Silicon Valley As Richard II: Setting The Stage For Teachers



Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm from an anointed king.

(King Richard, Act 3 Scene 2)

The ability of scientists to not only record and analyze brain activity but also influence it is growing, and those in academic circles on all levels — I humbly and respectfully submit — are obliged to address issues related to that phenomenon. Clearly, as per Andrea Capocci’s latest article for Il Manifesto, the dangers — not the potential dangers — are very real, and are getting worse by the day without serious discussion taking place in academia.

Columbia University biologist Rafael Yuste and Seattle University’s philosopher Sara Goering — both cited in the article — told me that their Morningside Group (comprised of neuroscientists and other professionals from four continents) is a “cover” for its sponsor Google, and that the bottom line aim of the Silicon Valley monster is… their business bottom line, and the obligatory attempt to reassure one and all that they are embracing social responsibility.

They are not. Not honoring the necessity of being socially responsible. But whereas that’s to be expected from cold-blooded corporations, teachers and professors on all levels must — obviously — take the higher road. It’s one thing for Rafael (from my prestigious alma mater) and Sara to be going through the motions of addressing the various scenarios which might unfold, but whatever benefits come from that cannot — I submit humbly and respectfully — offset the damage done by giving Google a pass, enabling them to firm up their disingenuous P.R. effort. Rafael and Sara are, then, both complicit in what is slated to come down vis-a-vis technological horror.

Perhaps it’s too late to expect people from the world of Publish and Profit or Perish to be ethical as per the standards I’m underscoring here. There’s peer pressure on the best campuses that almost precludes doing the right thing respecting our collective crises. And that’s just one point among many I could cite that keeps our horrid momentum in gear courtesy of our best campuses.

But what about teachers in middle schools and high schools? The elementary schools too. What can they do? [Pause.] They can do a lot, but first the instructors must self-educate about the proliferation of dangers associated with Silicon Valley products and ultimate goals.

At present administrators and educators across the board — and virtually all influential members in all communities nationwide — look at Silicon Valley almost as having divine qualities, holding the key to our collective future, indispensable to the health of our classrooms. Serious questioning of their motives and nature went out the window long ago, once societal habits were established (as addictions), and Facebook and the like began to make huge donations to educational institutions on all levels.

We have a New National Religion now, and it’s all integrated into the Silicon Valley agenda. It must be made human again… humbled. And only a new generation of children are capable of teaching adults how to handle The Monstrosity of Our Times on a level that honors our common humanity.

Where are our Brave New Teachers, capable of confronting those they must answer to… in the name of providing our youth with viable options to what’s presently on the table for them? Let’s face it, all students are not meant to jump onto the STEM track, and yet — truth be told — that’s psychologically what youngsters are led to believe holds happiness for them in the future, Science and Technology. Critical thinking is spotlighted as being VERY important to educators on various school websites, but I can tell you from visiting hundreds of elementary, middle and high school campuses that constructive criticism of Silicon Valley is pretty much verboten… or laughed out of the classroom. Critical thinking is reserved for generic application, and that doesn’t allow for dishonoring our God.

In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare presents us with the spectacle of a man becoming a god. But in Richard II he permits us to witness a god becoming a man. As a consequence of what one might call political logic, Richard was thought to be , and thought himself to be, somehow divine: to have the right and the capacity to rule men, a king ought to have a superior nature, must be a god or the representative of a god; because he must be, he is. The play tells the tale of Richard’s dethroning and his agony as he faces the moaning human condition for the first time.

For the first time, we need teachers to step up to the plate and knock Silicon Valley out of the park. Meaning, out of the classroom… as a god.

That would be a good start for the new ballgame we must play, washing the balm away.

Richard Martin Oxman has been an educator for over half-a-century, and he is always open to interacting with students, their parents, educators and members of communities all along the demographic spectrum. He can be reached at [email protected].



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