Good For Me But Not For Thee – Education’s Bizarre Approach To Innovation

The long-awaited Amplify tablet is out, released at the SXSW education gathering.  Some competition on the device front is good for the field – as is the influx of some new entrants more generally.  But, education again holds its own in terms of how ridiculous our politics are. When was the last time you saw a product introduction story in The New York Times where reviews of the product by people in the field were mostly about motivation, bordering on the personal, and said little about the quality of the product?

For instance, from The Times:

Now that he is in the private sector, some of Mr. Klein’s advocacy work presents a conflict, said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Last year Mr. Klein wrote, with Condoleezza Rice, a Council on Foreign Relations report that called the state of United States schools a “grave national security threat.” He contributed $25,000 to a coalition that supported specific candidates for the Los Angeles Board of Education elections held on Tuesday. (A News Corporation subsidiary also contributed to candidates.)

“You can’t at the same time go out and present yourself as a civic citizen talking about how public schools right now are horrible and then say, ‘Oh, I have a product that is going to make it better,’ ” Ms. Weingarten said. (She added that she saw “real potential” in devices designed specifically for schoolchildren.)

A more accurate rendering of that line would be:

Now that he is in the private sector, some of Mr. Klein’s advocacy work presents a conflict, said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which partners with a British Corporation on a business venture involving teachers sharing their lesson plans (the union also poured large sums into the LA school board election).

In other words, I’m eager to hear someone explain how Randi Weingarten saying teachers need more support (something I obviously agree with her on), while partnering with a corporation to do just that, is different than what Klein in doing? Isn’t she, you know, saying there is a big problem and saying she has a product to address it? I think so! It’s on The Times for not catching this. On the larger issue, I don’t really care. I’d like to see both ventures do well if they prove to have positive impact on student learning. But it’s illustrative of the sorts of political and media pathologies that really do slow this field down at a time we can ill afford it.

2 thoughts on “Good For Me But Not For Thee – Education’s Bizarre Approach To Innovation

  1. PhillipMarlowe

    It couples a touch screen with education-specific features, like an “eyes on teacher” warning when attention wanders and quizzes that use sad and smiley emoticons so teachers can ascertain whether students grasp new material. It will also have education-based games for students when they’re not in class, including one in which Tom Sawyer battles the Brontë sisters.
    Oh, I was looking for the Rhee/Weingarten jello wrestling game.

    http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/06/the-breakfast-meeting-news-corp-wants-a-place-in-school-and-upfronts-are-not-just-for-spring-anymore/

  2. Frank White

    Well, I disagree with most of the columns on this site. It’s so…shameless.

    I know we all have to make a living, but this is like listening to Tom Hagen at that Senate hearing in Godfather II.

    I mean, okay, you’re a functionary, maybe even a shill.

    But do you have to write while wearing your kneepads all of the time?

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