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Archive for February 22nd, 2007


I have never considered myself to be a Luddite. I purchased my first personal computer over 30 years ago, an Apple IIe to be sure, and have been using technology ever since. But times have changed. My campus is being invaded by LiveText, a corporate attempt to respond to the current trend to objectify educational outcomes through technocratic, bureaucratic requirements of alignment to standards, accountability to standards, and assessment documentation. The idea behind all this is that unless one has objective, observable proof that external standards are being met, one cannot be sure that there is any learning taking place.

Max Weber (2002) argued that bureaucratic institutions, as impersonal entities, are without meaningful foundational support. Bureaucratic institutions ebb and flow by adhering to what is perceived to work, whether or not the perception is matched by the reality. Bureaucracies are heartless, without soul, inhuman places where decisions are made by objectifying the outcome desired and creating regulations to achieve the desired outcome. In education, bureaucratic thinking has gotten us into the event horizon of a black hole from which knowledge can no longer escape as the outcome of free inquiry.

LiveText, in the most arrogant manner, bills itself as the Single Source of Truth. The company states:

LiveText provides the most complete learning, assessment, and accreditation management solution™ available for all institutional stakeholders–from students to administrators–to meet and surpass these challenges and ultimately foster a learning environment centered upon evidence-based decisions and continuous improvement.

The claim of evidence-based decisions and complete learning, assessment, and accreditation management leading to truth
is absurd on its face. First, the claim endorses the epistemological claim that there is an objective, observable truth that can be discovered and analyzed if only we have the proper tools for that examination. The analytical, positivist posture is, however, not the only way of understanding the nature of truth. From Husserl (2006), to Heidegger (1962) to Derrida (2002) objectification of the external as a way of knowing is denied; one, rather, must reflectively examine the intentional experience of the Lifeworld, the world of phenomena and things, through an encounter with the interiority of the self in order to come to know anything. The assumption made by LiveText denies the latter in favor of the former position. By privileging the former LiveText attempts to compartmentalize knowledge without examination or reflection. Everything fits into the LiveText matrix thereby reducing knowing to a form.

Additionally, the claim of truth emanating from a single source oversteps the bounds of rationality placing LiveText in the metaphysical realm residing somewhere amongst the gods. Aside from finding this claim offensive, it is a claim that best resides in a seminary where theology is the topic on everyone’s mind. Claims of absolute truth are frightening and, perhaps, obscene as well. There is no room here for inquiry, creativity, or conversation–in spite of the claims of LiveText representatives that one can create tools that fit the needs of each user. If that were the case there would be no underlying code written to restrict the user to using the LiveText interface. With no underlying code, fully protected as intellectual property to be sure, LiveText would have nothing to sell and Capitalism would necessarily fail, leaving professors out there to fend for themselves.

It is not technology that alienates, rather it is the hubris of Capitalism and the lifelessness of the bureaucracy that alienates. I am alienated.

References

Derrida, J. (2002). Faith and knowledge: The two sources of “religion” and the limits of reason alone (S. Weber, Trans.). In G. Anidjar (Ed.), Acts of religion (pp. 42-101). New York: Routledge.

Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. New York: Harper Publishers.

Husserl, E. (2006). The Idea of Phenomenology. New York: Springer.

Weber, M. (2002). Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd.

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