There is an ever-widening gap between the social classes in American society reflected in wages, living conditions, health care and access to technology. This chapter argues that a hidden agenda underlies much current educational technology research which, intentionally or unintentionally, reinforces the societal power structures which support this inequitable access. In order to demonstrate this subtle discrimination some of the work of well-known educational technology researcher Larry Cuban is examined in order to highlight the ways in which his choices of research sites and methodology help to perpetuate the digital divide through generalization and a failure to acknowledge the existence of persons who lack technology access in their homes. After the critique a methodology for conducting “socially responsible” educational technology research that employs a postmodern critical perspective to mitigate the discriminatory factors present in much contemporary research will be proposed.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Societal Invisibility: Social invisibility is a belief supported by cultural critic Hooks (2000), among others, which states that the poor, particularly in the United States of America, are rendered socially “invisible” by a number of factors and cultural institutions. Some factors include the consumerism, conspicuous consumption, racism, and literacy (both traditional and cultural). Institutions such as the educational system, government, popular media, capitalism, and religion contribute to this situation in various ways.
Common Sense Reading: According to Belsey (2002), a common sense reading takes a written text at its face-value and does not consider any of the cultural, social, economic, or other factors that may have influenced the production of the text. Postmodernism is a direct response to this type of “naïve” reading.
Postmodernism: Postmodernism is a philosophical perspective of the late 20th century characterized by open-endedness and a consideration of multiple points of view which must be considered in the evaluation of the assumptions and social constraints underlying lived reality.
Socially Responsible Educational tTechnology Research: Socially responsible educational technology research employs a postmodern (pluralistic and self-critical) perspective in conducting and evaluating research. This approach seeks to expose and account for a wide range of underlying variables that may affect the results or interpretation of the results of research. These biases may include: gender bias, cultural bias, technological bias, social-class bias, or any other factors that may affect perception.
Cultural Critique: A cultural critique seeks to employ a postmodern critical perspective in understanding cultural or social institutions.
Modernism: Modernism is a post World War I cultural movement built upon a strict adherence to the belief that individuals are responsible for their own fates. In other words, it is assumed that each individual or group can, through their own actions, achieve the benefits and privileges available to all members of society. Modernism is also linked with the progress associated with capitalist societies. Capitalism requires a division of social classes and a clear articulation of social stratification (Wright, 1998). Roughly, this means that there is a place or role for each person in society. Lastly, modernism is Eurocentric. Knowledge and power are arranged in a hierarchical order in which some cultural groups, their values, and their value are marginalized.
Hidden Curriculum: Research by authors such as Anyon (1980) and others have found that some schools are built upon a hidden curriculum that supports a modernist/capitalist ideology. The hidden curriculum of schools dictates that the primary function of schooling is to socialize children to accept the social roles appropriate for their class status. This curriculum works to teach poor and working-class children to be subservient and punctual, middle-class children to fulfill management-type roles and professional/elite children to dictate political, social, and cultural policy.