Posted by John Klyczek Posted on 29 May 2020

Betsy Devos’s Hunger Games: Making Locked-Down Schools Compete for “Career Pathways,” Artificial Intelligence Grants

In my most recent two articles, I document how Secretary Betsy DeVos’s Department of Education is using the “Shock Doctrine” of “Disaster Capitalism” to exploit the COVID-19 lockdown by deregulating federal rules for “Distance Learning and Innovation” (85 FR 18638) in order to funnel emergency CARES Act funds into Big Tech corporations, which will replace brick-and-mortar schools with virtual online schools while substituting human teachers with “adaptive learning” artificial intelligence that trains students for workforce “competence.” To accelerate this post-human revolution in technocratic workforce schooling, Secretary DeVos is pitting schools against each other in competitions for two federal CARES Act grants: the Rethink K-12 Education Models Grant ($180 million) and the Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant ($127.5 million).

Rethink K-12 Education Models: Adaptive Skinner-Box Courseware, Socio-Emotional Data-Mining

According to a press release from the US Department of ED, there are three main ed-tech provisions for the $180 million allocated for the Rethink K-12 Education Models Grants:

  1. Microgrants for families, so that states can ensure they have access to the technology and educational services they need to advance their learning
  2. Statewide virtual learning and course access programs, so that students will always be able to access a full range of subjects, even those not taught in the traditional or assigned setting
  3. New, field-initiated models for providing remote education not yet imagined, to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives

The first provision for “microgrants for families” will basically distribute “free” laptops, tablets, and other computer devices to impoverished families in order to “ensure they have access to the technology and educational services.” 

These “free” devices will provide the computer hardware for e-learning software programs that will be financed by the second provision for “Statewide virtual learning and course access programs,” such as AI “adaptive learning” software, including Dreambox, Brightspace LeaP, Smart Sparrow, Clever, and Knewton, which are delivered by online edu-corporations like K12 Inc., KIPP, and Connections Academy. As I document in several articles, adaptive-learning courseware is nothing more than a modern digitalized version of B. F. Skinner’s “teaching machine” upgraded with artificial-intelligence software that replaces human teachers with “programmed instruction” which data-mines students’ cognitive-behavioral algorithms in order to “personalize” virtual workforce-training lessons with operant-conditioning feedback through online career-pathways modules.  

The third provision supplies jargon for piloting new “assistive” biofeedback wearables to administer socioemotional-learning “treatments” that “accommodate” students with disabilities who need “individualized education programs (IEPs)” to assist them with workforce-competence training. 

In order “[t]o ensure that every child is learning,” including disabled children who will not have access to school social workers who accommodate IEPs, the third provision of this ed-tech grant will facilitate grants to experiment with “field-initiated models,” which is a euphemism for piloting new SEL biofeedback technologies in the “field” of homebased “distance learning.” Since disabled students are locked down at home without access to federally mandated learning accommodations, this third provision can open the backdoors to distribute CARES Act money to pay for “assistive technologies,” such as wearable biometric devices, which will administer neurofeedback-conditioning algorithms that will replace the traditional staff of human social workers who provide speech therapies, occupational therapies, and other cognitive-behavioral accommodations for disabled students.

These socioemotional-feedback technologies for “remote education not yet imagined” include “galvanic skin response (GSR)” monitors funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; EEG brainwave scanners sold by the BrainCo Corporation, which is financed by several Chinese investment firms; and a plethora of facial-recognition scanners engineered by the Microsoft and Affectiva corporations. Even Secretary DeVos herself is heavily invested in the Neurocore Corporation, which treats ADHD through wearable EEG-feedback technologies. Altogether, these GSR, EEG, and facial-recognition technologies data-mine students’ facial expressions and biofeedback algorithms to interpret students’ biometrics and psychometrics in order to tailor “individualized” accommodations that teach students “personalized” lessons based on their mental or emotional states. 

Reimagining Workforce Preparation: Automated “Career Pathways”

It is understandable that many sincere parents, teachers, and administrators might genuinely believe that, in the short term, all these hi-tech innovations sound like great ways to help students learn during these immediate circumstances where we are all forcibly locked down with no other option for traditional brick-and-mortar schooling in a classroom with humans. However, in the long term, behind DeVos’s public-relations veneer of “caring about the children,” the endgame is for Big Tech corporations to aggregate all student biometrics and psychometrics into “career pathways” algorithms programmed to condition students for prescribed job placement in a digital caste system managed by public-private workforce-planning partnerships between Big Business and Big Government.

