On Biometric Bracelets, Romney and the Anti-Bullying Guide -- and More

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Today Learning Curve offers links to interesting items that have made their way across Your Humble Blogger's browser. Consider it a compromise. The education geeks among you will have something to read, and I will have time to forage for future reportorial sustenance.

First, from what the august Washington Post describes as the "you- can't-make-up-this-stuff" category: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest of the big in terms of philanthropic education spending -- so big policy needles move when its checkbook comes out -- is spending $1.1 million to develop and test "galvanic skin response" bracelets that are supposed to measure student engagement.

It gets so much worse.

"The foundation gave the awards as part of its Measuring Effective Teachers project, which is experimenting with teacher evaluation systems in seven school districts nationwide," blogger Valerie Strauss noted. "Millions of dollars have gone into these evaluation experiments, which, among other things, have involved the use of standardized test scores to assess teacher effectiveness (a bad idea), as well as the questionable videotaping of teachers. And now, bracelets."

Strauss has some good links, including one to a piece on the "emerging field of neuromarketing," which "relies on biometric technologies to determine a participant's emotional and cognitive response to certain stimuli."

The item caused me to flash on a book I read in college, Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed." (Yes, I read this kind of egg- headed stuff back then. Not only was this before pastimes like reality TV and apps starring birds, it was back when I thought tossing around the word "pedagogy" was the way to make friends.)

One of the assertions of this Marxist work, if I recall correctly, was the perfectly reasonable notion that dehumanized students will necessarily be poor students. The antidote: to engage them.

And so I commend you to the comment thread: Galvanic skin response bracelets, promise of liberation or shackle of oppression?

Mitt Romney and the anti-bullying guide

Next, from the equally august Boston Globe, I offer you a story about Mitt Romney's move, in 2006 as Massachusetts governor, to block the publication of a state anti-bullying guide for public schools because it contained the words "bisexual" and "transgender."

(Hat tip for this item to my college and grad-school running mate Frederick Emrich, who, come to think of it, probably read Freire with me and was too nice to point out that I couldn't pronounce "pedagogy.")

Reports the Globe:

"Stifling the guide's publication was among steps that Romney and his aides took during his last year in office to distance the Republican governor from state programs designed to specifically support gays, lesbians, and bisexual and transgender people. …