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NYT: Silicon Valley Billionaires Attempting to Remake America’s Schools

The Associated Press
LUCAS NOLAN

The New York Times reports Silicon Valley tech elites are attempting to affect change in America’s education system.

The New York Times reports that Silicon Valley elites are attempting to shape the American school system in a number of ways. Salesforce CEO Marc Beinoff has recently begun giving middle-school principals $100,000 “innovation grants” in an attempt to encourage educators to operate their school in a manner similar to start-up founders.

Across Texas, Maryland, and Virginia, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has been promoting a Netflix-like math program that uses computer algorithms to determine which lessons students view. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has begun testing a new idea in more than 100 schools nationwide, offering software that allows children to determine their own type of learning with teachers now acting as facilitators rather than educators.

Emmett D. Carson, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which manages donor funds for many Silicon Valley philanthropists, discussed the involvement of tech billionaires in public schooling, saying, “They are experimenting collectively and individually in what kinds of models can produce better results.”

“Given the changes in innovation that are underway with artificial intelligence and automation, we need to try everything we can to find which pathways work,” he continued.

However, some worry that these billionaires are being allowed to test their new ideas on America’s youth with very few checks and balances to hold them accountable. Megan Tompkins-Stange, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Michigan, stated, “They have the power to change policy, but no corresponding check on that power,” she continued, “It does subvert the democratic process.”

Tech executives such as Reed Hastings have denied that they have significant influence in the education sector, saying, “In our society as a democracy, I think it is healthy that there is a debate about what are the goals of public education.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed visiting a school that was experimenting with new software that his company helped to develop. “When you visit a school like this, it feels like the future — it feels like a start-up,” said Zuckerberg to an audience in Peru last fall. “You get the feeling this is how more of the education system should work.”

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan_ or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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