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AI Will Destroy History Education

Academic content will be a controlled, whitewashed, vanilla version of the past

By Joyce O’DayPublished 7 months ago 8 min read
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AI (Artificial Intelligence) will determine what historical knowledge is commonly available for review by all but the most dedicated researchers. Whoever controls the dominating AI programs will dictate what the public sees, learns, and ultimately believes. Only individuals with the ability to access primary documents, peer-reviewed journals, and books written by actual academics will have the tools to analyze the truth of the past.

We are living in a world where the message matters more than actual facts. The state of Florida is essentially banning all classroom and library books until a trained media specialist approves the content. Other states will soon follow suit. When famous works of literature are on the chopping block, history books will be equally scrutinized.

HISTORY EDUCATION WILL FURTHER DECLINE WHEN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WRITES THE TEXTBOOKS

Textbooks are a multibillion-dollar industry. According to Applied Educational Systems (AES), Americans spend 7 to 10 billion dollars annually on textbooks, including college-level textbooks. Elementary school content, along with math and science, are generally not controversial – aside from the evolution vs. creation debate. However, history pushes people’s buttons. What is selected for inclusion and what is rejected can lead to wildly different interpretations of an event or era.

AI PROGRAMS LIKE CHATGPT WILL CUSTOMIZE HISTORICAL CONTENT TO SUIT SCHOOL BOARDS’ DEMANDS

Why hire a renowned professor or pay a team of writers when a single editor can ensure that the content is “factually” correct? The publisher can plug in whatever flavor of history they desire. They can extol the virtues of Christian Western Civilization, Colonialism, and Imperialism, while playing down anything that makes conservatives uncomfortable like the destruction of Native American communities, slavery, Jim Crow, repression and discrimination against immigrants, antisemitism, abuses of the working class, benefits of labor unions, and anything dealing with the LGBTQ+ community for example.

WILL IT EVEN MATTER IF TEXTBOOKS AND MOST OTHER EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES ARE AI-GENERATED?

Most Americans are minimal readers with a TikTok attention span. According to the Pew Research Center, 23% of American adults have not read or even listened to part of a book in the past year. People who rarely read anything more challenging than a social media post are poor connoisseurs of quality writing — academic or literary. They won’t know and won’t care how the content they consume was produced.

THE DECLINE AND FALL OF AMERICAN EDUCATION

Back in the day, teachers who exclusively utilized canned curriculum (materials created by textbook companies) were considered too lazy or unskilled to develop their own content. Later, school districts demanded the use of canned curriculum because standardization of content superseded creative teaching methods. The goal was to keep teachers on a district-wide schedule where the same page was taught on the same day in every classroom district-wide, so students who relocate often would not lose out on content. This standardization of curriculum sucks all creativity and individualization from the classroom experience. It also sucks the joy from learning and teaching.

OUR CURRENT CONTEMPT FOR EDUCATION

We live in an anti-intellectual climate. College-educated individuals are despised as elitists. Influential individuals with college degrees such as Bill Maher, Elon Musk, and Peter Thiel have decried university education as useless. Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and many others may have achieved great success without graduating from college; however, they are the exceptions. University degrees may not be the only path to professional success, but we certainly want our doctors, engineers, and educators to be degreed.

Some criticism of university education is justified. The astronomical price attached to higher education has resulted in the student debt crisis, and academic freedom has been cancelled. Professors are chastised or fired for speaking openly or saying something that could offend a particular group. In the period before online education, college students engaged in spirited classroom debates. Now students participate in polite online discussions. Any topic that could be the least bit “triggering” is excluded from the conversation.

WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD ORDER

It is predicted that AI like ChatGPT will replace traditional search engines like Google, because most researchers desire an easy answer rather than having to sift through pages of content in order to parse out what is valuable, pertinent, and accurate. In addition to textbook creation, AI will destroy or at least dramatically alter most writing jobs. Advertising copywriters, business-to-business writers, and most online content writers will be replaced by AI. Some creative writing – particularly formulaic stories like romance novels and mysteries – will also be increasingly AI generated.

As the technology improves, AI-generated content may be preferable over human-created content. Product labels, instruction manuals, and technical documents (like “privacy policies”) can probably be improved with AI assistance. Sure, some creative individuals will still be needed. After all, someone has to come up with catchy slogans like “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” However, not everything can be trusted to our new tech overlords.

POLLYANNA (OPTIMISTIC) VS. CASSANDRA (PESSIMISTIC) VIEWS ON AI WRITING

When it comes to education, there are two theories concerning the academic value of AI writing programs. Those with a Pollyanna (glass half full) mentality believe that AI writing programs will benefit students by forcing the innovation and improvement of our educational system. AI will help weak writers and those learning an additional language more clearly express themselves. Others follow a Cassandra (danger ahead) approach, wherein individuals need to “buckle up, Buttercup,” because a shitstorm is on the way.

