better” through a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bilderberger Eric Schmidt, who is “Technical Advisor” of Alphabet Inc., which is Google’s parent company. This partnership between the State of New York, the Technical Advisor of Google’s parent company, and the Gates Foundation is called “Reimagine Education”: the same subtitle that Secretary DeVos has given to a special CARES competition called “Reimagine Workforce Preparation.”
After much public backlash following Cuomo’s announcement to “Reimagine Education,” the corporate media has published no further reports detailing any specifics of this public-private educational partnership between New York, the Gates Foundation, and Alphabet’s CEO. But a review of the Gates Foundation’s educational grants over the months during COVID lockdown indicate that New York’s “Reimagine” partnership will “Build Back Better” by implementing Big Data platforms that aggregate adaptive-learning algorithms and SEL biometrics from the entire student body in order to track such cognitive-behavioral and socioemotional data for the purposes of prescribing students into workforce job castes through virtual “career pathways” curriculums regimented by a technocratically planned economy.
Reimagine “Surveillance Capitalism” with InnovateEDU and Google Classroom
Looking into grantees in the Gates Foundation’s “Grants” database, it appears that Gates contracts with the New York non-profit InnovateEDU, which partners with Google, are a key pillar of the Reimagine Education revolution being pushed by Gates, Cuomo, and Schmidt. In the months of April and May during COVID lockdown, the Gates Foundation paid out two grants to the New York-based InnovateEDU, which has recently developed a “Data Extraction Tool for Google Classroom During COVID-19.” By aggregating all student and teacher data collected through “Google Classroom Connector,” InnovateEDU’s “Data Extraction Tool” links up with Google’s “BigQuery” in order to centralize and streamline data-mining of student-learning metrics, including cognitive-behavioral and socio-emotional algorithms, which can track students into career-pathways programmed to fill job quotas in a planned economy.
a Brooklyn-based [New York] non-profit whose mission is to eliminate the achievement gap by accelerating innovation in Common Core-aligned, next generation learning models and tools that serve, inform, and enhance teaching and learning.
InnovateEDU convenes students, teachers, entrepreneurs, and designers to re-imagine [my emphasis] and reinvent education…
We address trends in education, including: growth and use of technology and broadband infrastructure, advances in the learning sciences, [and] the societal drive toward personalization as an aspect of education innovation.
Notice that the New York-based InnvoateEDU self-describes its mission with the slogan “re-imagine . . . education,” which echoes the title of Governor Cuomo’s Reimagine Education partnership the Gates Foundation and Alphabet’s Technical Advisor, Eric Schmidt, who was also the former CEO of Google.
The Brooklyn-based InnovateEDU, which “partners with innovation-friendly New York City public schools,” is jockeying to “help” with COVID “distance learning” by “personalizing” student edu-conditioning through “next generation learning models and tools” facilitated by a corporate partnership with Google: a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. where Schmidt is currently CEO.
A press release from InnovateEDU announces that its contract with Google sets up a “free, open-source Google Classroom Connector to any school or district that utilizes G Suite for Education.” The PR Newswire press release, which is titled “InnovateEDU Develops Free, Open-Source Data Extraction Tool for Google Classroom During COVID-19,” states that,
Once a school or district runs the Google Classroom Connector in their Google Cloud environment, they will be able to:
- Bring all of the Google Classroom data to one place in BigQuery;
- Gain access to a variety of Google Classroom data ranging from percentage of students completing assignments or the number of classes that have been created;
- Copy and use InnovateEDU’s Google Classroom report templates in their own Data Studio instance; and
- Maintain data securely in their district’s Google Cloud environment and allows administrators and teachers to gain meaningful insights into Google Classroom.
To simplify, this corporate partnership between Google and InnovateEDU aggregates Google Classroom data from students and instructors by tabulating their teaching and learning metrics into the BigQuery database, which can be data-mined by school administrators and their public-private ed-tech partners in order to improve learning outcomes by “personalizing” digital lessons, including competency-based workforce-conditioning lessons tailored to students’ unique cognitive-behavioral and socio-emotional psychometrics.
