Prof. James F. Tracy
June 17, 2012
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is directing $1.1 million to fit students in seven US pubic school districts with “galvanic skin response” bracelets. The devices are designed to measure students’ receptivity to teachers’ lessons throug
h biometric technology that reads and records “skin conductance, a form of electrodermal activity that grows higher during states such as boredom or relaxation.” [1, 2].
The funding is part of the Gates Foundation’s $49.5 million Measures of Effective Teachers project that is presently experimenting with teacher evaluation systems. As Melinda Gates put it on the PBS NewsHour, “What the Foundation feels our job is to do is to make sure we create a system where we can have an effective teacher in every single classroom across the United States.” 
The effort of extraordinarily wealthy elites to further subvert educational practices through “neuromarketing” techniques is the latest example in a long sequence of educational reforms dating to the early 1900s. Indeed, the Gates Foundation’s fixation on stimulus-response measurement and data collection is a fitting chapter of this history.
State sanctioned education in the United States has become a type of task-oriented training, quite apart from what education once involved–the cultivation of the human will and intellect. Children in most public schools today receive this type of conditioning, while the more affluent often send their offspring to private institutions or home school. What passes for education today is to a significant degree the legacy of late-nineteenth-to-early-twentieth century German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt and the Rockefeller family’s philanthropic project.
A professor at University of Leipzig, Wundt was the originator of what he termed a “new” or “experimental” psychology that stripped psychology of any of its potential philosophical concerns with the soul, will, or self-determination of the individual. In Wundt’s reconfiguration of psychology the mind is merely an apparatus that responds to given stimuli, and through the measurement and recording of the stimuli and responses of the subject the psychologist in the laboratory (subsequently the teacher—and now the students—in the classroom) can determine the effectiveness of one stimulus-response method over another, as well as the functional capacities of the student.
For Wundt and his followers the human being is the sum total of her experiences; devoid of character and essence that might interfere with the ends of the collective unit. This view of the human psyche set the stage for the establishment of eugenics, psychiatry, and the social engineering carried out in public school classrooms.
- The Technocratization of Public Education (weeklyintercept.blogspot.com)
- James F. Tracy: The Technocratization of Public Education (womensphilanthropy.typepad.com)
- Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Crazier… (dianeravitch.net)
- Bill Gates spends $1.1 million fitting students with mood bracelets to see if their teachers are boring (investmentwatchblog.com)
- More about Our Brave New World (dianeravitch.net)
- Thompson: The Gates Foundation’s Belated Evolution (scholasticadministrator.typepad.com)
- Is Melinda Gates Right? (dianeravitch.net)
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding research into bracelets that track mental, emotional responses (12160.info)
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding research into bracelets that track mental, emotional responses (2012indyinfo.com)
- Video: Melinda Gates & Diane Ravitch Talk Teacher Evaluation (scholasticadministrator.typepad.com)