This post first appeared on

Richard DeMillo, responding to an interview Bryan Alexander conducted with him as part of the latter’s Future Trends Forum:

“It was an interesting (and not entirely accidental) contrast to a similar interview that Bryan had conducted a week before with Audrey Watters, who more or less savaged the very notion that higher education could be doing a better job.”

I hear this reductionism a lot. Because I am highly critical of the “Silicon Valley narrative” – investors’ and entrepreneurs’ vision for a more automated, privatized, libertarian/neoliberal education system – that I must think that the education system as-is is doing just fine. That’s absurd.

Framed this way, of course, there are only two “sides” to any education-related argument: you must accept the tech industry’s future narrative, or you are somehow against “the future” altogether. You must believe in technology’s teleology or else you stand in opposition to progress. Indeed, the only way that change that can possibly occur, so the industry story goes at least, is via technology.

And look at that frequently-used insult: “you’re a Luddite.” It’s become a shorthand for resisting technological change when in fact you could tell the same story as one of resisting corporate exploitation. It isn’t that the workers were opposed to using mechanized looms. They were opposed to being told they couldn’t work on their own looms, that they had to work on looms owned by factories. Their labor was no longer their own. Their work was no longer their own. The machines were no longer their own.

The problem isn’t simply the technology in and of itself -- are you for it or against it; it’s that technology is necessarily encased in structures and systems that we need to interrogate. And those who are quick to dismiss criticism of technology as somehow being “against the future” are often those most invested in protecting the structures and systems of ongoing exploitation.

(Image credits)

Audrey Watters


Audrey Watters


Back to Archives