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Virtual School In A Computerized Box
Part 3 - ALEC's Virtual Public Schools Act, The DeVos-Bush Connection
And A History Of Technocratic Education From The 'Skinner Box' To 'School In a Box'

By John Klyczek

As education’s discontents peak to tyrannical proportions, teachers across America are striking en masse in states like Oklahoma, Arizona, and Colorado. Just in the nick of time, too, because the pending Supreme Court ruling over Janus v. AFSCME could essentially revoke the labor rights of teachers’ unions and other public-sector unions. Once the collective bargaining rights of teachers are effectively rescinded, it will be open season for Secretary of Ed DeVos and former Governor Jeb Bush to corporatize the American schooling system through public-private charter school partnerships which substitute human teachers with virtual ed-tech products that automate “competency-based” workforce education through psycho-behavioral adaptive-learning algorithms.

The corporate-fascist ed-tech allegiance between Betsy DeVos and Jeb Bush is not limited to their American Federation for Children coalition [1]. In “Secretary DeVos, Neurocore, and Competency-Based Workforce Training,” I report on alliances between the Trump-DeVos Administration and members of Jeb’s Foundation for Educational Excellence (FEE), which is a nonprofit corporation that promotes “competency-based education” methods through various forms of public-private “school choice,” including virtual and online education [2]. Furthermore, there are also ties between DeVos and Bush through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is a corporate team of lawyers and lobbyists who draft boilerplate bills that are adopted by legislators to expand public-private partnerships and other privatization schemes such as the corporatization of virtual charter schools.

On September 16th, 2011, the ALEC Board of Directors approved their Resolution Adopting the 10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning for K-12, which aims to propagate personalized virtual education across the United States. These “10 Elements” are adopted from Jeb Bush’s Digital Learning Council, which proclaims that its mission is to collaborate “with leaders in education, government, philanthropy, business, technology and think tanks to define the actions that lawmakers and policymakers must take to spark a revolution in K-12 digital learning.” In fact, ALEC’s 10 Elements Resolution admits that its nationwide virtual-ed campaign is guided by the recommendations of Bush’s corporate-technocrat cronies at his Digital Learning Council: “[w]hereas, in August 2010, Governors Jeb Bush and Robert Wise launched the Digital Learning Council . . . resulting in the creation of the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning; . . . it is the intent of this [ALEC] Resolution that the 10 Elements be used as a framework from which to draft legislation specific to each state’s needs.”

Specifically, Bush’s 10 Elements are used by ALEC as a legal framework for instituting “personalized” edu-conditioning through digitalized CBE learning: “3. Personalized learning: All students can customize their education using digital content through an approved digital learning provider. 4. Advancement: Students progress based on demonstrated competency.”  This fourth “Advancement” clause is a “competency-based education” (CBE) stipulation that permits students to earn “credits” based on their “competent” responses to digitalized adaptive-learning stimuli that are “personalized” according to the cognitive-behavioral algorithms data-mined from the students’ stimulus-response feedback loops [3].

This “personalized” CBE pedagogy of Bush’s 10 Elements guides the nationwide implementation of ALEC’s Virtual Public Schools Act: a “template” bill for various state and federal legislators that defines a “‘[v]irtual school’ [as] an independent public school in which the school uses technology in order to deliver a significant portion of instruction to its students via the Internet in a virtual or remote setting.”

ALEC’s Education Task Force, which is currently co-chaired by Republican State Senator of Utah Howard Stephenson, has disseminated the Virtual Public Schools Act to key lawmakers, such as Republican State Representative of Tennessee, Harry Brooks, who introduced and passed ALEC’s Virtual Public Schools Act basically verbatim as his own legislation in 2011.

In Texas, State Senator Florence Shapiro was the Republican Chair of the Senate Education Committee at the same time she sat on ALEC’s Education Task Force in 2011, the same year that ALEC adopted Bush’s 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning. As Chair of the Education Committee, Shapiro passed legislation that mandated virtual public schools to receive the same amount of tax funding as brick-and-mortar public schools. 

Similarly, Wisconsin State Representative Robin Vos was also the Wisconsin State Chair of ALEC at the same time that she sponsored a bill pushing vast expansion of for-profit virtual schools under Governor Scott Walker’s school privatization agenda. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, this Vos-sponsored bill closely resembles the Virtual Public Schools Act template.

In addition, Truth Out reports that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell requested that the Virginia State Legislature introduce a 2010 law modeled on ALEC’s Virtual Public Schools Act. The governor’s request was prompted after he received campaign donations amounting to “tens of thousands of dollars” from lobbyists representing K12 Inc., a virtual charter school corporation which capitalized on the passage of the bill by setting up shop “in Carroll County, one of the state’s most impoverished counties, to maximize the public money it would receive. Even when the school board voted to close K12 Inc. down because it did worse than traditional schools on 20 out of 22 measures, Virginia legislators with ALEC connections enacted a law in 2012 requiring high school students to take an online course to graduate.” This 2012 law was part of Governor Bob McDonnell’s 2012 “‘Opportunity to Learn’ Education Agenda,” which was vocally supported by Betsy DeVos [4].

Perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of this nationwide expansion of ALEC legislation are K12 Inc. and Connections Education LLC, which are both for-profit virtual edu-corporations that operate chains of online and blended-learning charter schools. When the Virtual Public Schools Act was drafted and approved by ALEC in 2004, both K12 Inc. and the Connections Academy branch of the parent LLC were corporate members of the School Choice Subcommittee of ALEC’s Education Task Force.

In fact, in Diane Ravitch’s book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, the former Assistant Secretary of Education under George H. W. Bush exposes how the Co-Chair of ALEC’s Education Task Force was Mickey Revenaugh: the Executive Vice President of the Connections Education company who also presided over the 2011 vote to adopt Jeb Bush’s 10 Elements at ALEC’s 38th Annual Meeting in New Orleans titled Solutions for the States. Revenaugh drafted the Virtual Public Schools Act with the help of Bryan Flood of K12 Inc. and Don Lee, who at the time of drafting the legislation was a State Representative of Colorado until he moved on to become a lobbyist as Vice President for Government Affairs at K12 Inc.

Betsy and her husband, Dick DeVos, were once invested in the K12 Inc. Corporation, although they divested their shares before Betsy became US Secretary of Ed. Moreover, Tom Bolvin of K12 Inc. is currently the Private Chair of ALEC’s Education Task Force, and the current President of Academics, Policy, and Schools at K12 Inc. is none other than Kevin Chavous, who also formerly sat on the K12 Inc. Board of Directors at the same time that he partnered with Betsy DeVos at the AFC.

In addition, K12 Inc. and Connections Academy sponsored the AFC’s Eighth Annual National Policy Summit where DeVos laid out her objectives for the future of “personalized” virtual edu-conditioning through CBE-style stimulus-response technetronics. During DeVos’s tenure as Chair of the American Federation for Children, the AFC was a “Director-Level” sponsor of ALEC’s 2012 Annual Meeting, and the AFC was also a “Trustee-Level” sponsor of both ALEC’s 2013 Annual Meeting as well as ALEC’s 2011 Annual Meeting where Bush’s 10 Elements were adopted [5].

Now that DeVos is running the US Department of Ed, she has renewed her vows to ALEC’s virtual school corporatization stratagem as she announced that she is “look[ing] forward to working with you [ALEC]” in her official capacity as Secretary of Education. During her speech at the ALEC headquarters on July 20th, 2017, Secretary DeVos professed her Administration’s commitment to ALEC’s mission to “individualize” corporate “school choice” that “personalizes” “the quality education that best fits [each] child's unique, individual needs.” In “Part 1” and “Part 2” of “Virtual School in a Computerized Box,” I prove that DeVos’s “personalized”/“individualized” “school choice” is nothing more than a code phrase for virtual adaptive-learning through CBE workforce-conditioning software.

Unfortunately, DeVos affirmed her Secretarial commitment to ALEC’s “personalized” virtual-ed corporatization despite the fact that “personalized” virtual charter schools have an atrocious track record of performing below the minimal standards of the public brick-and-mortar schools that are purported to be inferior to the so-called “personalized” learning of such virtual schools [6]. Notwithstanding these facts, Secretary DeVos’s continued allegiance to ALEC’s Virtual Public Schools Act effectively asserts her true belief that “personalized” virtual-learning technetronics are “upgraded” substitutes for the “status quo” of traditional human teaching.

A History of Technocratic Education from the “Skinner Box” to “School in a Box”:

·         The “Adjustive/Adaptive” and “Integrating” Functions of Education: 

To those familiar with the darker pages of America’s history of public schooling, ALEC’s technocratic prospects for usurping teachers with corporate workforce-conditioning computers will come as no surprise. In the 1918 book Principles of Secondary Education, Harvard Professor Alexander Inglis theorized “six basic functions” of schooling, including the “integrating function” and the “adjustive, or adaptive, function,” both of which are authoritarian functions of autocratic schooling. Upon close reading of Inglis’s century-old educational functions, it is apparent that DeVos’s and ALEC’s techno-fascist schemes to “individuate” virtual edu-conditioning are nothing less than the corporate-technocratic perfection of authoritarian educational psychology methods that have been funded by Robber Baron philanthropy to manage workforce schooling for over one hundred years [7].

