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

Monday, January 23, 2017

The language of reform. Corporate 'Collectives' for the Elite.

Collective Pres. Laurene Powell Jobs
Over the years I've gotten used to the way corporate reformers appropriate the language of radical social change to give themselves a progressive facade.

Take the word, collective, for example, as in socialist collectivism, collective bargaining, collective farming, anarchist or Marxist collectives, which is usually associated with the left-wing, labor movements. In the late 60s and early 70s you also had the rise of feminist collectives and so on. In other words, grassroots organizations synonymous with social change.

Can top-down, corporate reformers now take ownership of the terminology? You bet they can.

Sign of the times... Crain's Chicago Business recently launched its CEO Collective. No, it has nothing to do with socialism, street-protest affinity groups, or going off the the country to start a commune.

Listen to the way they describe it to potential recruits, using lots of ed reform jargon.
An exclusive year-long program for Chicago CEOs and founders, Crain’s CEO Collective offers participants an opportunity to work alongside their new professional network and dive deep into their most pressing challenges – empowering them to transform their organization.
This facilitated peer-learning program will include modules on issue resolution, leadership development, strategic thinking and innovation. Plus, members will be introduced to guest speakers that will enrich, inspire and energize their journey. CEOs will also gain a renewed awareness of issues and opportunities in Chicago.
Wow, peer-coaching, professional development, innovation -- this sounds like it came directly out of the school reform movement of the 1990s.

What they don't offer in their ads, but I'm sure is included in the Collective's membership fee, are workshops of how to undermine unions and get rid of, or around collective bargaining.

Another new corporate collective that caught my eye is the so-called Emerson Collective, started by Laurene Powell Jobs, the billionaire widow of Apple founder, Steve Jobs. After reading the Collective's mission statement, I'm ready to join up, if they'll have me as a collective member. But I doubt it.
We are an organization dedicated to removing barriers to opportunity so people can live to their full potential. Established by Laurene Powell Jobs, we center our work on education, immigration reform, the environment and other social justice initiatives. We use a wide range of tools and strategies—partnering with entrepreneurs and experts, parents and policymakers, advocates and administrators—to spur change and promote equality.
Unlike her husband Steve, who didn't believe in philanthropy, Powell Jobs is president of the Collective, which doubles as an LLC of course. That means, instead of a tax-exempt 501(c)(3), like the Gates or Walton Foundations which bankroll privately-run charter schools, the Emerson Collective can make grants, for-profit investments and political donations — and does not have to publicly report its donations as a foundation does.

Get the picture. If you call your personal tax shelter a "collective" and give it social -justice window dressing, you can operate free from public accountability or oversight.

Yes, better to operate in the shadows, or as the collectivists might say, "with flexibility".

Duncan joins the Collective
Latest to join the Collective is none other than the king of corporate school reform, Arne Duncan. Well maybe join isn't the proper term. He's not called a collective member but rather, a "managing partner". Duncan will oversee the XQ Institute and the XQ Super School Project, a $50 million national grant competition  that proposes to "re-imagine" high school.

One can only imagine what he and his collective are re-imagining. A new race to the top, perhaps? More testing madness? Unregulated and re-segregated charters?

I couldn't find out Duncan's salary at the Collective or how much Jobs pays in taxes. No public accountability, remember?

Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Pricilla Chan, have done something similar. Except that they don't call their power philanthropy a collective. Rather, it's the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Yes, it's an initiative rather than a collective. And their LLC focuses on --wait for it-- "personalized learning and underserved communities".

Zuckerberg's version of Duncan is former U.S. Education Department deputy secretary and Gates Foundation refugee Jim Shelton.

Among the missing from these top-down reform collectives, initiatives, innovators, and school re-imaginers, are the teachers themselves. After all, what would they know about personalized learning in underserved communities?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

From Davos to DeVos

As the world's super-wealthy and super-powerful gather this week in Davos for the World Economic Forum, the spotlight is once again on the widening chasm of wealth inequality. It's virtually impossible to talk meaningfully about education reform, privatization, charter schools, testing, deseg, etc... without taking the growing wealth gap into consideration.

Oxfam reports that the gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men, from Bill Gates to Michael Bloomberg, owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people, or half the world.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, says:
“It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day.  Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.  
“Across the world, people are being left behind. Their wages are stagnating yet corporate bosses take home million dollar bonuses; their health and education services are cut while corporations and the super-rich dodge their taxes; their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite.”
Public anger with inequality is already creating political shockwaves across the globe. Inequality has been cited as a significant factor in the election of neo-fascists and populists like Donald Trump in the US, President Duterte in the Philippines, and Brexit in the UK.
The world’s 8 richest people are, in order of net worth:    
  1. Bill Gates: America founder of Microsoft (net worth $75 billion)
  2. Amancio Ortega: Spanish founder of Inditex which owns the Zara fashion chain (net worth $67 billion)
  3. Warren Buffett: American CEO and largest shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway (net worth $60.8 billion)
  4. Carlos Slim Helu: Mexican owner of Grupo Carso (net worth: $50 billion)
  5. Jeff Bezos: American founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon (net worth: $45.2 billion)
  6. Mark Zuckerberg: American chairman, chief executive officer, and co-founder of Facebook (net worth $44.6 billion)
  7. Larry Ellison: American co-founder and CEO of Oracle (net worth $43.6 billion)
  8. Michael Bloomberg: American founder, owner and CEO of Bloomberg LP (net worth: $40 billion)
To make the point about wealth inequality and public education, consider this. Except for the Spaniard Ortega and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, all are directly or indirectly involved in U.S. corporate-style school reform, charter schools, and in various projects and in policy setting. All have graced the pages of this blog. 

Ironically, one of the strongest voices on education at Davos, comes not from the mighty 8, but from singer Shakira, suggesting an antidote for violent conflict and divisive populism: Get more kids in pre-school.

The Colombian singer is using her distinctive voice to lobby the world's rich and powerful at the World Economic Forum for more spending on early childhood education.

Asked if she had a message for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, she urged solid education policies that instill "inclusiveness and tolerance" for future generations.

Recalling a childhood in Colombia marred by war, she said: "If we really want peace, we need to invest in education."

While the high and mighty gather in Davos, the Senate is holding hearings to consider the appointment of billionaire Betsy DeVos.

If you're confused about DeVos and Davos, this, from brother Fred, might help...