As recalled in recent weeks, the moments of crisis and exceptionality are taken advantage of by power, as Naomi Klein warned a few years ago, to impose on citizens – fearful and concerned about the immediate problems that such situations entail – the structural changes that it needs capital to perpetuate the relations of domination that have brought us to the decadent world we inhabit. The shock that the public school has suffered due to the current state of alarm, having to restructure all their work overnight based on telematic teaching can undoubtedly be considered a particular case of this “critical” exceptionality. to which we refer.
At least from the educational administration that I know, the Aragonese, the way in which this situation has been faced has been, in general terms, characterized by the total absence of organization, leaving the management teams and the teachers totally helpless and thrown to a logic, that of the market, in whose parameters the great technological giants – like Google and its G-Suite platform – have everything to gain. The times and the “values” of capital have “colonized” our ethical and pedagogical horizon and “subjected to both shock viral as well as the need to continue being productive – the decisions about how to continue with our teaching work have ended up being made based on criteria that push us to perpetuate those “values” and logics that, as we said, have led us to the situation current: profitability, productivity, immediacy …
This situation has generated at least two negative consequences.
On the one hand, we are providing these technological giants with a practically inexhaustible commodity in a system based on compulsory schooling until the age of 16 (in the case of the Spanish State): the entire educational community (not just the students). The merchandise to which we refer is, as we know, our data. Will there come a day – if it has not already arrived – when large companies and employment agencies buy from Google the individual data and evaluations of our students that the teachers, so naively, share on Google Drive? If we also take into account the general tendency to affirm the need that, increasingly, every worker―Forming them is the fundamental task of education― you will have to undergo a continuous process of learning throughout your working life, the booty becomes much more succulent.
On the other hand, the assumption of, fundamentally, G-Suite as an educational standard means turning the public school into a space for the “training” of consumers – both of Google products and in general terms – in a strong sense of the word: those whose consumption habits are based exclusively on economic, utility, immediacy and self-satisfaction criteria. Never based on ethical criteria. The economy, according to the liberal creed, has nothing to do with ethics, but with the “laws of the market”, of profitability and productivity and, therefore, consumer practices, either. That is what we are “teaching”.
Can you imagine a world where both the educational structure and the compulsory content taught at school were controlled by the algorithms of the technological giant?
“VIRTUAL SPACES” AND PRIVATIZATION OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOL
But in addition to these consequences – already warned for a long time – I think it is necessary to emphasize that platforms like G-Suite are not “pedagogical tools” in the strict sense, as textbooks can be (about which there would also be much to say). What they actually entail is the creation of a pedagogical space, in this case virtual, that is taking advantage of the current situation to deepen its presence in public schools and show its necessary character (with no possible alternative). A space, obviously, private and subject to the logic of capital that we already know.
If, as generation after generation often repeat, students see school as a prison, that is, as a device of confinement, surveillance and discipline (and this without needing to know who Foucault is), the new virtual educational space supposes an update of such devices. But it is not the objective of this text to develop this idea. It is, however, to emphasize that, if in one way or another we still trust that the state can face the interests of economic power, the issue takes on even more dramatic overtones if we leave these devices in the hands of large platforms. privately as G-Suite.
The constant repetition that the current pandemic scenario may be repeated in the future is hard to refute. And based on it, it is perfectly feasible – via the shock doctrine – that it gradually deepen in the creation of a virtual pedagogical space that will expand its relevance to the detriment of the physical space of the school. A process that in these weeks has taken a giant step but has been brewing for years.
Is it unreasonable to think about the possibility that the physical school ends up giving up its centrality to the virtual space created by the educational platforms? Could it be that he even replaced it?
