I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

I’ve never really wanted to run a textbook company, but I’ve never not wanted to more than now. Pearson and other edu-types have had a rough week–here are some of the highlights:

The fake history we all remember: The myth of the spit-on Vietnam vet. HT: RH

Where do the white nationalists come from? The New Yorker profiles Mike Enoch. HT: RP

New Mexico puts science back in its K-12 science standards. HT: VW

Trump’s war on knowledge, by Ariel Dorfman at NY Review of Books.

What has Bill Gates learned about learning? He describes his twenty-first century education about education on his blog.Bart reading bible

How do writers write? Peter Greene offers his eight rules for writing right.

There’s nothing new about “fake news:” An interview with Kurt Andersen, author of Fantasyland, at Religion Dispatches.

Wowzers. Pearson apologizes for racist stereotypes in nursing textbook. Some examples:

  • “Jews may be vocal and demanding of assistance.”
  • “Blacks often report higher pain intensity than other cultures.”

Thanks to everyone who sent in tips and stories.

Are Teach-Bots “Conservative?”

When Arnold Schwartzenegger played a robot, it was the mean, human-killing kind (at first). But when he played a teacher, it was the cute, love-them-kids kind. But in the real world, we will soon have machines performing crucial teaching tasks. Will this be embraced by conservatives?

Hasta la Vista, Human Teachers...

Hasta la Vista, Human Teachers…

According to Politico, the company that is in charge of producing Common-Core-related standardized tests has promised to introduce computer grading. The company, Pearson, wants computers to grade student essays in order to cut down on the costs of test processing. In fact, those algorithm-guided grading programs were an essential part of Pearson’s original contract with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the folks behind the Common Core tests.

Caitlin Emma of Politico reports that those robo-graders have been delayed without explanation. Pearson’s original plan was to phase in computer grading. This year, all Common-Core tests would be graded by humans. Next year, two thirds would be done by computer. After that, computers would “read” and evaluate all student essays.

For us here at ILYBYGTH, this raises a tricky question: Is this plan “conservative?” As we’ve seen, conservatives have been bitterly divided over the plans to introduce Common Core curricula. Some conservatives have insisted that the CCSS are the best, most conservative way to reform education. Others have called the new standards a “progressive beer bong,” or a socialist plan fomented by “Obama administration left-wing bureaucrats.”

So what will conservatives say about robo-grading? I can imagine some free-market types will embrace the new technology. If computers can grade tests quickly, efficiently, and accurately . . . why not? This will represent, after all, the triumph of business principles in the hopelessly sclerotic world of public education, some might say.

On the other hand, conservatives might be aghast at the dehumanization of the process. It is one thing to use machines to grade multiple-choice answer sheets, but another thing entirely to have them grade essays. For one thing, conservatives might agree that computer grading is simply inaccurate. Conservative critics might side with progressive pundits who insist that computers can’t possibly evaluate the complex meanings of student writing.

My hunch is that this issue will divide the traditional “conservative” constituency. I’ve argued that the Common Core has forced a re-shuffling of what it has meant to be “conservative” on educational issues. This question of computer grading will only deepen that divide among conservatives.