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Web of deceit

Welcome to Cyberschool, Education at the Crossroads in the Information Age David Trend, Rowan amp; Littlefield, pound;14.95, ISBN 0 7425 1564 8

David Trend charts the background to "Cyberschool" - the rollout of networked technologies in schools and colleges - set against the rise of multinationals and the growing commercialisation of the learning environment in the US.

His book is an antidote to the evangelism of cyber-prophets who espouse the internet as a panacea for all educational ills. The arguments that it is a unified democratic space is debunked when set against the context of who uses it and where. The reality, says Trend, reflects the power base in real life - the main users of the internet are self-elected, white, middle class, male professionals who can afford to go online and who have already built an exclusive infrastructure. He rightly points out that internet users only form 6 per cent of the world's population and over half the people in the world do not have a telephone service.

He also writes of the dangers of regulation and surveillance and encouragement of acquisition and consumption as opposed to civic concerns.

Referring to a wide range of current periodicals and books, Trend presents a cogent analysis of the dangers of the encroaching influence and agendas of corporate America. His call is for a "cyber-democracy" and an extension and reflection of the diverse communities in real life.

With broadband Britain and Curriculum Online almost upon us, this book should be seen as essential background reading on the subject.

Leon Cych

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