In sum, five days before (April 30th) and then seven days after (May 12th) New York’s Governor Cuomo announced his Reimagine Education partnership with Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt and the Gates Foundation (May 5th), New York’s InnovateEDU, which “reimagine[s] . . . education,” received two grants from the Gates Foundation. Six days later (May 18th), InnovateEDU announced its mission to help COVID “distance learning” through its new BigQuery data-mining partnership with Google: a subsidiary of Schmidt’s Alphabet Inc.
Google Wants to Send Your Kids Socio-Emotional “Wellness Checks” to Data-Mine Their “Mental Health”
About two weeks before Cuomo announced New York’s Reimagine partnership with Schmidt and Gates, Google published an article on its Keyword blog titled “Check in on Emotional Well-Being During Distance Learning,” which promotes the use of various Google platforms to facilitate “social emotional learning” to help students with the added stresses of COVID lockdown. The author of the Google Keyword article, Alicia Salmeron, who is a member of the Google for Education Team, encourages teachers to utilize Google’s G Suite for Education (GSFE) to “[c]reate emotional check-in opportunities” by
[u]s[ing] Google Forms to reach out to students with an emotional-health questionnaire … The responses, which are collected in a Google Sheet, can guide teachers in identifying which students need more support. Encouraging students to write out their emotions is a good tool for allowing students to become self-aware about what they’re feeling and why … Teachers can use Google Classroom to send wellness reminders to students—everything from a quick message like “Take a quick movement break!” to sharing a mindfulness activity from YouTube.
With the help of InnovatEDU’s BigQuery partnership, all student socioemotional data recorded on Google’s GSFE platforms can be aggregated and data-mined to improve “personalized” SEL lessons that are aligned with standardized SEL “competencies” regimented by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which is endorsed by Google.
It should be noted here that GSFE, formerly known as Google Apps for Education (GAFE), was sued by University of California-Berkley students, along with hundreds of class-action litigants from twenty-one other states, because GAFE allegedly excavated their student emails to extract data for noneducational market R&D. Education Week reports that,
“[i]n 2014, during a federal class-action lawsuit that was ultimately settled, Google acknowledged to Education Week that it inappropriately ‘scanned and indexed’ the email messages of millions of students using the service. Google officials say the company has since stopped that practice.” Nonetheless, Google’s GSFE has also come under fire from another lawsuit filed by former Mississippi State Attorney General, Jim Hood, who publicly stated that, “[t]hrough this lawsuit, we want to know the extent of Google’s data mining and marketing of student information to third parties . . . I don’t think there could be any motivation other than greed for a company to deliberately keep secret how it collects and uses student information.”
With so many lawsuits filed against Google for its illegal data-mining of GAFE/GSFE apps, how will InnovateEDU’s partnership with BigQuery be used to ramp up Google’s dragnet practices of tracking and selling student data, including socioemotional-learning metrics, to third parties?
In the meantime, during the COVID lockdown, the Gates Foundation has issued a $213,640 grant to the Fund for the City of New York “to support research around the relationship between growth in SEL competencies and growth in academic outcomes.” This Gates grant bankrolls the City of New York to finance competency-based SEL, which is streamlined by Google through the use of GSFE apps that are data-mined by BigQuery linked to the New York-based InnovateEDU, which is funded by the Gates Foundation.
From inBloom to Learnsphere to BigQuery . . . from Big Data to Big Brother
This BigQuery datahub, which compiles InnovateEDU’s Google Classroom data into a single digital platform, is essentially akin to the Learnsphere database that is modeled after the defunct inBloom data-cloud. In my book, School World Order: The Technocratic Globalization of Corporatized Education, I document how Learnsphere, like its inBloom predecessor, is a massive public-private repository that aggregates data, such as students’ cognitive-behavioral and socio-emotional “learning analytics,” from schools across the globe in order to build better e-learning products through “machine learning” and “deep learning” algorithms engineered for the purposes of evolving artificial intelligence for ed-tech.
