Malkin: Facebook in Bed with U.S. Education Department and ‘Not a Peep’ from GOP

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Republicans may be congratulating each other over their show of outrage at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s data snatches and repression of free speech during Senate and House hearings, but a leading conservative commentator says they missed the boat in failing to address the tech giant’s intrusive grabs into the private data of America’s schoolchildren.

Michelle Malkin – host of Michelle Malkin Investigates on CRTV.com – writes at Creators.com about the cozy relationship between Facebook and other technology titans with the U.S. Education Department. Using comforting-sounding buzz phrases such as “personalized,” “individualized,” and “social and emotional” learning, the federal education behemoth has joined with the tech corporations who are “cashing in on the Big Data boondoggle,” Malkin says.

She continues:

Facebook is just one of the tech giants partnering with the U.S. Department of Education and schools nationwide in pursuit of student data for meddling and profit. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Pearson, Knewton, and many more are cashing in on the Big Data boondoggle. State and federal educational databases provide countless opportunities for private companies exploiting public schoolchildren subjected to annual assessments, which exploded after adoption of the tech-industry-supported Common Core “standards,” tests, and aligned texts and curricula.

While politicians of both parties and federal education officials – even U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos– would like to sweep the data-collecting prize reform known as Common Core under the rug, the latest federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has actually cemented the “college- and career-ready” standards and their accompanying student data collection into the nation’s education landscape.

Malkin writes:

The recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act further enshrined government collection of personally identifiable information — including data collected on attitudes, values, beliefs, and dispositions — and allows release of the data to third-party contractors thanks to Obama-era loopholes carved into the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

And the so-called school-to-work pipeline creates endless avenues into taxpayer coffers for firms pitching data-gathering initiatives to “align” student learning with “skill sets” and “competencies” desired by corporations.

The conservative author observes how, in 2011, the Obama-era federal education department launched its nonprofit “Digital Promise” program, which is still in existence. Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the claim that the “digital transformation of education and training for our children” would allow the United States to take the lead again in high-performing students:

[W]e need to act now to lead the digital transformation of education and training for our children and for adults looking to retrain and retool. We have yet to unleash technology’s full potential to transform teaching and learning. Technology can help provide all students access to a world-class curriculum. It is a tool that can provide equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities for low-income students in struggling schools, be they inner city, urban, rural, or remote. This work is especially important today because other countries are ahead of the United States.

Seven years later, however, U.S. schoolchildren are still floundering and failing on national and international assessments.

Last fall, the education department’s Digital Promise announced it was partnering with Facebook to create a system of adult student “micro-credentialing” data badges to train students in social media marketing skills.

Cheri Kiesecker, a Colorado parent activist who writes at Missouri Education Watchdog, said the partnership “will no doubt be a wonderful data collection and marketing tool for Facebook and the US Department of Ed, but it is incredibly alarming for students’ privacy and security.”

Malkin observes Facebook has moved on from adults and is now focusing on the private data of elementary and secondary schoolchildren through its Messenger Kids app and the “whole-child personalized learning” paradigm espoused by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).

“CZI, a ‘philanthropic investment company’ funded with up to $1 billion in Facebook shares over the next three years, is headed by Jim Shelton,” she writes. “He’s a former program officer at the Gates Foundation and a key Common Core champion in the Obama administration.”

But that’s just Facebook. Of course, Google, Apple, YouTube, Pearson, Microsoft, and other tech giants are also cashing in on student data mining, courtesy of the federally incentivized Common Core standards – without parental consent.

What could go wrong with liberal-biased tech industry giants having access to the private information, i.e., attitudes, psychological traits, preferences of America’s schoolchildren?

Jane Robbins, senior fellow at American Principles Project and co-author of Deconstructing the Administrative State: The Fight for Liberty, tells Breitbart News the reason Facebook and other tech titans are now so “embedded in schools” is that politicians have ignored their responsibility to protect America’s children.

“Politicians (of both parties) have been asleep at the switch in protecting students from very bad education ideas,” she explains. “Even Republican governors have apparently concluded that the last people to be listened to when it comes to education are parents. Common Core? Listen to the education establishment and its crony corporate allies, not to parents. Student data privacy? Listen to ed-tech lobbyists, not to parents.”

“The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results are showing the folly of Common Core,” Robbins adds. “What will it take to show the dangers of unbridled technology?”

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