Where to begin. While the concept described in this article will seem reasonable to many at first glance, this is a very dangerous idea in my opinion. Do we really want a national database of all public school children from K-12? Even if the database only stored basic information like math and reading abilities I would still be against it, but this goes much, much further than that. In some cases the database will cover “student hobbies, career goals and attitudes toward school.” So I suppose whatever Facebook fails to capture, this thing will. Just think about the potential for future abuse. What if someone in the Federal government down the road wants to be able to identify disobedient children from an early age and track them. If they have a “negative attitude” toward the public school system will they be flagged as “undesirable” at a young age? What a potential Orwellian nightmare this could become. From Reuters:
(Reuters) – An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares.
But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.
In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.
Local education officials retain legal control over their students’ information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.
The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.
Federal officials say the database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest,” according to the Department of Education. The department defines “school official” to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.
Only in America can the definition of “school official” mean private companies.
Larry Berger, an executive at Amplify Education, says the data could be mined to develop “early warning systems.” Perhaps it will turn out, for instance, that most high school dropouts began to struggle with math at age 8. If so, all future 8-year-olds fitting that pattern could be identified and given extra help.
Or if any children with a spark or creative spirit that may threaten the “state” can be identified, that could be useful too couldn’t it?
Full article here.
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