February 2, 2024

Thomas Ultican: Pitch AI Education?

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Thomas Ultican questions the push by some rich folks for more technified education. Reposted with permission.

The Walton family (Tax Id: 13-3441466), Jonathon Sackler (Tax Id: 13-4119735), Lynn Schusterman (Tax Id: 73-1312965) and other billionaires fund The 74 Media, Inc. It has become a primary method for propagating their agenda. In December, The 74 published 7 Artificial Intelligence Trends That Could Reshape Education in 2024.” For serious educators, AI is a set of computer algorithms, making cheating easy. It is another tool for a dumbed-down, easier to control and more profitable education system.

Late Steve Jobs’ billionaire wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, founded the Emerson Collective. In 2015, Emerson Collective bought Amplify, a kids-at-screens education initiative that Rupert Murdoch gave up on. The same year, Jobs and Russlynn Ali founded XQ Institute and its XQ Super Schools project soon followed. In 2017, they put on a one-hour show, XQ Super Schools Live, simultaneously on four networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. Talent featured included Ringo Starr, Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, Justin Timberlake, and Jennifer Hudson.

Jobs set out to use wealth to impose her views on reforming public education.

Her plans did not resonate deeply with the public so today she seems to be using wealth to push education technology and Amplify. The AI article linked was written by Edward Montalvo, XQ institute’s senior education writer. He writes:

‘“The future of AI in education is not just about adopting new technologies; it’s about reshaping our approach to teaching and learning in a way that is as dynamic and diverse as the students we serve,’ XQ Institute Senior Advisor Laurence Holt said. … Through AI, we can also transcend the limitations of the Carnegie Unit — a century-old system in which a high school diploma is based on how much time students spend in specific subject classes.

“Changing that rigid system is our mission at XQ.”

The article, linked by Montalvo, appeared in the September 11, 2023 issue of The 74, co-written by XQ’s Russlynn Ali and Carnegie’s Timothy Knowles. Ending the Carnegie Unit is crucial for the scheme to put children in front of computers earning badges. It is the only way to implement competency-based education (CBE), at a low price.

The fact that CBE and its forerunners have a 50-year history of failure seems not to be an issue.

Montalvo’s article was a sales job for AI products. He noted that an XQ Super School, PSI High in Sanford Florida, was engaging with AI. PSI tells us“The program’s mastery-based grading system also helps ensure that students are fully prepared for college, career, and beyond.” Abandoning traditional education, they have replaced it with rubrics. There is no information about student performance 6-months down the road. How can AP courses be offered without traditional education? Yet, PSI says they are excited about AI.

AI has value but for pedagogy, it is limited. Educator and blogger, Mercedes Schneider, shared“As a teacher for many decades, I find increasingly more of my time consumed with devising means to ensure students complete my assignments without the easy-cheat, sustain-my-own-ignorance that AI enables in today’s students – and, it seems, an increasing number of (especially remote) professionals who may be using the corner-chopping ability AI offers to even hold multiple full-time positions.

Dystopian Future is Possible

Jobs, XQ and Carnegie are far from the only forces out to blow up our current education system by pushing for a technology-based takeover. Many deep-pocketed fans promote education technology. The new push to eliminate the Carnegie unit is coming from a below-the-surface movement to digitize education. Global Silicon Valley (GSV) has taken leadership of an effort to program life with crypto-world tools.

GSV is a venture capital firm founded in 2010 by Michael Moe, a private company with a radical libertarian ideology. Moe and colleagues published American Revolution 2.0; How Education Innovation is Going to Revitalize America and Transform the U.S. Economy. This manifesto calls for turning kindergarten through university and beyond into a tokenized existence. Graduation from kindergarten gets a token, hospitalization gets a token, immunization gets a token, earn a C in reading gets a token and so on, will be forever saved in a blockchain.

This is a roadmap to “Big Brother.”

American Revolution 2.0 Page 292

At the April 2023 ASU+GSV conference in San Diego, Educational Testing Service (ETS) and Carnegie Foundation announced they are partnering to create assessments for CBE. Besides resting on a 50-year history of failure, the big obstacle for CBE is that testing has not proven reliable. This is the issue that Amit Savak of ETS and Tim Knowles of Carnegie are promising to solve. It is a key to the digitized education scheme becoming viable.

Much of the motivation for this thinking is a belief that the preeminent purpose of education is employment readiness. Philosophy, literature, art etc. are only meaningful for children of the wealthy. The new push for CBE and ending the Carnegie Unit is a move toward skill-based education, wasting no time on useless “frills.”

It is easy to cheat with digitally-enhanced systems. Derek Newton, writing for Forbes, observed, “But because of the credit hour system, which is designed to measure classroom instruction time, it’s still relatively hard to cheat your way to a full college degree.”

A good example of Newton’s point is high school credit recovery. America’s high school graduation rates peaked at about 77% in 1970 and then drifted down for almost four decades to 69% in 2007. Credit recovery at a computer screen was introduced in 2007. After that students were completing semester-long courses in as little as one day and cheating became rampant. In 2012, 81% of the freshman cohort in America graduated on time, an all-time record.

Roman Sterns, founder and executive director of Scaling Student Success, is all in for credentialing. He says the present high school transcript is a relic of the past, describes a new transcript type and excitedly reports:

“Fortunately, a version of this new kind of transcript has been developed and is being piloted now by schools affiliated with the Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC). Launched in March 2017, membership has grown to over 300 schools. Most are independent schools, both in the U.S. and overseas, but increasingly public schools are opting in.”

EdSurge reports:

“In the area of lifelong learning, the Learning Economy Foundation (LEF) aims to create a decentralized, blockchain-based network where skills and credentials are stored within a digital identity that follows the learner. Recently, LEF partnered with LEGO Foundation to create a gamified learning experience, called SuperSkills!, where elementary school students can select adventures and collect gifts as a result of learning core skills.”

Crypto technology has created an environment where storing information about everyone in a blockchain is possible and the data can never be erased or corrected. This new edtech tool is described in Greg Nadeau’s slide presentation Internet of Education 3.0.” He is a crypto enthusiast but some of his slides troublingly point to a new tyranny of information.


Between the Civil War and Bill Clinton’s presidency, American public education made slow, consistent improvement. With President Clinton’s standards, the momentum dropped and stopped with the advent of No Child Left Behind. Reagan era’s “A Nation at Risk” was the model for education reform, directed by non-educators. With the movement for “school choice,” vultures started circling over public education, looking for opportunities. Clearly, public education can be improved but success requires professional educators to lead, not politicians, entrepreneurs and amateurs.

The direction charted by GSV, XQ and the Carnegie Foundation is more than foolish … it is dangerous. An institution responsible for the developing the world’s oldest functioning democracy is being turned into a tool for repression.

Greedy, Mindless fools must be stopped!

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