In “Against School,” the 1991 New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto, historicizes how Inglis’s “adjustive/adaptive” function of education “establish[es] fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely” (146) [8]. Undoubtedly, there is only one way to achieve machine precision in programming each student with fixed, machine-like cognitive-behavioral reflexes to authority: supplant the human instructor with a machine.

By removing the idiosyncratic elements of human personality, and then substituting those unpredictable variables with standardized adaptive-learning software, privatized virtual charter schools can ensure computerized scientific management over curriculums. As a result, virtual edu-corporations can ensure fixed student learning outcomes that are fascistically planned by public-private partnerships between ed-tech companies and charter school corporations contracting with State education departments and local school districts. In particular, standardized “adjustive/adaptive” software eliminates the possibility that a human teacher like Gatto, who routinely broke away from official curriculums, might inspire students to cultivate critical judgment of authority as creative thinkers who pursue goals outside their prescribed career pathways in the planned economy [9]

Perfecting adjustive/adaptive courseware that fix student submission to authority will also perfect Inglis’s “integrating function” of schooling, which according to Gatto “might well be called ‘the conformity function,’ because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force” (146). Obviously, a student with fixed cognitive-behavioral reflexes to authority will conform to the fascistic hierarchy of the collective public-private workforce by duly conforming to his or her digitally prescribed career-caste which is subordinated to the corporate-government power-structure of the technocratic planned economy.

To be sure, the supposed “individualization” of “competency-based” virtual curriculums is only “personalized” insofar as the stimulus-response adaptive-learning software can vary the pace of prescribed lessons which digitally condition a student for either job-specific workforce training through career pathways or discipline-specific university preparation through academic curriculums. Nonetheless, each “individualized” academic or career-path algorithm still conforms to fixed obedience to corporate-government authority over fascistic political-economic planning because the digital range of career- and academic-pathway curriculums is preprogrammed by industry-specific quotas that are preplanned by public-private partnerships between Big Business and Big Government.

In the final equation, Inglis’s adjustive/adaptive and integrating functions, which standardize fixed conformity to corporate and government authorities over political-economic workforce planning, are the prime-directive functions of techno-fascist schooling; and the “diagnostic/directive” function, “differentiating function,” and “propaedeutic” function, which classify individual students into different career or academic pathways, are all subordinated to the overriding adjustive/adaptive and integrating functions [10]. The ultimate outcome of this hierarchy of educational functions is the conformity of a highly specialized two-class power-structure controlled by a fascistic political-economic authority through the manipulation of Big Data cached by ed-tech companies that data-mine student psychometrics for workforce placement and job-competence conditioning directed by the public-private plans of Big Government in bed with Big Business.

These dystopian prospects for education may seem futuristic, but the truth is that this authoritarian vision of computerized schooling is over a hundred years old.

·         The Skinner Box: 

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Burrhus Frederic Skinner, the godfather of operant conditioning psychology [11], formulated mechanized multiple-choice “teaching machines” that are often historicized as the first widely recognized proto-computerized teaching technetronics. Nevertheless, the first known prototype of a “teaching machine” was invented and patented by Ohio State University Professor of Psychology, Sidney L. Pressey, in 1924. In fact, B. F. Skinner himself cites Pressey as the first real inventor of a functional “teaching machine.” In Skinner’s 1968 book, The Technology of Teaching, the Harvard Professor of Psychology acknowledges how “Sydney L. Pressey designed several machines for the automatic testing of intelligence and information . . . A recent model of one of these is shown in Figure 3. In using the device the student refers to a numbered item in a multiple-choice test. He presses the button corresponding to his first choice of answer. If he is right, the device moves on to the next item; if he is wrong, the error is tallied, and he must continue to make choices until he is right” (30) [12].

To be sure, the conceptualization of the teaching machine can be traced even further back to Edward Lee Thorndike. Actually, in his 1914 book entitled Education: A First Book, Thorndike first postulated his own vision of essentially the very same engineering design utilized for Pressey’s prototypical teaching machine described by B. F. in 1968. Thorndike’s book hypothesized that “[i]f, by a miracle of mechanical ingenuity, a book could be so arranged that only to him who had done what was directed on page one would page two become visible, and so on, much that now requires personal instruction could be managed by print” (165). Notice that Pressey’s first teaching machines do not “move on to the next item” unless the student supplies the “right” response, thereby fulfilling Thorndike’s dream of a mechanical “book” that conditions students by not allowing “page two [to] become visible” unless they “had done what was directed on page one.”

