Freesteel Blog » The production line of education

The production line of education

Monday, November 20th, 2006 at 1:14 pm Written by:

I have an interest in my profession, which is programming, remaining passionate in programming, which requires me to not be captured by a jealous corporate institution that would discourage me from sharing my thought-of-by-myself ideas with other like-minded programmers, who could run the risk of improving the lot of a rival company, and consequently of society in general. A well-run corporation is not interested in how anyone feels.

One of the the best educators in the profession of programming is Open Source Software, since it encourages users who have the aptitude to take a look at how it works, and possibly get involved. We don’t know where the next really hot Operating System coder will be born, but with Linux he or she can get into it at a high level and make themself known. We don’t have to wait for you to apply for a job at a particular company in Redmond and get through their Personnel Department, who would probably reject you on grounds of personality, before your talents became available to all of us. Microsoft would prefer you to remain a sheep-farmer rather than master the arts of Operating System design, if you don’t intend to become one of their employees.

So naturally, I’d like to see Open Source Software being used in schools, to make it accessible. It would also allow small guys like me to interact directly with the educational market while not being employed by one of these major companies who just don’t care if their software works, is good, or is educational.

But somehow, the enormous expansion of IT in schools in Britain in recent years is ignoring Open Source. I’ve documented the legal market-fixing mechanism that blocked out Open Source in spite of its acknowledged better value for money at Becta Framework Contracts.

And now you can see a talk by the chief of Becta, Andrew Pindar, at The future of e-Learning where he lays out his vision precisely:

There are tens of thousands of little, real little garage operations, producing software and bits of kit, and very very few, in fact no big firms, only about half a dozen mid-size firms, responding in the UK industry and generally around the world.

Now, part of that is in response to the very disparate buying power largely in the hands of individuals in schools who spend small amounts of money, who are almost hobbyists, in the way that they have enthusiasm and a passion about. Typically they would be people who have a real passion about Open Source — as if open source is any different to any other software — it’s just the pricing structure is different, that’s all. But they have a passion. It’s a religion, it’s a real belief, and again they have a belief about bits of technology that are going to change things. What they don’t do, however, is organize things properly.

Someone in his position who believes that Open Source is just a different pricing structure is technically known as a useful idiot. It cannot be just a different pricing structure, or Microsoft wouldn’t have perceived it as a threat to secretly spend a hundred million dollars attempting to break it by harrassment with ficticious legal claims.

So, while no one could dispute that Pindar’s opinion is completely wrong on this matter, this wrongness is useful to those corporate interests, to the extent that they will all support him and say his judgements are spot on, and that he is a genius. This is lying by proxy. The government listens to the views of business, while we are hung out to dry with this guy’s war on excellence.

How do we organize education to be much more effective, much more efficient, to use the investment that it’s got, to change the way it does things, to become more disciplined about the way it organizes itself, in some respects, to subsume the individual professionalism into the greater good of a larger institutional professionalism, to produce better organizations, rather than vying to be just individually better teachers…

Teachers like being stars, they like being in front of the classroom, they like relating to the kids, they have a passionate belief in it. But they are not necessarily are people who are going to organize everybody else around them to produce a production line with the outputs that everyone agrees on.

In a nutshell, if you are a brilliant teacher, he doesn’t want to hear from you because you don’t have the skills to run an efficient business institution, which is defined as one that makes lots of money for its directors.

That’s why he’s filled the board of directors with chums from the CBI. Make a sentence out of the following words: “Coop”, “Fox”, “Chickens”, “In charge of”. There is no such thing as a bad businessman, only one who gets caught.

1 Comment

  • 1. Gordon Ramel replies at 3rd April 2007, 3:42 pm :

    Just thought I would write and say I read your article and it was interesting, I would it from a google search for Production Line Education, what I was really looking for was articles about the deterioration of human potential created by 5 generations of trying to produce people in the same way we produce cars and nearly everything else. I believe the production line approach to education, that is the world norm at the moment is highly destructive to childrens development in a number of ways. Not what you were on about but I would agree with you anyway. Did you know that the King of Thailand wanted Linux to be the standard system in schools in Thailand, according to rumour (while I was working there as a secondary school teacher) Microsoft bribed the government to over-rule his sound advice.

    Ah well,
    Best Wishes


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