Now, 30 years later, the same crowd of ersatz educators--privatizers, home-schoolers, charterizers, militarizers and corpoRatizers--seem to have infiltrated (or been enthusiastically welcomed by) the Obama/Duncan educational ("Race to the Top") team. Obama knows NOTHING about education--No, really, he's an ignormus on the matter-- and what Duncan knows is the result of his efforts to destroy public education in Chicago during his tenure there. Luckily, this situation has not gone unnoticed, and earlier this week, a piece outlining the till obvious flaws of the enterprise appeared in one of the serious parts of HuffPost. Read the whole thing, but to me, this is the take-away:
So what is this really about?Former Reaganaut, right-wing "reformer" Diane Ravitch has apparently undergone the same epiphany.
The kind of school reform that gets significant airtime right now -- a combination of school closures and/or conversions, merit pay, test-based accountability, executive control of schools, and standardization -- is a corporate one, and the corporate interests that created it are also funding the PR campaign to sell it. The Gates, Broad, and Walton Foundations, along with for-profit education organizations and hedge fund managers, have helped fund the creation and promotion of movies like "The Lottery" and "Waiting for 'Superman,' " events like NBCs Education Nation, and "grassroots" activist groups like Stand for Children, Education Reform Now, and Done Waiting. They donate to politicians as well.
Now, some will say, "Who cares? What's wrong with applying business concepts to schools?" Three things, mainly.
One: None of these reforms work. (Note that corporate reformers never subject their own children to these gimmicks.) We're embracing "reform" strategies the rest of civilization is trying to escape! ... Remember, these people are not education experts -- they're businesspeople. It shouldn't surprise us that their reform agenda doesn't systematically improve education, but does present a greater business opportunities.
Two: This very ideology -- "ditch the old regulations, weaken worker protections and let the free market work its magic" -- brought the rest of our economy to its knees. The sacred ideals of the business crowd failed us in the business world, and that's their area of expertise! Do we seriously want to hand them our public schools -- the cornerstone of our democracy -- and just hope the children fare better?
Three: Speaking of democracy... whatever happened to democracy? Corporate elites became unspeakably rich by gaming our democratic and economic systems. They used their money to create legislation favorable to their interests, then gambled away our jobs, our homes, and our financial security. Their plunder eroded the tax base that supports public institutions like schools. Now that schools are starved for resources, some are offering us a portion of our money back in the form of grants and donations -- if we accept their un-proven reforms or un-democratic reformers. (We then have to hope that these new education leaders have good ideas, or that they'll resist the temptation to implement whatever faulty reforms their wealthy patrons offer in the future.)...
Corporate reform strategies created this mess -- they will never solve it. We can have the real reforms championed by actual educators and communities (like resource equity, smaller class sizes, better teacher training, increased teacher collaboration, and so forth) if we resist this corporate reform agenda and stop wasting money on gimmicks. Don't be conned by the "Supermen." Unite with your fellow Americans to demand the kind of equitable, humane educational system we deserve.
It would be good if our nation's education leaders recognized that teachers are not solely responsible for student test scores. Other influences matter, including the students' effort, the family's encouragement, the effects of popular culture, and the influence of poverty. A blogger called "Mrs. Mimi" wrote the other day that we fire teachers because "we can't fire poverty." Since we can't fire poverty, we can't fire students, and we can't fire families, all that is left is to fire teachers.Of course, doing anything "for the students," other than sorting and classifying them according to their potential usefulness to the Owners, has LONG been off the table in American education.
This strategy of closing schools and firing the teachers is mean and punitive. And it is ultimately pointless. It solves no problem. It opens up a host of new problems. It satisfies the urge to purge. But it does nothing at all for the students.