E. L. Thorndike’s vision of a mechanized teaching book was extrapolated from his psychological research into the stimulus-response learning processes of animal cognition that he studied extensively through his proto-behaviorist “puzzle box” experiments (Lionni 30-41) [13]. These “puzzle box” studies were the forerunners to the “Skinner box” animal experiments from which B. F. derived the methodology of operant-conditioning reinforcement scheduling that he adapted to upgrade Pressey’s seminal teaching machines (Lionni 33). In B. F.’s Technology of Teaching [14], Figures 7 and 8 exhibit pictures of his Skinner-box experiments of rats and pigeons (63), and he discusses how these operant-conditioning animal-training experiments produced the stimulus-response conditioning data which he systematized to re-engineer Pressey’s teaching machines (61-68) [15].

According to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, “[i]n the 1950s, the psychologist B. F. Skinner of Harvard University suggested that techniques he had developed for training rats and pigeons might be adopted for teaching humans. He used this apparatus teaching a Harvard course in natural sciences. The machine is a rectangular wooden box with a hinged metal lid with windows. Various paper discs fit inside, with questions and answers written along radii of the discs. One question at a time appears in the window nearer the center. The student writes an answer on a paper tape to the right and advances the mechanism. This reveals the correct answer but covers his answer so that it may not be changed. Skinner's ‘programmed learning’ was refined and adopted in many classrooms in the 1960s. It underlies techniques still used in instruction for the office, the home and the school.”

In his Technology of Teaching, Skinner exhibits photographs of some of his “programmed learning” teaching machines [16], which are expounded in the following captions:


1)   “FIGURE 4. Machine first used to teach part of the author’s [Skinner’s] course at Harvard University. (An indexing phonograph to supply auditory stimuli is shown on the right.) Material is printed on the segments of a disk. The student inserts a disk in the machine and closes it; the machine cannot then be opened until he has completed the work. One frame of material appears in the window near the center. The student writes his response on a strip of paper exposed at the right. By lifting a lever at the left of the front side of the machine, the student moves the response he has written under a transparent cover and uncovers the correct response in the upper corner of the central frame. If his response is correct, he moves the lever to the right, thus punching a hole alongside the response he has called correct and altering the machine so that that particular frame will not appear again when he works around the disk a second time. When the lever is returned to its starting position, a new frame appears. (This machine was demonstrated at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, September, 1957.)” (36).


2)   “FIGURE 5. A machine similar to that in Figure 4. Material appears in the window at the left. The student is writing his response on a strip of paper exposed through the small window at this right. By moving a sliding knob at the upper right, he draws a transparent cover over his response and uncovers additional material at the right end of the larger window. This may tell him whether or not his response was correct, often without telling him the correct response. It may also supply additional material. The same movement of the slider uncovers additional space on the strip of paper upon which the student writes a second response if necessary. A further movement of the slider draws a transparent cover over the second response and uncovers the correct response in the large window. A new frame of the material, which is printed on a fan-folded tape, is moved into place by turning the large knob near the student’s left hand. The machine cannot be operated until tightly closed and cannot again be opened except by punching a hole in the answer strip. The panel at the rear may hold material to which the program refers” (38).

Consider Skinner’s question-answer stimulus-response method of his mechanized operant conditioning devices explicated in figure captions 4 and 5, and compare it to the question-answer stimulus-response method of Pressey’s proto-typical multiple-choice teaching machine detailed in figure caption 3. The only apparent difference between the mechanized “Pressey box” and the Skinner-box teaching machine is that the latter sequences the multiple-choice question-answer lessons according to the reinforcement-scheduling principles of operant conditioning, which are “programmed” into Skinner’s “teaching boxes” through an extensive series of “lever[s],” “slider[s],” “disk[s],” “frame[s],” “window[s],” and other mechanized gadgets such as a “phonograph.”

Now compare Skinnerian mechanized edu-conditioning to the computerized stimulus-response method of operant conditioning that is sequenced through digitalized lesson-plan windows on adaptive-learning software programmed with “career-pathways” curriculums that are “personalized” with UII workforce-training algorithms [17]. Basically, there are only two differences between Skinner-box teaching machines and adaptive-learning computer software:

1)   The literal, slide-operated “windows” filled with paper learning stimuli that were “programmed” into the mechanized Skinner box have been converted into keyboard/mouse-operated digital windows that display learning stimuli through pixelated 2D and voxelated 3D computer graphics.

2)   The cacophony of mechanized contraptions engineered into the Skinner “teaching box” to sequence paper stimulus-response lessons with “individualized” operant-conditioning schedules have been converted into hi-speed digital algorithms that “personalize” operant-conditioning schedules based on real-time software data-mining of the student’s cognitive-behavioral responses to digital learning stimuli.


·         Project BEST: 

During the development of microprocessor computing in the 1980s, Skinner’s mechanized “teaching box” was revolutionized into the first digitally sequenced teaching computers for programming students with fixed cognitive-behavioral reflexes to corporate-government authority. In fact, according to a 1983 issue of Education Week, B. F. admitted that 80s “computers . . . are essentially sophisticated versions of the ‘teaching machines’ of the 1960s.” To streamline the institutionalization of such Skinnerian teaching computers, the Association for Educational Computing and Technology (AECT) was awarded an $855,282 federal grant in 1981 to implement Project BEST (Better Education Skills Through Technology) (Iserbyt 170), which laid out the blueprint for the public-private techno-fascist schooling system that is currently being taken to the next level by DeVos, ALEC, and K12 Inc.

Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt blew the whistle on this corporate-technocratic education initiative in 1982 when she was the Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement for the US Department of Education under the Ronald Reagan Administration. Iserbyt leaked several internal documents from the Department of Ed pertaining to Project BEST, such as an informational brochure that states, “Project BEST is a cooperative effort involving both the federal, state, and local government and the private sector in the planning and use of modern information technologies to improve the effectiveness of basic skills, teaching and learning” (qtd. in Iserbyt 170). This document reveals that Project BEST spent almost one million dollars of federal tax revenues on public-private political-economic plans to plug students into Skinnerian IT computers that psycho-behaviorally condition learning outcomes to fulfill job quotas for corporate-technocratic workforce planning.

Another internal memo leaked by Iserbyt describes how Project BEST would set up the federal precursors to the public-private P-20 fusion of education and healthcare at the state level: “the State Team approach and the communications network with professional associations and other groups established by the project will serve as a model for the states in implementing similar efforts in other areas of education, or in such program areas as health, human services, housing, transportation, etc.” (qtd. in Iserbyt 170). To fascistically plan the public-private conglomeration of technetronic education with hi-tech health and human services, a document titled “Project BEST Dissemination Design Considerations” outlines strategies to “[c]ontrol or [m]anipulate . . . State participation/selection process[;] . . . [t]raining of state leaders[;] . . . [and] [p]erception of the need to use technology” (qtd. in Iserbyt 170). Stated differently, Project BEST’s “State Team approach” “manipulate[s]” State and local control of hi-tech edu-conditioning through public-private partnerships between privatized charter school corporations, ed-tech companies, for-profit healthcare corporations, and medical-tech companies contracted with conglomerated public school districts and public health departments at the State and local levels.

The Director of Project BEST was Donald P. Ely (Iserbyt 67), who was also Editor and Chairman of the Definition and Terminology Committee of the AECT (Iserbyt A-38). Ely published his 1963 “The Role of the Computer in Future Instructional Systems” in the Audiovisual Communication Review (Iserbyt 67), and he also authored “The Field of Educational Technology: A Statement of Definition,” which was printed in Audiovisual Instruction, which was published by the Association of Educational Computing and Technology (Iserbyt A-35).

William Spady, who was Executive Director of the Association of School Administrators, sat on the Advisory Board for Project BEST along with Shirley McCune, who was also the head of the State Services Division of Denver, Colorado (Iserbyt 170-171). McCune’s technocratic game plan at Project BEST was pushed by President Reagan’s Secretary of Education, Terrel Howard Bell, who was formerly the US Commissioner of Education, which headed up the Office of Education of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) before the Office of Education was assigned its own separate Department under President Jimmy Carter in 1979. In 1983, Secretary T. H. Bell authorized the funding of McCune’s MidContinent Regional Educational Laboratory (McREL); and in 1984, Bell ratified the financing of William Spady’s Utah-based Far West Laboratory for Outcomes-Based Education (Iserbyt 124-125, 194) [18].

At the end of Reagan’s first term as President, Secretary Bell passed the technocratic teaching torch to his successor, Education Secretary William Bennet, who later went on to co-found the K12 Inc. Corporation until he had to resign from the K12 Inc. company after public backlash from racist comments he made on his conservative talk radio show, Bill Bennet’s Morning in America [19].


·         “School in a Box”: 

Of course, the 1980s “teaching machines” of Project BEST were rudimentary. Yet by 1990, futurist-technocrat Ray Kurzweil, who is currently the Chief of Engineering at Google, accurately predicted the current technetronic state of computerized education in the twenty-first century.

In his 1990 tome, The Age of Intelligent Machines, Kurzweil foresaw that, “by the end of the first decade of the next century,” around 2010, “computer-assisted instruction (CAI)” (431), or what we now know as “virtual education,” would be characterized by “the following eight developments: [1] Every child has a computer. Computers are as ubiquitous as pencils and books. [2] They are portable laptop devices about the size of a large book. [3] They include very high resolution screens that are as easy to read as books. [4] They include a variety of devices for entering information, including a keyboard and a track ball (or possibly a mouse). [5] They support high quality two-way voice communication, including natural-language understanding. [6] They are extremely easy and intuitive to use. [7] A great variety of high-quality interactive intelligent and entertaining courseware is available. [8] Computers are integrated into wireless networks” (430-431).

Fast-forward to the present, and virtually all eight of Kurzweil’s ed-tech forecasts have come true: the pixelated command screens of 1980’s Project BEST teaching computers have evolved into the high-definition stimulus-response windows of online adaptive-CBE modules operated on mobile technetronics such as tablets equipped with touch screens, voice commands, and skype capabilities.

In 2013, Kurzweil’s vision of plugging every student into a virtual-learning module was set in motion through President Barack Obama’s ConnectEd initiative, which according to the White House Archives was launched “to connect 99% of American students in their classrooms and libraries with next-generation broadband and wireless connectivity within five years . . . to meet the needs of competition in a global economy.” Fueled by public-private partnerships, ConnectEd is bankrolled by the Federal Communications Commission and “private-sector companies [that] have committed to provide schools across the country with more than $2 billion worth of free hardware, software, educational content, and wireless connectivity.” With these corporate-fascist moneys, ConnectEd’s “‘99-in-5’ connectivity goal” aims to enable “interactive, personalized learning experiences driven by new technology” that will “[p]repar[e] our students with the skills they need to get good jobs.” As I demonstrate in “Part 1” and “Part 2” of “Virtual School in a Computerized Box,” “personalized learning” technologies are synonymous with CBE adaptive-learning software that data-mine students with stimulus-response algorithms which condition learning outcomes for job-skill competence [20].

Once the entire US student body is connected to ed-tech through Obama’s ConnectEd, Kurzweil’s CAI forecasts will dovetail with the following technetronic predictions envisioned by the first Executive Director of the globalist Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Tom Vander Ark: “[w]e’ll soon have adaptive content libraries and smart recommendation engines that string together a unique ‘playlist’ for every student everyday. These smart platforms will consider learning level, interests, and best learning modality (i.e., motivational profile and learning style to optimize understanding and persistence). Smart learning platforms will be used by some students that learn at home, by some students that connect through hybrid schools with a day or two onsite, and by most students through blended schools that mix online learning with onsite support systems.” To put it another way, Vander Ark foresees that the evolution of Kurzweil’s CAI will soon culminate in adaptive “smart-learning” technetronics that “personalize” “unique ‘playlist[s]’” of online stimulus-response lessons by data-mining each student’s learning psychology with algorithms that measure his or her behavioral motivation as well as his or her preferred sensory learning modality, whether visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.

In sum, the commercial evolution of smart-learning/adaptive-conditioning CAI has been proliferated through government-subsidized programs such as Project BEST and ConnectEd. The final product is now the technetronic re-engineering of stimulus-response “teaching machines” to transform the mechanized Skinner box into a computerized “school in a box” that can be mass-manufactured and commercially exported across the entire planet through corporate globalization. With entire classrooms compacted inside the handheld confines of online adaptive-learning technetronics, it is only a matter of time before brick-and-mortar schools are bulldozed, and human teachers will be discarded with the rubble.


[1]  In “Virtual School in a Computerized Box (Part 2): Disruptive DeVos and the AFC Push ‘Personalized’ Virtual School Privatization,” I document how Betsy DeVos and Jeb Bush have allied together at the AFC to endorse “personalized” virtual charter schools that usurp human teachers with adaptive-learning software algorithms programmed for workforce-conditioning through digitalized “career-pathways” curriculums.

[2]  Education reporter for the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss, investigated leaked emails from the nonprofit In the Public Interest, which exposed howMaine moved [Jebs’] FEE policy agenda through legislation and executive order that would remove barriers to online education and in some cases would require online classes —  including eliminating class size caps and student-teacher ratios, allowing public dollars to flow to online schools and classes, eliminate ability of local school districts to limit access to virtual schools.”           

[3]  In my article entitled “Secretary DeVos, Neurocore, and Competency-Based Workforce Training,” I historicize how “competency-based education (CBE)” pedagogy is simply a workforce-training rendition of “outcomes-based education (OBE)” methodology, which is nothing more than a jargon acronym that denotes the manipulation of operant conditioning, behaviorism, classical conditioning, and other stimulus-response methods of psychological and behavioral conditioning in the classroom to standardize student learning outcomes. In my article titled “Virtual School in a Computerized Box (Part 1),” I document how CBE is merely euphemistic jargon that connotes computerized “adaptive learning” through Skinnerian operant-conditioning algorithms programmed into commercialized ed-tech software that “personalizes” workforce schooling through digitalized “career-pathways” curriculums.

[4]  It should be noted that McDonnell ended up the first Virginia Governor to be convicted of a felony, and was sentenced to two years in federal prison on eleven counts of corruption, including extortion, bribery, and conspiracy, although the United States Supreme Court later overturned the conviction.

