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October 02, 2013

Well it looks like Dave Eggers plagiarized his newest novel

Or, I'm sorry, I have the terminology wrong. He "repackaged a narrative" from a woman who wrote a memoir about working at Facebook. And boy howdy, she is not happy with his act. BREAKING: If You Are a Woman, Your Work is Irrelevant. — Medium
. . . society makes assumptions about women that make us guilty by default: our work is supposedly minor, less valuable, and limited to the personal, where the work of a white man is presumed to be “universal”, “essential”, and relevant to all. This assumption is how, when I published The Boy Kings about working at Facebook for five years and the impact Facebook has had on society, the media made the sexist assumption that this book was not important, because how could a woman writing about technology be important? How could a woman doing anything be important? The assumption the media makes in these instances is that something is not important unless a familiar, male white face does it. So, when Dave Eggers decided to rewrite my book as his own novel about a young woman working her way up through Facebook, the Wall Street Journal called it a treatment of “the essential issues of the day.” From all appearances, it is an unnervingly similar book, and I wrote it first (and I imagine mine is more authentic and better written, because I actually lived and worked in this world and am also a good writer). The difference is that Eggers is a famous man and I am not. This assumption the Wall Street Journal made about Dave Eggers— that the work of a white man transcends him, rather than being limited by a woman’s secondary status in society— is not limited to tech. Tech is just the place where the age-old privileging of white men has not only persisted (for example, in tech journalism, where women writers are routinely erased in coverage of the field), but been embraced and amplified as a working philosophy. For example, when Facebook makes “move fast, break things” its hallmark, they are taking the unspoken privilege accorded to white men and riding with it all the way to the bank—not because they are aware of the privilege contained in the slogan, but because it doesn’t matter if they are aware of it or not. Either way, Mark Zuckerberg and his advisors benefit from the world’s willingness to forgive them any trespasses they commit. White male privilege in Silicon Valley is not a bug, it’s a feature. At this moment you might be thinking, “Why does this matter? I am a white man, sounds cool to be the king, why rock the boat?” It matters because powerful, creative, important voices are being silenced and replaced by the voices of the same men you already know and have heard from, men who aren’t necessarily better at writing about these topics. Another reason it matters is that, in the case of big tech companies like Facebook, the way power is structured means that you too are being treated like a feminized, powerless individual regardless of who you are. Facebook assumes that you, its user, aren’t as smart as Facebook’s engineers, that its algorithms know what is best for you, that you won’t notice or care if your privacy is violated, and that even if it violates your privacy or shares your content without asking you it will get away with it. Facebook is the Man, and you are his servant, regardless of your gender or race. On Facebook, we are all women, making ourselves respectable in hopes that society will be nicer to us than it is to others. “Like me”, we say, because likes are all Facebook will give us for our work. . . .

September 26, 2013

Standardized tests are frequently flawed, wrong, and mis-scored by the testing companies

There is no reason to give the tests such power over our students and teachers UNLESS your goal is to destroy the teacher's union. How Standardized Tests Harm Students and How to Stop This Harm | Diane Ravitch's blog
Heather Vogell, a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has spent a year studying the testing industry. The series she is writing about testing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution should receive a Pulitzer Prize. See here and here. What she has uncovered is that the tests are flawed, that errors are common, and that students are denied a high school diploma because of errors made by the testing companies. When I read about students who dropped out of school because they failed a test–because the test answers were wrong or mis-scored–it makes me feel that the testing companies should be subject to criminal prosecution. Those students will not have a diploma, they will not be able to go to college, they will not be able to get a good job to support themselves and their family, because of a bad standardized test. Let me repeat: Testing companies that inflict real harm on real people should be subject not just to fines, but to criminal prosecution. The testing industry is ruining the lives of other people’s children while they rake in profits. And they suffer no consequences. Only the students do.