Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Friday, March 23, 2012

New manifesto for corporate school reformers

Klein and Rice offer their manifesto the Council on Foreign Relations

Joel Klein and Condoleezza Rice are the authors of the latest in a long string of Ownership Society Manifestos dating back to A Nation At Risk. They presented their report,  U.S. Education Reform and National Security to, of all people, the Council on Foreign Relations. It portrays public schools as a threat to our national security and sonds the national security alarm as a scare tactic to push their school privatization agenda.

The report supposedly  represents the findings of a task force of "prominent education experts, national security authorities, and corporate leaders" who claim:
Educational failure puts the United States' future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk. The country will not be able to keep pace—much less lead—globally unless it moves to fix the problems it has allowed to fester for too long.
It calls for an expansion of school vouchers and privately-run charter schools, along with Common Core standards as supposed cures for the U.S.' weakened global economic and security position.

Remember if was the Nation At Risk report back in 1983, which first raised the alarming connection between public education's supposed failures and imminent threats to national security.
If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.
The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss points out that severaql task force members, including Linda Darling-Hammond and the AFT's Randi Weingarten, signed on to the report (wrongly, in my opinion)  only for the purpose of offering their dissenting opinions as an attachment.

Thanks to Strauss for posting this piece of dissent by Carole Artigiani, joined by Darling-Hammond, Stephen M. Walt, and Weingarten.
“...National security requires a healthy economy, energy independence, investments in research and development, strong defense, a thriving civil society, a respected and involved diplomatic corps, and, most of all, a healthy and high-functioning political system. (The current political environment is a clear demonstration of what happens when we have a public—and public officials—who are uninformed and/or ill-informed about our nation’s history, our political system, and the values upon which it was built.)
“Certainly schools must play a critical role in assuring that these needs of national security can be met. Yet, while some of the data are disturbing, nothing in this report convinces me that that our public schools “constitute a very grave national security threat facing this country.”
“Indeed, claims of alarm can only set the stage for dramatic actions unsupported by evidence: in this case, market-based approaches to school reform, that, overall, have not demonstrated their effectiveness. Indeed, charter schools and vouchers are diverting funds and energy away from neighborhood schools, and the more successful ones rely on additional support from private sources (“voluntary taxation”), a situation that is neither sustainable nor scalable. 
They might have also taken note of this nation's engagement in "eternal war" on several fronts at once. It is that, and certainly not public education which has become the main cause of our weakened global security position as well as a threat to our economy, our democracy and public education here at home.

There's one better to make this point than Pasi Sahlberg, Finland's equivalent to Arne Duncan. Finland leads the world in reading and math scores which Sahlberg attributes to their de-emphasis on standardized testing and valuing of the nation's teachers. In a tweet the other day, Sahlberg asks: 
Would Finland do well in education if it was an empire? Or had over 20% child poverty rate? Or spent over 4% of GDP in defense? Who knows!
The question answers itself.

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