Scene 10: Rosen’s Poli Sci class - Week I

Professor Rosen was teaching one of his undergraduate Poli Sci classes.  He had four topics up on the screen:

  1. Government
  2. Economics
  3. National Issues
  4. Persuasion

“So this is a case,” he continued, “where the federal government—through KTS—is pretty intrusive.  These here are the four statutory subject areas where Know The System will, in effect, proactively look for opportunities to educate adult users. In, of course, a non-partisan fashion.  So the effect is—Yes, Finney?”

Rosen Week I

Finney asked, “But how can they guarantee it’s non-partisan, who figures that out?”

Rosen surmised that Finney had not really reviewed the prep materials, but provided a condensed answer.  “That is assured through a system of principles and regular oversight by a congressional committee.  As well as methodologies for random sampling and analysis.  We won’t be getting into that for a couple weeks.  But the principles all trace back to the Act we discussed earlier.”  He raised his eyebrows.

Finney appeared to accept the reply, so Rosen continued.  “The effect of this ‘incidental’ education, then, is that public dialogue is elevated, and that demagoguery and extremist views tend to gain less traction, when people are a little more knowledgeable of the realities, and the tradeoffs.  Of course, interactions with KTS are always very personalized, and the statistics show a minority of users who are resistant and who do not gain a high level of political understanding.  There is of course a wide range.

“So what we’ll do next—in this and the next one or two classes—is, we’ll unpack each of these four subject areas a bit, and how each is treated. Most of you have reviewed the introductory material, so let’s try to make this a little interactive, please?

“So, okay, first: Government.  Some of the target learning objectives relating to Government are merely ‘descriptive’—for example, what the basic components of government are, and how big each is.  But there’s also a lot that you could regard as ‘sociological,’ as in, what’s really going on, with parties, and special interests, and law, and the civil service, and so on...  Yes, Chun?”

An east-Asian girl in the front row asked, “Isn’t KTS criticized because it tries to pull everyone to the center-left?”

Carl piped in, “It’s not—that’s not true.”  He then tried to temper his reaction.  “But... well, it is true that each party is always sniping that it’s pulling too far from their own position...”

Chun countered, “...Which would be fine if it was pulling the same amount for all three parties... but there’s systematic bias because the civil service is dominated by Socialists...”

Rosen let them bicker a bit, but before it got too hot, he jumped in.  “Appreciate the discussion!  This could be a long discussion, but a couple things.  Three things.”  He smiled.  “One, let me say that my view is, the concepts being pushed by KTS are mostly, in a sense, ‘technical,’ they’re facts and concepts that almost no political scientists would disagree about.  Even political scientists aligned with different parties.

“Second, users always have the ability to demand counterexamples...they’re really controlling the direction.  (As you all know from your own personal interactions with KTS!)  And... third... I happen to have here some sample KTS interactions – courtesy of Public Ed – that kind of illustrates how it works.  Let me just show you one, just to help us think more concretely about it.  Okay?”

Rosen thought about playing the interaction where KTS challenged a Socialist’s assumptions, but decided he did not want to appear to be undercutting Chun.  Instead, he played a scrubbed interaction between KTS and a hard-core Libertarian, about a large, new Congressional agency.

This user—a physician—saw a news story about the new agency, and subsequently requested a Libertarian-leaning appraisal of the value of the agency, and accordingly got a short presentation which was (as Rosen pointed out) blatantly one-sided.  What would this user think?