OUT WITH THE OLD AND IN WITH THE NEW

Every new invention that makes life easier results in a loss of traditional skills. After the proliferation of handheld calculators, students were no longer required to memorize their times tables or encouraged to solve problems in their head. Dependence on word processors meant students were not taught how to write in cursive or even write legibly in standard script. Access to Wikipedia and Google made it unnecessary to memorize anything “boring” like the names of U.S. Presidents, the dates of the Civil War, or the location of Iran on a map. Programs like Grammarly make learning basic English grammar obsolete. The days of diagraming sentences are over.

  • Have calculators increased mathematic competency? No. Fewer adults can do basic calculations such as long division or conversion from fractions to percentages.
  • Does it matter if adults can barely print their own name, let alone sign it in cursive?
  • Is it a national embarrassment that most Americans can’t identify when the Civil War occurred, who was president during WWII, or the location of Nebraska on a map?
  • Will it be a problem when the average American cannot compose a grammatically correct sentence or properly structure a five-paragraph argumentative essay?

By eliminating traditional educational skills and content expectations, some argue that educators can focus on teaching critical thinking skills. This has not happened, since most students who cannot master basic skills struggle to demonstrate higher-order intellectual applications. Lowering academic expectations has instead led to decreased motivation and performance. In many school districts, Minimum F grading has replaced percentage-based grading wherein students were expected to master at least 60% of the content to pass. Now the passing percentage is 10% of content, the difference between the 50% (Minimum F baseline) and 60% (a passing D). It is not only shameful; it will ultimately lead to the intellectual downfall of the United States.

THE TIMES, THEY ARE A-CHANGING

Gone are the days when scholars searched through card catalogs and library shelves, read academic journals, scoured microfiche for newspaper articles, visited public and private archives, and sourced books via inter-library loan. The wholesale adoption of the internet changed everything. Online research replaced the traditional research methods of the past, with most academic and casual researchers satisfied by whatever “facts” are presented on the first few pages of a Google search — whether they are accurate or not. The proliferation of online propaganda – as demonstrated in the 2016 and 2020 elections – is just a taste of things to come. Most Americans don’t want to be intellectually challenged. They would rather be spoon-fed easily digestible chunks of information that support their preconceived positions.

THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION

For decades, a major criticism of American education has been forcing students to comply to a system developed in the 19th century to accommodate farm life and prepare students for mundane factory work and menial jobs. COVID restrictions demonstrated the importance of interpersonal interaction in the classroom between students and faculty (and in office environments between coworkers and management). Hence, the classroom experience will be continued for the purpose of social interaction and childcare services. Classrooms will be electronically monitored for student and teacher safety. If a teacher deviates from the approved content, there will be repercussions like written admonishment and termination.

TEACHER AIDES WILL REPLACE LICENSED TEACHERS

The days of having teachers instruct students from the head of the class will be largely replaced by tablet learning. Licensed teachers will support and supervise teacher aides who monitor students’ online progress. Students will be expected to do less reading and writing. Content will be presented via TikTok-style video clips that are followed by online quizzes, which will be retaken until satisfactory progress has been achieved. Instead of learning how to format sentences and paragraphs into argumentative essays, students will learn to program their AI assistants by plugging in questions, ideas, some basic facts, and a “style” direction for content creation. Few will become accomplished, independent writers.

HOMESCHOOL AND ONLINE EDUCATION WILL INCREASE

The low pay and lack of professional respect for the profession has resulted in fewer people choosing education as a career. This has led to dangerously overcrowded classrooms where students don’t get the personalized attention they require to succeed. Plus, the exponential increase in school shootings and the fear of exposing their children to liberal/progressive ideas like Critical Race Theory (CRT) has inspired more and more parents to educate their children at home. Many home-school parents utilize questionable curriculum that is religion-based or supportive of fringe beliefs like the pro-Nazi content that was taught in Ohio. For online instruction, human teachers will become obsolete. AI avatar teachers will present content, respond to student inquiries, and grade assignments.

SAVE YOUR HISTORY BOOKS

The true story of the past will be increasingly harder to access. Controversial information will be scrubbed, and history will be whitewashed. Thanks to AI, the internet will be manipulated Chinese-style. Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Meta (Facebook/Instagram), and the like will fully control us. They already know more about us than our own family based on our online behaviors: what we watch, search for, and purchase. The internet has not lived up to our hopes and dreams. While we expected to have the world of knowledge at our fingertips, what we got was the world according to Google and later Siri. While we were able to get immediate answers to simple and complex inquiries, we were also being fed content tailored to our individual profile. When our online searches devolve into asking questions from AI programs, we will have entered the realm of mind control or at least mental manipulation.

© Joyce O’Day 2023. All Rights Reserved.

AI was NOT used in the creation of this article.

This article was originally published at joyceoday.com on February 7, 2023.

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About the Creator

Joyce O’Day

After retiring from teaching world history for over 20 years, I am living every day on holiday: enjoying life with my family, traveling, gardening, engaging with my community in Las Vegas, and reflecting on the current state of the world.

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    Joyce O’DayWritten by Joyce O’Day

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