[5]  Today, a top lobbyist for the AFC is former Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Scott Jensen, who was also the Wisconsin State Chair of ALEC. It is worth noting that Jensen was convicted on three counts of felony misconduct in office, although an appeals court later overturned these convictions.

[6]  According to the Schott Foundation for Public Education, DeVos falsely reported inflated graduation rates for several virtual charter schools, including Utah Virtual Academy (96%), Idaho Virtual Academy (90%), and Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy High School (91%), which actually only graduated 42%, 33%, and 40% respectively. Other dismal graduation statistics have been calculated for the 2016-2017 school year at the Indiana Virtual School when only 61 of its 900 seniors earned diplomas, and it only spent 10% of its budget on actual instruction versus the meager 66% typically spent on instruction at other Indiana virtual schools. Similarly, after incurring sanctions from the Indiana State Board of Education due to failure to meet minimum academic standards, the Hoosier Academy Virtual School opted to shut down operations. In another case of defunct virtual charter schooling, the Ohio Department of Education is ordering the e-school corporation, Electronic Classrooms of Tomorrow (ECOT), to repay upwards of $19 million in public funds because ECOT cannot document actual attendance of 9,000 of the 15,300 students purportedly enrolled (ECOT is appealing to the Ohio Supreme Court). A comparable ruling by the California Department of Education ordered California Virtual Academies to pay back almost $2 million dollars for unverified attendance reports and other misappropriations of public funds. Yet another botched e-school, Tennessee Virtual Academy, which could not meet the state’s minimum learning outcomes, closed operations after the state legislature failed to pass a bill to reduce the minimum learning standards that e-students were required to meet at TNVA.

[7]  In my article titled “Secretary DeVos, Neurocore, and Competency-Based Workforce Training,” I historicize how the General Education Board of the Rockefeller philanthropies bankrolled stimulus-response conditioning methods of educational psychology throughout American schools to standardize an industrialist pedagogy of corporate-fascist workforce schooling.

[8]  Gatto adds, “It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things” (146). 

[9]  Gatto explains, “[o]ften I had to defy custom, and even bend the law, to help kids break out of this trap [of conditioned arrested development]. The empire struck back, of course; childish adults regularly conflate opposition with disloyalty. I once returned from a medical leave to discover that all evidence of my having been granted the leave had been purposely destroyed, that my job had been terminated, and that I no longer possessed even a teaching license. After nine months of tormented effort I was able to retrieve the license when a school secretary testified to witnessing the plot unfold. In the meantime, my family suffered more than I care to remember. By the time I finally retired in 1991, I had more than enough reason to think of our schools—with their long-term, cell-block style, forced confinement of both students and teachers—as virtual factories of childishness” (142-143).

[10]  For a detailed breakdown of the diagnostic/directive function, the differentiating function, and the propaedeutic function in “cradle-to-career” workforce education at public-private charter schools, see my article: “Corporate-Fascist Workforce Training for the Hegelian State.”

[11]  Technically, Edward Lee Thorndike is the true progenitor of operant conditioning. It was actually E. L. Thorndike who coined the concept whereas Skinner really only schematized Thorndike’s principles of operant conditioning by systematizing stimulus-response principles of behaviorist conditioning into a regulated schedule of positive and negative reinforcements in conjunction with positive and negative punishments.

[12]  Skinner adds, “The Navy’s ‘Self-Rater’ is a larger version of Pressey’s machine. The items are printed on code-punched plastic cards fed by the machine. The time required to answer is taken into account in scoring” (30).

[13]  In “Secretary DeVos, Neurocore, and Competency-Based Workforce Training,” I historicize how Thorndike’s animal psychology experiments were financed by grants from the General Education Board of the Rockefeller family philanthropies.  

[14]  In the “Acknowledgments” section of The Technology of Teaching, Skinner gives special thanks to Skull-and-Bonesman “McGeorge Bundy, former Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences [at Harvard University],” who was “responsible for Harvard’s Committee on Programmed Instruction,” which assigned its Director James G. Holland to assist with “the use of teaching machines in my [Skinner’s] course on human behavior” (viii). B. F. also gives thanks for “financial support from the Ford Foundation, [and] the Carnegie Corporation” (viii), the former of which was controlled by two prominent Bonesmen from 1966 until 1981: Harold Howe II, who was the Vice President of the Ford Foundation from 1971 to 1981, and McGeorge Bundy himself, who was the President of the Ford Foundation from 1966 to 1979 (Sutton 52). Bundy would later become a “Scholar in Residence” at the Carnegie Corporation from 1990 to 1996.

