• Doug Jacquier

    I hear you, Martin, on the need for accountability and the risks associated with the ‘bull in a china shop’ approach. However I have much sympathy for the notion that “if current approaches to fixing societal problems were effective, the problems would have been solved long ago.” A classic case is the appalling rate of adult functional illiteracy in developed countries, including the US, Australia, Canada and the UK. In my own country, Australia, it stands at 44% and the numbers are similar elsewhere. To quote from Cormac McCarthy’s ‘No Country For Old Men’, “If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?”. I just hope the business lessons of scaling what’s been shown to work are brought to the table to counter the obsession with ‘innovation’.

  • Laura H. Chapman

    Bringing to scale is an industrial concept and implies that social problems are solved by proper management. Bringing to scale had a different meaning in agriculture, where the whole concept of maximizing profits lead to a mixed bag of practices, not all of them designed to sustain the land and avoid public health problems. The only comments in this whole narrative that make sense to me–a life-long worker in public education and with experience in the not-for-profit world– is this: “Move fast and break things” doesn’t work when it comes to kids’ lives.”
    Scaling up is not a virtue in education unless you are talking about making all learning dependent on technologies and preparing students for life in a gig economy with badges for “learning experiences,” gained anytime, anywhere, from anyone. Billionaires in the tech industry want to scale up ASAP and their non-profits are taking the same flawed strategy into education–forms of education they would not (and do not) choose for their own kids.
    The process of education depends on the vital human connections that make learning intelligible, memorable, and often of value over a lifetime.
    I know that Bridge International is strictly about scale–bringing a minimalist education to children of the poorest of the poor at the lowest possible cost that still allows for profit seeking by some of the richest people in the world. I think that effort is immoral, and a clear case of new-colonialism.
    The social impact bonds and pay for success contracts now funding pre-school programs are also a case of making profits by shortchanging children–cherry picking the eligible children, eliminating those with moderate and severe disabilities in order to rig the outcomes, earn profits for investors, and make impact investing look perfectly wonderful.
    I note in the comment below by Doug Jacquier, an implicit faith that functional illiteracy can be “fixed” as if illiteracy is a case of some broken machinery or a poorly planned system of education with the wrong rules. Education for functional literacy among adults is a time-consuming process, there are rules of thumb for teaching, but these are different for native speakers of the language targeted for literacy and for adults with limited or no command of the targeted language, or even a grasp the logics in their native language(s). Concepts also matter-financial transactions are different from way-finding. No system, no rules, no magic fixes, no scaling up.

  • Two Teachers

    As an inner city teacher, I’m appalled how philanthro-capitalists have captured the political process to make lawmakers and school officials adopt provably invalid practices, purposely preventing proven educators from weighing in.

    Zuckerberg and Gates might have better intentions than the Waltons, Kochs and DeVoses but they really – I mean really – need some training in education to understand what they are doing.

    If they learned the science of child development, or how to run a democratic classroom, or how to nurture individual children’s strengths and weaknesses, they would have known that standardization and verticalization were always going to cause more harm than good.

    Another issue is how these “disruptors” fetishize efficiency without considering the knock-on effects of upending children’s lives, of imposing strictures from the top-down with no piloting, vetting or buy-in and most importantly of causing unemployment, underemployment or erosion of benefits for middle class workers.

    More to the point, the mere existence of a billionaire means a lost opportunity to have a thousand millionaires instead, who could fan out into the broader economy spending and hiring. The other hard truth here is that “education” is not the problem they make it. Our schools are at the top of every ranking provided we control for poverty. So there is the real issue, the marked, growing disparity between rich and poor, with our middle class shrinking as the rich expand their corrupt, secret toehold into the political system.

    For this reason, I think Mark Zuckerberg should run for President. He will quickly learn that life is not a video game and that society is better off with democratic inefficiency and full employment than a plutocracy with mass poverty, growing resentment and policies that disdain science.