For most of us, our first introduction to society was through the education system. Most kids are enrolled in the education system by the age of 5. Once enrolled, the state requires children to complete roughly 16-18 years of schooling. You probably already knew that, but did you know throughout that time, everything was being recorded? Your progress, development, and performance was all carefully monitored. What you consider to be your childhood is just another data set used to fuel algorithms.
What data is being collected? School systems record participation, behavior, progress, scores, development, and much more. These data points -- the lives of our students -- are used to draw conclusions that impact students’ futures. In some cases, schools and education programs use this data to predict mental health and even crime rates. Attempting to predict the future with this data is called “risk identification,” and it starts by datafying your childhood.
Why is this so dangerous? We have already seen an overwhelming amount of bias in the education system, and how poor funding and systemic issues have long-lasting affects on student demographics. In a bid to help the system, algorithms are employed to make things better.
Unfortunately, a robot’s ability to help humans is limited.
Algorithms are already known to exacerbate systemic biases in the systems they’re deployed to serve. Though the hearts of those using these algorithms may be in the right place, the dangers of mishandled data is immense. Schools have already begun to implement algorithms that track student social media accounts, monitoring students beyond the realm of academia. Students had already lost a degree of their privacy when they were put into the education system, and now this monitoring extends beyond the school walls.
These students that are being datafied are minors. They’re still developing, yet we allow these untested algorithms to monitor students like lab rats. The confines of school halls hold only so much of a child’s life, yet these algorithms make decisions that could mar these students for their entire lives without the student even knowing. Do we really want robots deciding the future of our nation?