The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.” –B. F. Skinner

It was just a matter of time.

And time’s up.

And to think how many Sunday afternoons I sacrificed reading and rating essays. All those margin scribbles … and all those chin-up, keep-the-faith notes of encouragement.

Had I taught in this moment instead … I’d have those Sundays back … because … soon it’ll all be done by ‘Robo-Graders’.  

Machines. Droids. Cyborgs.

Students will get a “thumbs up” … or down …  from some faceless, brainless box that’ll “scan” everyone’s essay in a robo-blink … and determine if a student gets it or not.

No scribbles in the margins.  No jotted bits of teacher-inspiration.  No corrections in spelling … or grammar. No comments about style … or structure. Nothing about logical sequencing … or word-eloquence.

Just a score. An icy score.

Because it can’t do real human stuff. At all. It’s a machine.

I’m not anti-machine. I know how they ease my life. But I know where they belong in my life, too.

I expect machines to be coldly competent … because they’re not doing warm things … things that yank at something inside me. They’re not part of my humanity.

But … 

“…now, machines are also grading students’ essays. Computers are scoring long form answers on … the fall of the Roman Empire …”

Livy is gonna be livid. Tacitus, too. The history of Rome … freeze-dried.

This is the emerging reality.  That this round of technological “upgrades” might well begin a scary deconstruction of a universal institution … the collapse of education as we’ve known it for … for thousands of years.

The end of human interaction in the creation of new thinkers. New artists. New imaginers.


All in the name of … efficiency.

And in its place will stand drive-thru learning centers offering kiosk-educations from B. F. Skinner touch-screens.


“Developers of so-called ‘robo-graders’ say they understand why many students and teachers would be skeptical of the idea …”

Skeptical?  This is Pearson, for God’s sake.


Yes, THAT Pearson. 

They’re the AI geniuses who slipped 7th grade reading selections into 3rd grade assessments … reminding us that artificial intelligence is only as intelligent as the human intelligence that creates it.

Pearson’s been part of this reform anguish since dungeon-master Gates  … and his co-conspiring, classroom-allergic geniuses … decided that teaching and learning should be condensed to algorithms … because that soothed their freaky obsession for tidiness.

So why not robo-scoring of essays? Then … creative writing will fall victim, too. Art work will be scanned  … and rated on the DaVinci Talent Scale. And music recitals will take place in front of a blinking box … and scored by a Chopin Applause-O-Meter … which will send a score via text message … in a musical jingle.

How memorable.

How inspiring.

How dreadful.

So the heck with teachers … “researchers and psychometricians” will  algorithmically rate your child’s reasoning capacity by some artificially-intelligent whirligig that will tell you … probably in a robo-voice … whether or not your kid’s a conforming thinker and an antiseptic writer.

Education in a can. Nice and tidy.

And that is the promised monotony. The efficient boredom.  The coming cultural coma of sameness.

There’s already disturbing fall-out from this digitized drowsiness. The droning repetition of kiosk-education is morphing schools into numbing centers that will deliver us a generation of dullards. A stimuli-expecting batch of boors who can only be vaguely excited by blue screens and audio-prompts.


Those “new schools” … those futuristic centrifuges of modernity … are bound to smother personalities … ignore talents …  and kill passions.

I couldn’t breathe in such a classroom.

Denis Ian

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