Episode 11: Lisa Petrides
Dr. Lisa Petrides is the founder of ISKME, the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, a research group dedicated to studying how educators and institutions use information to make decisions. She is a strong advocate for open education platforms and using information to improve policy. We discussed the state of the education system, some of the underlying goals of education, and the conversation between the worlds of education and business. Look for connections to Andrew Keen’s comments on education and Dr. Timothy Morton’s ideas of interconnectedness.
I enjoyed listening to Dr. Petrides. Your conversation with her and your focus on the future made me want to consider this proposition:
Those who control education shape the future in ways favorable to them.
The Silicon valley redhot who blew off Dr. Petrides’ offer to address her conference is typical of many business and political folks who hold education in contempt. On the other hand, these very same people are wont to control what happens in schools; they want to shape the curriculum. Consider the controversial issues of teaching evolution/intelligent design, climate change, American history; the people who are engaged with these are passionate about making their approaches what everyone learns. Isn’t that what the whole school voucher, charter school movement is about? If you can control what people think, you can control the future…and make the world perfect again, like it used to be.
I too have wondered the same thing in Fount Slinkard’s proposition. While not quite to the same amount of certainty, I do see it as within the realm of possibility. Even here in Canada, I already have this sinking feeling that the choice of history textbooks used in high schools today is already different from when I was mandated to read them — the only change since then being a new political party in federal charge.
Is education an apparatus of communication? An obvious question to then ask would be if the broadcasting ideology is having an effect on the generations of children in league. However, what interests me more is if the *rate of change* in the broadcasting ideology ensures the continued existence of preferred electoral political cycles, and if an exaggeration in one derivative direction or another would contribute to democratic or ideological polarization.
I think that the two of you raise some very interesting questions. I would also like to throw an idea into the mix, which gets to Morroque’s last point. I would argue that it is polarization itself which propels the political cycle, and that without this form of balanced propulsion, the cycle stops and terrible things can occur. Perhaps it is a problem that educational initiatives begin and end with a political changing of the guard, but I think that it also ensures that no one mad political scientist, or a group thereof, can shape the educational institution in his, or their, own image. I think that a certain amount of uncertainty in regards to how we should educate the youth and ourselves is more wholesome and democratic than too much certainty. When certainty is the rule, we tend to find some startling information hiding in our textbooks, like the fact that slavery was not a cause of the Civil War, and that the computer was invented in the Soviet Union. Cycles may be dizzying and may make one want to vomit from time to time, but at least there is some kind of movement and balance.
ISKME is dedicated to the ‘study, spread, and strategic use of knowledge management in education’. I’d like ask Dr. Petrides, What makes data valuable? With more and more standardized testing in education there’s more raw data out there concerning what students know. Does she think that’s valuable in making decisions? What kind of information do we need to improve how we teach or create lessons?