Is it crazy, therefore, to think about the possibility that the physical school ends up giving up its centrality to the virtual space created by educational platforms? Could it be that he even replaced it? What sense would the existence of different schools in different neighborhoods and towns make then? Would it not be more appropriate, if necessary, that there be a single school based on technical criteria that, consequently, completely turns its back on the problems that arise in the social contexts in which schools carry out their work? And what would happen to the public school if such a single space were transferred in its entirety to companies like Google? Can you imagine a world where both the educational structure and the contentAre compulsory courses taught at school controlled by the algorithms of the technological giant? The expression “unique thought” would suppose, without a doubt, an optimistic interpretation of such a scenario. In short – and parallel to the process of privatization of the public school that we have been witnessing for years – what we would be attending would be an education that would go from belonging to the field of fundamental rights to that of services; and its “users”, from being citizens to being clients. I do not think it necessary to elaborate on what all this would imply.
Apart from the fact that, in the opinion of this writer, direct contact between teachers and students is an irreplaceable element of the educational process, it is the responsibility of the educational administration – given that we are talking about the public school – to facilitate a secure virtual space and ethical, as it is to facilitate a physical space. Without closing your eyes to the very real possibility that the State itself could take advantage of such spaces to exercise tight control of educational processes and of what is discussed and questioned through them, leaving this space in the hands of technological giants. it is nothing more than the de facto privatization of the public school and its subjection to the logic and interests of the private sector.
But what if the educational administration, as it is happening, does not fulfill that fundamental responsibility?
THE ROLE OF THE EDUCATIONAL COMMUNITY
We know that the State represents, on many occasions, an extension of the interests of capital and, therefore, our responsibility, as an educational community and as civil society, is to try, especially at times like the present, to stop authoritarian logic. represents. If the State does not fulfill its obligations with the educational community, bowing to the interests of the economic power, it should act accordingly.
It is hard to understand, therefore, why groups and individuals who make the defense of the public and cooperation as a way not only to get out of the current crisis, but also to build a world away from capitalist exploitation and individualism, develop their I work through tools that, not only symbolically, represent voracity, individualism and the dissolution of privacy and, most likely, individual and collective freedoms. In short, it is difficult to understand that Google’s educational tools have become, almost without opposition, an educational standard between teachers and schools, knowing, for example, that this company, through its G-Suite platform, “collects data on the location of the minors, the web pages that they visit, their voice recordings and their contact list ”. The State and, in this case, the educational administration, should not become the scapegoat for our responsibilities. And when we choose to use G-Suite in the name of how easy and intuitive it is, its usefulness and its “free” character, we are, precisely, making the decision to subject the public school to the scheme of shielded capital values in which the State is not fulfilling its duty (as if that were something new), when not, directly, contributing to the privatization of the public school.
If the administration is allowing the “naturalization” of a situation that goes against the most basic values that must govern the public school, our responsibility is to respond forcefully.
There is no doubt that, in this specific case, the responsibility of educational administrations is above all others – whether individual or collective – but the silence and conformity with which the educational community is responding to this new The episode of the neoliberal offensive must also be criticized. What if students and their families refuse to use those platforms that blatantly invade their rights? What if the teachers, in parallel, Would you have refused to carry out all telematic work until you had an ethical platform provided by the administration to carry out said work? Would we consent to Ikea supplying us with free school furniture under the condition of being able to put cameras and microphones in the classrooms? Would we consent that Coca-Cola or Telepizza – I know, is a bad example, which makes it even more relevant – did the same in our school cafeterias? Moreover, would we consent that the educational administrations did not provide the physical spaces necessary for the public school and had to be the management teams or, even, The teachers who had to look for those spaces? Would we choose to use premises owned by vulture funds in exchange for turning our privacy and our lives into merchandise? Surely – at least for now – we teachers would absolutely refuse to carry out our work in such circumstances. Why then do we consent, without even raising our voices, when it comes to virtual spaces?
Unfortunately, neither the educational community nor the unions are / are not sufficiently taking into account the gravity of the situation. And, despite the fact that we are repeatedly told that we are at a crossroads that will mean drastic changes in our societies, we are leaving, in terms of public school, that this new world is built by technological giants like Google. Alternatives are there. We must not forget it. And if the administration – knowingly or not – is allowing the “naturalization” of a situation that goes against the most basic values that must govern a public and democratic school, our responsibility is to respond forcefully.