In her 2009 book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Kline described the propensity for capitalism to make use of the power vaccuums created by large-scale disasters to open new markets, coopt commons, and consolidate its hold existing markets. The case of the closure of New Orleans public schools and the transformation of schools in that community to Charter Schools operating as private-public “partnerships” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, is one outstanding example of the phenomenon she describes, “disaster capitalism,” as it has applied to the educational sector of the economy. And now, with the spread of COVID-19, Google seems to be acting quickly to promote its suite of apps for education with a “training program” specifically aimed at the school closure in Japan.
I had previously signed up for and partially completed one of the training courses Google offers on how to make use of its applications in educational contexts. But it is a program that doesn’t really seem to work at the individual teacher level (at least in the Japanese public school context, where teachers can be transferred on a whim). Use of these Google Apps in Japanese schools seems to require a school-wide or system-wide adoption for them to work. Google is fighting against the dominance of companies like Microsoft and even Japanese hardware makers like Toshiba. But they pounced on the recent school closure, offering lap-top PCs for rent, and a program apparently tailored to the current period of school closures.
Ideally, I suppose, an enterprising school principal or school board official would see this as an opportunity to increase the productivity of an otherwise student-less teacher/worker population, in limbo unti the start of the next school year in April. They would sign their teachers up, or otherwise induce them to sign up, perhaps dangling promises of work-from-home, or more likely further rationalizing and increasing control over said telework. This in turn, would give Google a leg up in marketing their various applications and subscription services (cloud computing, webmail, etc.) to schools and school systems across Japan.