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Tracking for the Rest of Us

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Wages and benefits are a function of supply and demand. If there are too few of a particular worker to meet employer demand, wages and benefits go up. If there’s too many workers, employers can cut compensation, knowing that among the surplus of workers there will be a few desperate enough to work for less.

What happens to wages and unions when workers are atomized and organized by employers?

Tracking has always been a part of the American experience.

As a nation, we justify this cognitive conflict between freedom and oppression with a myth; merit rations our resources and those most deserving are rewarded for their hard work.

As it happens in a country born out of genocide and racism, the merit myth – or our inherited cultural algorithm – usually decides those most deserving are also white.

This isn’t news to people of color, but with the dawn of big data and the surveillance state, white people – like myself, are discovering there’s a downside to tracking.

Tracking for the Rest of Us

One such teachable moment is playing out in a high school in Florida where students are required to wear wrist bands. These ID bands are proof that a student is “on” or “off” track and determines if they are deserving of various privileges.

on track student

Workforce Development Pipeline

Another teachable moment is slowly unfolding in Washington State, where workforce training known as the Swiss Model is being pushed by Governor Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal.

Reykdal - Wa Schools Largest Workforce Development

The implementation of the Swiss Model is further along in Colorado. In the document Swiss Apprentice Model: An Employer Driven System of Education & Training – a title which is telling enough – one slide gushes about the many ways employers receive a return on their investment.

Colorado ROI on Swiss Model

Supply and Demand

Besides directly benefiting employers by lowering their training and recruiting costs, there’s another deeply disturbing feature embedded in this neoliberal model; employers get to decide through their industry associations how many of what kind of worker will be produced by this system.

Why is this so important?

Wages and benefits are a function of supply and demand. If there are too few of a particular worker to meet employer demand, wages and benefits go up. If there’s too many workers, employers can cut compensation, knowing that among the surplus of workers there will be a few desperate enough to work for less.

So Many Questions

What happens to wages and unions when workers are atomized and organized by employers?

How does rearranging our education system to supply just-in-time employees improve the quality of life for all of our citizens?

Or is this just another in a long line of market miracles sold to the public that ultimately ends up benefiting the corporate bottom line? 

Human Capital

Technologists love the word innovation, usually in combination with: disruptive, 21st century, and now permissionless.

Some of Silicon Valley’s vanguardistas are fond of a phrase “permissionless innovation”, a propaganda expression which implies that somehow progress won’t take place if it respects human boundaries. For obvious reasons, the phrase is coming back to haunt them.

In my opinion, the Swiss model reeks of “permissionless innovation”.

Treating children as an extractive resource – to be fed into our economic system in an attempt to keep this faltering system running – is well beyond my personal human boundary.

People are often puzzled why Tom Vander Ark, self proclaimed edu-innovator, doesn’t have a degree in education. Instead, he has a B.S. in Mineral Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and a MBA in Energy Finance from the University of Denver.

I think I’m beginning to understand this paradox.

-Carolyn Leith

 

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