[15]  Skinner so believed in the universality of his animal conditioning experiments applied to educational psychology that he asserted, “I could make a pigeon a high achiever by reinforcing it on a proper schedule” (qtd. in Iserbyt 77). This over-the-top faith in his own animal-training psychology in the classroom was fueled by Skinner’s belief that “[o]perant conditioning shapes behavior as a sculptor shapes a lump of clay.” By comparing human students to “bird-brained” pigeons and passive lumps of clay, Skinner reveals the authoritarian objectives behind the “teaching machine” revolution which has progressed into the contemporary computerized ed-tech revolution rolled into the corporate-fascist “school choice” privatization movement being hyped by Secretary DeVos and ALEC.

[16]  Figure 11 is a photo of another Skinner-box teaching machine that is equipped with a “dispenser on the top of the machine which delivers tokens, candies, or coins” as “rewards,” or “positive reinforcement” stimuli, that condition the student to make correct “matching choices” associated with the preprogrammed learning outcomes (70).

[17]  UII stands for “user interaction information,” which refers to sets of psycho-behavioral data generated by student responses to adaptive-learning software stimuli that are configured into “personalized” edu-conditioning algorithms. For more information about UII, see my articles “Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Big Data, and the Public-Private Planned Economy,” and “Virtual School in a Computerized Box (Part 1).”

[18]  As the 1989 Senior Director of McREL, which was paid for by the US Department of Education, McCune announced that the technocratic “school of the future must be far different than that of today to meet the challenging needs of society” (qtd. in Iserbyt 275). In particular, McCune stressed that future schools must be revamped into “community learning centers, not just schools.  . . . Schools are no longer in the schooling business” (qtd. in Iserbyt 276). Instead, schools are in the business of hi-tech “human resource development,” McCune said (qtd. in Iserbyt 276). In a Washington Bremerton Sun article titled “Schools of the Future,” McCune depicts how her futuristic community learning centers will emphasize “integrating technology with curriculum” in order to condition the lifelong psychosocial cognitive-behavioral development of students of all ages across the lifespan from cradle to career (qtd. in Iserbyt 276). McCune illustrates how “[w]hen you walk in the building, there’s a row of offices. In one are drug counselors. One is for social security. Another, family and child psychologists. Yet another has a doctor and nurse who do well-child exams. In the cafeteria, senior citizens mingle with students having lunch. Oldsters and youngsters are sometimes paired for school projects, like oral history. There’s a child-care center, and tied into it are classes for teenagers where they learn the importance of child-nurturing skills. In the gym, homemakers are taking exercise classes. After work, more men and women will show up for their fitness workout” (qtd. in Iserbyt 275-276).

[19]  On September 28th, 2005, Bennet broadcasted the following statement: “I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.”

[20]  As a matter of fact, the equivocation of “personalized/individualized” learning with computerized edu-conditioning actually began with Pressey’s, and later Skinner’s, teaching machines. In The Technology of Teaching, Skinner writes, “Pressey also pointed out that such machines would increase efficiency in another way. Even in a small classroom the teacher usually knows that he is moving too slowly for some students and too fast for others. Those who could go faster are penalized, and those who should go slower are poorly taught and unnecessarily punished by criticism and failure. Machine instruction would permit each student to proceed at his own rate” (30). Skinner elaborates on the inherent “individualization” of mechanized/computerized edu-conditioning: “[d]ifferences in ability raise other questions. A program designed for the slowest student in the school system will probably not seriously delay the fast student, who will be free to progress at his own speed. (He may profit from the coverage by filling in unsuspected gaps in his repertoire.) If this does not prove to be the case, programs can be constructed at two or more levels, and students can be shifted from one to the other as performances dictate. If there are also differences in ‘types of thinking,’ the extra time available for machine instruction may be used to present a subject in ways appropriate to many types. Each student will presumably retain and use those ways which he finds most useful” (56). Notice here that Skinner was forecasting how computer-machine instruction would come to entail the current two-tiered virtual schooling system that is divided between career-pathways workforce training for “slow” students versus college-preparatory academic pathways for “fast” students. This double-standardized system of virtual-machine schooling matches succinctly with the dualistic educational philosophy theorized in the “six basic functions” of schooling conceptualized by Skinner’s Harvard predecessor, Professor of Education Alexander Inglis.


Gatto, John Taylor.  “Against School.”  Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing.  9th ed.  Eds. Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, Bonnie Lisle. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.

Iserbyt, Charlotte Thomson.  The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America: A Chronological Paper Trail.  Ravenna, OH: Conscience Press, 1999.  Print.

Kurzweil, Raymond.  The Age of Intelligence Machines.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990.  Print.

Skinner, B. F. The Technology of Teaching. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1968.  Print.

Sutton, Antony C. America's Secret Establishment: An Introduction to the Order of Skull and Bones. Updated Reprint. Walterville, OR: Trine Day, 2002. Print.

Thorndike, Edward Lee.  Education: A First Book.  New York: Macmillan Company, 1914.  Print.