Larry Cuban’s three-part series on automation in education

Hat tip to George Reese for alerting me to this series – if it doesn’t make you worried, I would want to check your pulse.


I will comment directly on his blog, but overall, I agree with his assertion that

“(d)riving this change is the market imperative to cut costs, raise productivity, and increase profits. That imperative, married to remarkable gains in applying artificial intelligence to professional tasks, has swept across the private sector.”

He is right to re-focus on the true purpose of education:

“Tax-supported public schools have been and are social, political, and moral institutions whose historic job has been to help children and youth acquire multiple literacies, enter the labor market well prepared, vote, serve on juries, contribute to their communities, think for themselves, and live full and worthwhile lives.”


All of us would do well to remember the big picture. Often. Technology is simply a tool. Use the tool to get a specific job done. If you want to automate grading tests, awesome, knock yourself out, that does save a lot of time. But I don’t send my child to school to take tests. But it goes much deeper than that.


Here is my conclusion. All this automata really opens the door so that children (or anyone who sucks air) can learn the nuts and bolts of grammar, math, science, etc from any location on the planet (give or take). So why not do that at home, or the library, or the park? Make that the homework. But when they get to “school” (whatever it looks like for you), there they can then be taught to participate, successfully and with confidence, in society. Teach my child how to live. Help me teach my child how to craft persuasive arguments, how to resolve conflict, how best to respond to oppression, how to fight for justice. Allow my child to create, to wonder, to inquire, to explore. That is what I want my school to excel at.


5 Responses to “Larry Cuban’s three-part series on automation in education”

  1. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    NPR usually has good stories on education and they have one on testing. It’s really good. Technology is just a tool, and we haven’t always been thoughtful about how we use it. Larry Cuban talked about medical records, they were designed for insurance companies not doctors to use. The information they need is buried in them. School testing isn’t designed to help the kids learn. It’s to prove the schools/teachers are doing their jobs. Isn’t that a conflict there? I remember years ago spending a whole day on how to take a test. A whole school day.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Rebecca, I find it a huge coincedence that you mentioned that NPR article – I recommend others read it as well. I got wind of it via a tweet; the last two options that Anya presents seem like the best going forward:
      3c) Performance or portfolio-based assessments
      4) Inspections

      If district administration want to see if teachers are doing their job, they should ask parents and students. I don’t see that happening now, and I don’t see that happening in the near future, unfortunately.

      I am at the point where I tell my child, “if you don’t want to take a test, then don’t – just be sure you tell your teacher why”. If a test does not benefit me or my child, there is no point in taking it, from my point of view.

      Additionally, I am having some really eye-opening and fascinating conversations with my child’s teacher, principal, district administration and state representatives about this issue, not to mention other bloggers, parents and community members. I am glad we are trying to figure out what education actually is, and how to do it.

    • mstegeorge Says:

      Thanks for this link Rebecca. I didn’t know about Anya Kamenetz’s book, and the interview is thought-provoking. The idea of sampling to gather data is so obvious, I can’t believe we haven’t been talking about it.

    • pattsi Says:

      Absolute must read by all education administrators and education faculty.

  2. pattsi Says:

    Hurrah, and a little bit of I have been mentioning this until I am blue in the face related to the thinking and design of a new HS. I have consistently asked or challenged board members and others that the present thinking about the new HS is in no way related to the rapidly changing technology means for delivering education in a decade let alone 5 decades.

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