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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

GDPR, Schools, and the Right to be Remembered

In three weeks, we transition to a new social reality.

The data subject shall have the right to obtain from the controller the erasure of personal data concerning him or her without undue delay and the controller shall have the obligation to erase personal data without undue delay.

In short, each one of us has the right to be forgotten.

Twenty five days early, we received our first request. A prospective family requested that we bundle up everything that exists in their name and place it on the metaphorical data fire.

Whilst I have argued elsewhere that the new regulation will improve our schools, I can't help but reflect on how this issue catapults us back into a longstanding philosophical debate about the nature of a fulfilled life.

In the red corner is Socrates. For him, the good life - and good learning, for that matter - was all about remembering (Anamnesis); uncovering what the soul once knew, in this or some pre-existent life.

In the blue corner, Nietzsche exhorts us not to think of ourselves as tied to history. True progress in life, he argues, begins the moment we release ourselves from the ties of history in a rebellious act of forgetting.

Looking around at Europe's fragile Union, the spectre of a new nationalism and a growth in far right, neo-Nazi sympathizers, I can't help but think that it is more important than ever that our schools get the balance right between remembering and letting go of our past.

A photograph of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin
As Europeans, we have a responsibility to remember.

Innovation, to be sure, is about something new. But if, in the process of reinvention, we extinguish or ignore the stories of history, I fear our children will have nothing left to guide them along the way.

In the coming weeks and months, we will spend our time teaching our children about their rights as data subjects. They will learn to seize back control of the data that has, for too long, been in the hands of others.

My hope, however, is that we will also take the time to demonstrate their right to be remembered; that we celebrate schools as places where students can leave something of themselves behind for future generations; as places where they will never truly be forgotten.



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