Originally called the Shared Learning Collaborative, inBloom was created with funding from the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, both of which are currently financing InnovateEDU. From 2011 to 2014, inBloom partnered with the New York City School District to tabulate copious student data through an operating system from the NewsCorp subsidiary Wireless Generation, which then aggregated these student data in a web cloud managed by the Amazon Corporation, which has also built a similar web-based computing cloud that streamlines data dossiers for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
In 2014, after fighting against testimony from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and after battling a lawsuit filed with the New York State Supreme Court, inBloom caved in to mounting public backlash against its third-party data-sharing practices as it terminated all of its contracts and shut down all operations.
Picking up where inBloom left off, a $5 million grant from the federal government through the National Science Foundation was dispersed to Carnegie Mellon University for the purposes of launching Learnsphere, a not-for-profit “distributed” repository for digitally sharing student data with third parties including for-profit vendors. Learnsphere’s “distributed infrastructure” consists of several interconnected datahubs, including an “ASSISTments data repository [that] contains datasets from secondary school interactions with an online tutoring system, in many cases as part of online experiments of what learning works best.”
In addition, Learnsphere data-miners can utilize
[t]he Educational Data Mining Workbench [which] support[s] learning scientists to perform a number of analytic tasks including 1) define and modify behavior categories of interest (e.g., gaming, unresponsiveness, off-task conversation, help avoidance), 2) label previously collected educational log data with the categories of interest, 3) validate inter-rater reliability between multiple labelers of the same educational log data corpus, and 4) provide support for running the labeled data through a machine-learning tool, such as WEKA or RapidMine.
To simplify, Learnsphere’s “Data Mining Workbench” aggregates student data so that “learning scientists” can evolve AI ed-tech through a “machine-learning tool” that scans “learning analytics” from “behavior categories,” such as cognitive-behavioral stimulus-response algorithms and socioemotional-biofeedback algorithms that track “unresponsiveness, off-task conversation, help avoidance,” etc.
According to Learnsphere’s LearnLab DataShops, the “learning scientists” who are eligible to access Learnsphere’s digital edu-conditioning databanks include “Educational data miner[s],” such as “Computer scientist[s], Psychometrician[s], [and] Learning analytics researcher[s]”; “Course developer[s] [and] Educational technology researcher[s],” such as “ITS/AIED researcher[s] [and] User modeling researcher[s]”; and “Psychologist[s],” such as “Cognitive scientist[s] [and] Educational psychologist[s].”
In brief, Learnsphere’s distributed databases are collated so that “learning engineers” can synthesize massive pools of students’ psychological data for the purposes of evolving adaptive-learning and SEL-biofeedback algorithms to build artificial intelligence for ed-tech.
Like Learnsphere and inBloom, InnovateEDU’s BigQuery partnership is a similar Big Data project geared to streamline and accelerate the evolution of socioemotional-biofeedback and cognitive-behavioral adaptive-learning algorithms for the purposes of progressively engineering “learning analytics” delivered through “post-human” artificial intelligence designed by Big Tech companies that partner with Big Government to manage a techno-fascist planned economy. It should be noted here that the Gates-funded InnovateEDU is also financed by the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the Silicon Valley Family Foundation, the New York Community Trust, and the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development.
In addition, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of InnovateEDU, Erin Mote, has
work[ed] with Intel, Cisco, Google and HP. Erin has served in an advisory capacity to the White House/OSTP’s US Ignite Initiative, the President’s Global Development Innovation Policy, the State Department’s TechCamp program, and the Obama Administration’s intra-agency process for Rio 2.0 and Rio+20. Erin served as the founding Chief of Party for the USAID Global Broadband and Innovations Alliance – a $19.5 million global technology expansion project.
It should also be noted that Mote “leads the development of Cortex, a next generation learning platform, student information system, and formative assessment engine that supports personalized learning.” Mote’s colleague, Nicolle Beneventano, is InnovateEDU’s Project Manager for Cortex, which shares its own “Ed-Fi operational data store (ODS)” with Learnsphere’s Big Data repository.
