EDUCATION POLITICS-Something in me snapped today and I realized that I am finished using the phrase "education reform."
That's how folks refer to the constellation of ideas firmly entrenched in the White House right now, upheld by almost every governor of every state, red and blue, and most mayors, notably our own. It includes the tenets that privatizing our schools will improve them, that the Common Core State Standards are the fix for all that ails our failing schools, and that testing our students more and more will raise test scores.
But this, truly, is not "reform." Some of these are ideas that have been implemented for 25 years all over the country to little effect.
This is the status quo.
So I'm not going to call it reform anymore.
I'm going to call it what it is. Corporate control of education.
And here's why. In every instance, every plank in the platform, every element of this effort can be traced back to cash--flowing into the coffers of very rich corporate entities and individuals.
Like Pearson, one of the testing companies that is creating the tests and the test prep materials, all new and improved and Common Core aligned, and who lobbies Congress to mandate more tests.
Like Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, a huge proponent of charters and innovative uses of technology in schools. What kind of technology does he advocate as the best fix for students today? In Learning Lab modules at his Rocketship Charters kids sit at a computer monitor, streaming video content for 100 minutes per day.
Or Rupert Murdoch. He is a cheerleader for what he calls a $500 billion industry of education technology including content and assessment.
Or Bill Gates. His push for the Common Core, the inBloom initiative to harness students' big data, and his vision for the classrooms of the future, which will be heavily dependent on his own technologies.
The proponents of this snake oil have managed to control the rhetoric for so long that we don't even blink when they say that their education plan is "the civil rights issue of our time." They say this a lot.
So if we wish to stand up against the corporate control model we are not only anti-reform but anti-civil rights.
They say they want "excellent teachers," and by this they mean they want to get rid of union teachers and replace them with uncertified, pensionless staff handling up to 50 kids at once who receive their education from handheld devices or monitors.
They say they want "school choice," which usually means less choice: families can't choose their neighborhood schools that the city has underfunded to the point of death throes, pouring its available money instead into privately supported charters.
They say they want all children to be "college and career ready," and to ensure this they prescribe as many as 25 standardized bubble tests every year starting in Kindergarten, using a standardized scripted curriculum.
The testing piece is a critical component of corporate control of education. And it's very important to them that we don't question this. As we saw in Chicago, retribution for opting out of tests is real and administrators don't care if they have to isolate children to get them to rat on their teachers. Anything to stop parents, teachers, and principals from reconsidering what all these tests mean, how they contribute to children's education, and who they benefit.
But the corporate education controllers will not accept that ordinary well-informed people are questioning their plan. They and the Department of Ed portray dissenters as Tea Party crazies or entitled white suburban moms who cannot face their disappointment that Boopsie is not actually a genius.
Another grab for narrative control. The only possible opposition comes from insane people or delusional ones.
But it's getting harder and harder to keep the little man hidden behind the curtain. It's getting harder and harder to uphold the illusion of the actually naked emperor's fancy new suit.
Little bits of reality pop out now and again.
Intertangled ugly trails of cash and power come to light--as in the (Chicago) Sun-Times' Dan Mihalopoulos' work on how many Illinois legislators are connected to Turkish power broker Fethullah Gulen and his charter schools. Just as a for instance.
Or, perhaps, occasions of obvious cruelty to children becoming public.
Like the CPS schools that have taken away play from 5 year olds by removing kitchens, blocks, paints, dolls, everything from Kindergarten. Because "Kindergarten is the new first grade" and we have to get these little dudes college and career ready. (I am assuming this also means that 5 is now the new 6.)
Enough little bits of reality have popped out that folks are starting to notice. The stranglehold grip on the narrative held by the corporate education controllers is beginning to weaken. Because we can all see with our own eyes that it isn't actually civil rights for kids to have their school closed or subjected to a turnaround. It isn't actually higher order critical thinking to bubble in bubbles. And it isn't education and it isn't reform to work toward the dismantling of public schools in our city and our country.
It's stale old rhetoric that is losing its power. And it can no longer conceal the naked emperor, nor the naked greed of the corporate power grabbers.
(Julie Vassilatos blogs as South Side CPS Mom in Chicago. She provides a valuable and important perspective on education everywhere. Julie can be reached at www.chicagonow.com/chicago-public-fools.)
Vol 12 Issue 29
Pub: Apr 8, 2014