In a press release announcing the US Department of Ed’s CARES competitions, Secretary DeVos declares that the Reimagining Workforce Preparation contest will dish out federal grants paying state governments to effectively centralize economic planning through public-private workforce-development partnerships: “[t]his competition is a tremendous opportunity for states to think creatively and strategically about what their workforce needs will be and how to support entrepreneurs and small business in order to get the economic engines in their states firing on all cylinders again.” The “Notice Inviting Applications (NIA)” for grants from the “Education Stabilization Fund—Reimagining Workforce Preparation (ESF-RWP)” states that the “Purpose of Program” is to “create new short-term educational opportunities and career pathways programs that help citizens return to work, such as course work that would help small businesses to recover and new entrepreneurs to thrive.”

Don’t be fooled by the “small business” language in these ESF-RWP provisions. Large corporations like McDonald’s qualify to receive small business loans under the CARES Act while more than 100,000 legitimately small businesses have been forced to permanently shut down as a result of being locked down. At the same time, DeVos proclaims that “[c]urrent students and displaced workers will be navigating a very different job market and economy once America reopens.” Naomi Klein labels this post-COVID economy as the “Screen New Deal”: a technocratic “smart grid” of “surveillance capitalism” fueled by Big Data. In this Screen New Deal, the “small businesses” eligible to benefit from ESF-RWP money will mainly be small tech startups that can provide niches to service the larger superstructure of public-private partnerships between government agencies and Big Tech cartels including Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and IBM

For instance, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is embarking on a mission to “Build Back Better” in the wake of COVID lockdown through his “Reimagine Education” campaign, which partners with the Gates Foundation and Eric Schmidt, who is the former CEO of Google. It is not a coincidence that Cuomo has named this initiative with the same title as the CARES grant competition for “Workforce Preparation.” Expect that New York’s only “small businesses” to benefit from the CARES ESF-RWP competition will be those which can supplement the larger “Screen New Deal” being planned by millionaire Governor Cuomo in public-private partnership with Microsoft founder, billionaire Bill Gates, and Google affiliate, billionaire Eric Schmidt, who seek to track student data from “cradle to career” in order to predetermine student job placement into “career pathways” that fulfill corporate-government workforce-planning quotas.

Indeed, in several reports, I have documented how “career pathways” curriculums are nothing less than corporate-government school-to-work partnerships between crony-capitalists colluding with sold-out politicians to hijack public school districts in order to siphon tax dollars into subsidies that pay schools to data-mine students’ biometric and psychometric algorithms with adaptive-learning courseware and SEL-biofeedback wearables which train students for the workforce “competences” required to fill predetermined job quotas in techno-fascist planned economy. DeVos’s hi-tech career-pathways grants funded by the Reimagining Workforce Preparation competition will be no different. The ESF-RWP competition will ultimately funnel stimulus money into pockets of Tech Barons who manufacture career-pathways software to train students for the job “competences” required to work for the virtual monopoly of oligarchic tech companies which dominate the very same tech cartels that build the career-pathways courseware. In the final equation, public schools will be converted into nothing more than government-funded workforce-training centers which foot the bill and the labor for the “in-house” employee training that corporations would otherwise be responsible to carry out and pay for themselves.

Disruptive DeVos’s “Creative Destruction”:

Austrian political economist, Joseph Schumpeter, posited the theory that capitalist boom-bust cycles are engines of “creative destruction” through which capital is basically monopolized and then invested into “disruptive technologies” that render entire industries obsolete so that consolidated capital can consolidate political-economic power by further monopolizing the means of production. Naomi Klein refers to this techno-fascist “creative destruction” as the “Shock Doctrine” of “Disaster Capitalism.” I have similarly explicated how disaster capitalists implement the shock doctrine of creative destruction by manipulating the Hegelian Dialectic of “thesis + antithesis = synthesis” (or “problem + reaction = solution”) in order to create a new “order out of chaos.”

Looking to the State of Louisiana, where disaster capitalists exploited the destruction of Hurricane Katrina to create a new privatized schooling system that disrupted the public school system by converting it into a 90% public-private system of corporate charter schools, history shows that opportunist oligarchs manipulate crises, like the current COVID lockdown, to “build back better” for themselves at the expenses of working-class taxpayers. If this history is repeated again with the Screen New Deal, Billionaire Bilderbergers like Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt will convert the entire US education system into a 90% nationwide network of career-pathways curriculums that utilize artificial intelligence to track students’ biometric and psychometric data from “cradle to career” through public-private partnerships between Big Tech and Big Government.


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