Computer software perpetuates 'systemic racism,' prof finds

A Chapman University professor recently argued that computer software helps perpetuate “systems of privilege and oppression” against minority children.

Noah Golden, an education professor, published an article last Friday on the role of technology in education, lamenting that computer software is often used in the “testing and classification” of minority students.

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“Software plays a central role in maintaining separate and unequal educational opportunities for marginalized youth,” Golden said, explaining that this is especially concerning in public schools.

Software, used during an era of high stakes testing, “converts lived realities, learner strengths, and communal needs into a number, cluster grouping, or other data points,” which can “produce or reproduce systems of privilege and oppression.”

This software can be particularly harmful because it can reduce students and schools to numbers that could be used to justify policy decisions, such as replacing a failing school or to putting smart students in higher level classes, he notes.

When schools do use this software, “educational access and deservingness is outsourced to algorithms” that serve in “maintaining racial and class privilege and contributing to the oppression of marginalized learners.”

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To fight this, Golden argues that professors of digital literacy must further explore how algorithms and software can be used to perpetuate privilege and oppression, optimistically concluding that “there are possibilities for interrupting these hegemonic processes.”

This isn’t the first time Golden has criticized how data can be used to perpetuate privilege. In 2014, for example, he published an article arguing that “we must expand our understanding of what counts as data,” since it can otherwise be used to discount students' “identities” and “cultural practices.”

Campus Reform reached out to Golden for an interview, but did receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen