Professor Argues Computer Software Can Perpetuate ‘Systemic Racism’

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Computer Software
In a time of increased standardized testing, Golden argued that software used by schools help maintain separate and unequal educational opportunities. (Photo by David Schaffer/Getty Images)

Computer software can be harmful, as it has the potential to reduce students and schools to mere numbers and perpetuate “systems of privilege and oppression” against nonwhite children, a Chapman University professor argues.

In a paper published in the Educational Media International journal last Friday, professor Noah Asher Golden discussed the role of technology in education and bemoaned the use of computer software in the “testing and classification” of minority students.

“Software plays a central role in maintaining separate, unequal educational opportunities for marginalized youths,” Golden wrote, adding that this is especially a concern in public schools. Such software “converts lived realities, learner strengths, and communal needs into a number, cluster grouping, or other data points,” which can ultimately “produce or reproduce systems of privilege and oppression.”

The educational studies professor warned that this software could be particularly harmful because it diminishes students and their schools to data that can then be used to justify policy decisions, like closing under-performing schools or moving more advanced students to higher level courses, Campus Reform reported. For Golden, these algorithms serve to maintain “racial and class privilege and [contribute] to the oppression of marginalized learners.”

“There are possibilities for interrupting these hegemonic processes,” he wrote, adding that it’s going to take professors of digital literacy to further investigate how such algorithms and software are used to perpetuate oppressive systems.

Read Golden’s full report here.

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