Yesterday, Linda Sandvik, one of the founding members of children’s coding education group Code Club, resigned because she was ordered not to say negative things about the organization’s sponsors, including Google. Former board member Aral Balkan revealed he had resigned for the same reason, calling out Code Club for “institutional corruption.”
What wasn’t clear was if Google had asked Code Club to request that its board members refrain from criticizing the search giant. Now, according to an email sent to Pando from a Google spokesperson, it appears Code Club took the action on its own.
“We have not asked Code Club or its board to refrain from criticisng [sic] us,” the spokesperson said.
As for Code Club, it has not denied giving Sandvik an ultimatum over Google criticism which, as suggested in the resignation post, centered on the company’s involvement with mass surveillance. Code Club did, however, publish a blog post today aiming to clarify its relationship with funders. The gist of it is summed up here:
Code Club receive funding from different organisations who support our core aims. However, we are an independent, non-political organisation. All of our views are our own and are neither directed nor constrained by our sponsors. Our sponsors do not influence how Code Club runs as an organisation and have no hand in its management.
So, fears that Code Club will make students use Google products or brand its materials with the Google logo are probably unfounded. Still, the post doesn’t explain why board members are barred from criticizing sponsors, which also include Samsung, the Department of Education, and TalkTalk. That board members are, at least by the letter of Code Club’s policy, barred from criticizing the Department of Education is of particular concern. As educators, are they really expected to never voice their disagreement with federal education policies?
I emailed Code Club CEO Clare Sutcliffe around two hours before publishing this post to see if she could elaborate on the reasoning behind the board’s request that members refrain from criticizing sponsors, but have not heard back yet. I will update this post if I do.
In the meantime, let’s give Code Club credit for saying it’s unwilling to let sponsors dictate branding or syllabi. But as long as the ban on speaking out against sponsors continues, it’s hard to accept that Code Club is truly independent.