Freedom of Information #
Curriculum Changes #
Basic Aid #
Sex Education #
Individualized, shared, and student led #
Faster, lower standards #
Better testing #
Fuck Respondus And Proctorio #
The following is a (slightly edited) excerpt from an email I felt necessary to send to my professors at the start of the spring semester, 2021
First and foremost, they’re just creepy. Taking tests digitally but in person is fine with me because I know those computers are secure and dedicated to the single use. Respondus and Proctorio effectively amount to spyware that students are being asked to install onto their personal devices.
Second, they’re both insecure. While this article (soatok.blog) written by a friend of mine focuses on Proctorio, just doing a tiny bit of digging will turn up plenty on Respondus as well. So now it’s not just spyware, but insecure spyware.
Third, they’re a bit hyper-sensitive (Vice, voiceofsandiego.org) . I’ve read some articles where students even talking to themselves (which a lot of people do when alone and thinking hard!) have been flagged because the system thinks they’re talking to someone else in the room.
This sensitivity is particularly bad when you consider many of the datasets used to train the algorithms that these programs use give the systems a racial bias (technologyreview.com).
I also worry about my strange hardware setup. If these systems are looking for ‘strange’ I think my system with 30 USB devices, including 2 webcams, 2 mice, and 3 HID keyboards, would fit that bill. I don’t want to have to rip my setup apart to take a test.
They also depend on a strong internet connection. If I have a brief frame drop while my webcam is on and I’m taking a test, you may notice I freeze up and then start moving again. Responds may think I’m actively tampering with my webcam and tell you I’m doing something nefarious.
Fourth, all the options I’ve seen (Proctorio, Respondus, etc.) are primarily available for Windows only, with some having OSx clients but none of them supporting Linux, which is the OS I normally use. Sure, I can boot into Windows, but some other students may be using chromebooks or only have Linux on their system.
Finally, there’s a bit of a normalization of spyware that education using these tools can cause. This is bad for any student, but it’s especially bad for CS and CE students who, lacking real ethics education at [My University], see this as an example. This makes software that has no right to exist look acceptable. For ’normies’ it just further normalizes a category of software which is heavily used for domestic abuse, a stat that while I could cite a source for, I can also tell you I’ve seen for myself multiple times.
I understand the need for secure, online testing, but this is certainly not the right solution.
One of the replies to this email did sort of make my day though:
Short answer: no, I won’t use them.
Slightly longer answer: I won’t use them since there will be no exams or quizzes in this course.
Even longer answer: Even if I did have exams or quizzes, there’s no way in hell I’d use that awful, awful software. My conscience and my son would never forgive me.
Of course, this is a rabbit hole you can keep going down. You might want to keep an eye on this: Proctorio filed a SLAPP suit if you want to see them fall on their faces.
Free College #
The Following is from ‘Modern Universities Are An Exercise in Insanity’ on The Scholar’s Stage Blog:
The average tenure hopeful adjunct makes $40 an hour. If you were to employ her as a private tutor at the cost of $60 an hour, and had four hours with her a week, and did that for 14 weeks (that’s the length of an average college course folks) that is about $3,400.
Were you to employ three such professor-tutors, that would be about $10,200, or a bit over $20,000 a year. In four years you would have racked up $80,000 in costs. But this is still $30,000 less than the total for the ‘cost conscious’ universities. It is a quarter of what you would pay for Trinity.
Remember: this $80,000 is for private tutoring, where individual attention would give you far and away a better and more thorough education than the 300-kids-in-a-lecture-hall style of classes that dominate undergraduate education today.
But it can get even cheaper. Let’s say you take the general principle of group classes from the university. Say you can find four other people to take all of these other classes with you. Just four. Well, that equals out to $680 per class, or $16,000 a person for four years of classes.
Invasive Technology #
Apps, GoogleClassroom, etc
Shedding Rights At The School Gate #
In 1965 a group of students wore armbands protesting the continuation of the Vietnam War. The school administration in retaliation, created a rule saying that armbands were not allowed, in effect stifling the speech of the students under threat of suspension (and, presumably, worse with repeated offense).
This ultimately was appealed, lawyers involved, and a significant amount of effort, made it’s way to the all the way to U.S. Supreme Court which 5-7 in the favor of the students. From Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969):
" It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. "
- Mr. Justice Fortas
So, provided that these rights surely include the U.S. Constitution, I’d think that both the Fourth Amendment,
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
and the idea that we are innocent until proven guilty should apply. Two ideas that, even ignoring their basis in law, it’s fair to say most people agree with.
If this is the case, how could it possibly make sense that some public schools are doing random drug tests.
Now, I’m not saying I want teens to be on drugs, have access to drugs, be pressured into drugs, etc. I’m not even saying that they should have the right to do drugs. Society has some interest in developing minds not being permanently hampered by drugs.
My point is that responsibility, and respect, are not a one-way road. If you want teens to show responsibility and respect, you have to earn it. You can’t do that with fear of punishment or even by punishment directly,
If we want the teens to continue having a reason to not do drugs as an adult, to not either have a wild, self-destructive phase when they suddenly gain more freedom or be totally dependent and never live their own lives then we need to trust them.
So, a natural argument here may be “Trust but Test!”, to which the obvious retort is that if you test, it’s obvious you don’t trust - but this could be argued endlessly. Instead, I’ll bring up a question similar to one many pro-choice arguments propose:
If someone does break the rules, how will the punishment help them?
Presumably, teens doing drugs are in need of help, so, let’s look at that above link, what are the consequences:
If a student tests positive, they cannot compete in extracurricular activities for 10 to 60 days,
Okay, but a parent should be able to opt-out their kid if they don’t agree with the rule, right? right?
[…] parents must sign a consent form, allowing their student to be drug tested to be able to participate in sports, competitive extracurricular activities, and park at the school
At this point I could talk about statistics, how it’s more likely for people of color to be in homes where marijuana use is common, how there are links between socioeconomic status, drug use, depression, anxiety, domestic abuse, etc. I don’t think I need to pull those up for it be common sense that at least some teens will being drugs as an escape.
You know what else teen’s do as an escape from their stressors?
So fucking naturally, when a teen is already struggling, turning to drugs, let’s take away one of their freedoms and ways they unwind. Punish them. Make them an outcast and paint them with an “drug offender” label.
In the course of 25 years the rate of teen deaths from suicide is up 35%, predominately young men who already feel like they don’t have a support group.
The mental health pandemic is out of control and we wonder why? Maybe it’s because we simultaneously want to take kids autonomy away, deprive them of natural stress outlets (see Play Deprivation Is A Major Cause of the Teen Mental Health Crisis) and then we just make the cycle worse anytime they final reach a breaking point. Prescribing the legal drugs instead of addressing the issue, giving them some autonomy, trust, and support.
We should be helping kids up when they fall, and watching them run to their goals - not holding them down and making them watch their step.