Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
🎵 The song for this post is Tonight I'm Going To Rock You Tonight, by Spinal Tap 🎵
Blog posts coming a little slower since I've had a major work project ramp up 💪
One challenge of Internet Brain Poison is how much excellent terminology you come to rely on that isn't shared parlance. There are a few engineers I've playfully wanted to call "mother's food must be very hot"-types and that's not obvious to most unless you've spent too much time on the places that I have. Luke O'Neil wrote an explainer I might have linked, but Media Being Media, that shit's gone and it's not on Internet Archive.
That said, Internet Brain Poison quotes are really good for things like Quiplash or Dixit. Pulling out "If not I will face God and walk backwards into hell!" or "never speak to me or my son ever again" tends to get good reactions, even after you credit them appropriately. Other brain-poisoned people will Laugh Knowingly.
I had a lot of reactions, some of which quite visceral, on this Vox writeup of education going remote, mostly on the invasive shit people are having to install and run to fail to prevent cheating:
When student Marium Raza learned that her online biochemistry exam at the University of Washington would have a digital proctor, she wanted to do her research. The system, provided by a service called Proctorio, would rely on artificial intelligence and a webcam to monitor her while she worked.
My first thought: do they have 10,000s of hours of labeled footage of people cheating on exams from a webcam view to train this? Do they have it of students from all different backgrounds? lol of course not. They're selling something that sucks to desperate people that's going to flag students as cheating when they're not.
"Verify someone knows something," testing, and grading are pretty hard problems that share a lot with this problem domain. For years, one of my favorite article genres was "confessions of the essay mill writer," where someone shares observations from the job of writing middling, passable papers for the masses of people who need them to pass classes. Some examples are here and here.
While there are obviously a lot of people getting credentials that don't deserve them, in my passive observation at an Ivy (and going to fancy, expensive private school before that), I can tell you this happens a lot, at every level, without the essay mills. Credentialism still works on smooth-brained people, but anyone with a brain knows not to trust most elite markers for anything other than "comes from wealth," or "well-connected," which, depending on your goals, may matter a great deal. Remember how 43% of White students at Harvard are legacies, "students of interest" to the dean (i.e. paid money, Kushner-style), athletes, or related to donors or staff? That's cool.
A lot of the world made more sense when I stopped looking at what systems stated or intended and instead on what they produced. Looking at that, the systems and rules we have around education do, in fact, educate some people, but it's clear what we call the "education system" has a lot of other goals and effects that aren't nearly as noble.
related-topics-but-I-have-to-work: subverting traditional schooling, like with homeschooling (lmao not writing a pithy summary on this one), time-limited closed-book tests (solves exactly one set of problems), lecture-format classes (works for only a few types of people, makes many others think they're dummies), job compliance courses on things like sexual harassment or security (more about ass-covering than learning, but we have to make a sincere show that it's the other way around), how this all ties to the performance and narratives of intelligence.
anyway, click the links, form your own opinions, and reminder that I'm a product of these systems and have benefitted from them.
I liked this mashup of 1984's music. 1984 is, in my mind, The Beginning of History, because that's when my brother was born, so Dwight and Pilar stopped being two random newlyweds and started "my family."
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