In sum, between BigQuery and Cortex, InnovateEDU’s “reimagine” data-mining partnerships are expanding upon Learnsphere’s “distributed infrastructure” of Big Data analytics designed to evolve post-human AI ed-tech.
“Disrupting” Class with “Creative Destruction”
The Gates Foundation’s Reimagine Education initiative is part of its larger “Disaster Capitalist” mission to exploit COVID lockdown as an opportunity for “Creative Destruction” that will ram through the mass-institutionalization of “disruptive technologies” which “destroy” the tradition of human teachers in brick-and-mortar schoolrooms in order to “create” a new public-private industry of learning analytics engineered by communitarian partnerships between Big Tech and Big Government.
The partnership between Google and the Gates-financed InnovateEDU is a prime example of how the Reimagine Education campaign is fueled by a “Disaster Capitalist” stratagem to capitalize on Joseph Schumpeter’s economic principle of “Creative Destruction” by heavily subsidizing “disruptive” ed-tech that digitally automates school lessons through virtual classrooms which facilitate COVID “distance learning” by replacing human teachers and brick-and-mortar schoolhouses while the latter are forced to shut down due to COVID lockdown. According to InnovateEDU’s company website, “InnovateEDU is committed to massively disrupting [my emphasis] K-12 public education by focusing on the development of scalable tools and practices that leverage innovation, technology [my emphasis], and new human capital systems to improve education for all students and close the achievement gap.”
By advancing “technology” to “massively disrupt . . . education” for the purposes of “leverag[ing] innovation,” InnovateEDU is explicitly proclaiming its commitment to Schumpeter’s “Creative Destruction” economics. And by exploiting the “Shock Doctrine” of COVID lockdown as an opportunity to partner with Google and the Gates Foundation to massively expand Big Data-mining through BigQuery, InnovateEDU is clearly exploiting “Disaster Capitalist” schemes to “Build Back Better” by enhancing its “creative disruption” of traditional schooling with technocratic AI learning analytics.
In brief, through partnerships with BigQuery and Cortex, the Gates-financed InnovateEDU is fulfilling its “reimagination” of education by expanding ed-tech data-tracking that “massively disrupts” traditional schooling by streamlining massive pools of cognitive-behavioral and socio-emotional learning analytics to improve AI algorithms which will “destroy” traditional teacher feedback as new automated instructional algorithms are “created” to “disrupt” human teacher feedback with digital stimulus-response feedback programmed to condition students for workforce “competence” in a techno-fascist planned economy managed by “human capital systems.”
In alignment with the Gates Foundation’s “disruptive tech” partnership with InnovateEDU, the Gates philanthropy has paid out $1,375,414 to the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, which declares itself “a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to improving the world through Disruptive Innovation … [T]he Institute offers a unique framework for understanding many of society’s most pressing issues including education, healthcare, and economic prosperity.”
In the fields of “K-12 Education” and “Higher Education,” the Clayton Christensen thinktank promotes advancements in “disruptive” ed-tech “Software and Hardware” (including “adaptive learning” courseware and other “artificial intelligence” programs). The thinktank also advocates for “disruptive innovation” in K-12 and higher education through partnerships with “For-Profit Providers” on the cutting edge of “Data & Assessment,” “Personalized and Blended Learning,” “Social-Emotional Learning (SEL),” “Social Capital,” “Competency-Based Learning,” and “Workforce Readiness.”
On May 27th during the COVID lockdown, three weeks after the announcement of the Gates-Schmidt-Cuomo collaboration to Reimagine Education, the Gates Foundation issued a special $294,914 grant to the Institute for Disruptive Innovation for the purposes of “understand[ing] what motivates districts to adopt continuous improvement practices to improve outcomes that are predictive of post-secondary success.”
To sum up, the Gates Foundation’s partnerships with InnovateEDU and the Institute for Disruptive Innovation are illustrative of the Gates’ philanthropy’s broader “Disaster Capitalist” enterprise, which is stage-managing the “Creative Destruction” of the old schooling system in order to usher in a new techno-fascist system of AI edu-conditioning that Naomi Klein calls a “Screen New Deal.” Built on “surveillance capitalism,” what Klein labels as the “Screen New Deal” is nothing less than the next phase of Project BEST as the Gates Foundation bankrolls Reimagine Education partnerships with Big Tech corporations that deploy “disruptive technologies” for tracking students’ learning analytics into psychological profiles which rank the students’ cognitive-behavioral and socio-emotional “competence” algorithms into “Social Credit Scores” that determine their job placement in a digital workforce caste system.
Reimagine a Global “Screen New Deal”: Build Back a Better “School World Order”
The Gates Foundation’s Screen New Deal is not limited to the Reimagine Education initiative in the State of New York. Indeed, the Gates Foundation’s “Reimagine” campaign is being mirrored by the US Department of Education, which has issued a national “Reimagine Workforce Preparation” competition that awards CARES stimulus money to schools applying for grants that pay for new “career pathways” curriculums facilitated by adaptive learning courseware and other virtual e-learning management systems online. Expanding the Screen New Deal agenda beyond the USA, the Gates Foundation has dumped out over a quarter billion dollars in grants to “Reimagine” educational institutions across the globe.
During the COVID-lockdown months from March 1st through June 2nd, the Gates Foundation poured out at least 203 grants totaling no less than $228,261,262 to “Reimagine” education systems across the globe. These Gates grants financed corporate charter schools, public-private community schools, virtual/online edu-corporations, ed-tech companies, socioemotional-learning non-profits and universities on basically every continent. Altogether, these combined grants set up public-private ed-tech infrastructures for “social distance” learning networks to be AI data-mined by Chinese-style “Social Credit” algorithms which score students’ cognitive-behavioral, socio-emotional, and biological health metrics to determine the students’ access to education, employment, healthcare, housing, transportation, and even due process.
- Post-Human AI Ed-Tech: More than 10% of this quarter billion dollars was allocated “for the advancement of post-human education through the technocratic digitalization of teaching and learning. Specifically, $29,639,942 was assigned to pay for improvements in “internet connectivity,” “ed-tech,” “instructional systems,” “virtual instruction,” “virtual tutoring,” “simulations,” “artificial intelligence,” “machine learning,” and other digital “tools” and “computer” platforms to provide “distance learning” and “blended learning” that utilize “data” and “algorithms” to enable “self-directed learning” and “personalize[d] learning” for “competency-based education.”
- Corporate-Fascist Workforce Planning: Another 9.8% ($22,523,954) has been allotted to finance the corporatization of education through public-private charter schools, including virtual charter schools and other “school choice” programs, including “workforce development” and “economic planning” projects, such as “career pathways,” “cradle-to-career,” and other “school-to-work” initiatives for “lifelong learning.”
- COVID Tech Upgrades for “Distance Learning” and “Contact Tracing”: Another 24% ($56,404,599) is issued specifically for COVID expenses, including technology infrastructure upgrades to facilitate “distance learning” and other “social distancing” procedures along with COVID “surveillance” for testing, tracking, and treatment. It should be noted that an additional $119,284,137 (52%) are disseminated to “Global Health” projects at universities, such as “human organ chip” research and “vaccine” studies between Zheijiang University of China and GAVI (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations), which partners with Microsoft at the ID2020 Global Biometric Identification project: an international thinktank that promotes an Orwellian version of blockchain technologies to “microchip” the whole planet.
With more than a quarter billion dollars dumped into a hi-tech concoction of post-human AI ed-tech that tracks psychometric and biometric data for workforce placement and contact tracing of COVID-19, it is evident that the Gates Foundation’s technocratic stratagem to “Reimagine” global education is aiming to “Build Back Better” by setting up a global surveillance grid that institutes a worldwide system of dystopian “Social Credit,” which will utilize the “internet of things” to data-mine students’ digital psychological profiles in order to virtually dictate whether they get access to schools, jobs, hospitals, housing, transportation, and even due process.
Welcome to the School World Order.