Of Partisanship and Education “Reform”

This is a different topic for me.  I would rather write about teaching, parenting, and what’s best for kids.  But I’m often asked about my affiliations, my political leanings, and my feelings about other issues.  First, there is no other issue right now for me.  I feel a sense of urgency about the course of public education in this country, and I believe that every other issue facing us relies on its outcomes.  Also, I’m not a member of any political party and I refuse to be labeled as liberal or conservative.  I am a parent, an educator, and an American who lives in an increasingly global society.

I see lots of partisan and ideological finger pointing in education discussions.  I want to share the things I’ve learned about all of this, with the hopes of easing up on the divisiveness.  You see, partisanship is just another distraction.  This is too important for distractions.

The education “reform” movement, spearheaded by the likes of Arne Duncan, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, and other notable names in the news, is led by a bunch of people who proclaim themselves as Democrats.  Following their work and loving every minute of it are such notable names as Jeb Bush, Rupert Murdoch, Chris Christie, Tony Bennett, and (arguably) Mitt Romney, who proclaim themselves as Republicans.

So, here’s what we have to deal with: the reform movement that is dismantling our public schools is a firmly bipartisan nightmare.  That’s because party politics have nothing to do with this.  It’s all about the Benjamins.

About 5 billion of them

About 5 billion of them

The current uprising we’re seeing among parents, teachers, and students is motivating and inspirational.  Well, most of the time.  You see, what caused parents to wake up and start boycotting standardized tests and the Common Core State Standards had nothing to do with partisan politics.  Actually, it had nothing to do with politics at all.  It came about because parents love their kids.  When our kids are suffering, we take action.  I reminded New York Education Commissioner John King about this recently.  Our motivations don’t come from our stances on other issues.

However, a deeper look into what’s happening also makes a lot of us realize that our own kids aren’t the only stake in this game.  We also are coming around to the idea that the future of our country is at stake.  I hope that this is going to open the doors to a new, larger public movement.  We are now waking up to the realities of living under common national education standards, corporate data mining, and specialized learning.  And this is where we really need to start to come together.

I’ve seen a lot of folks try to equate this issue with several other issues around us, which all apparently have a left vs. right or liberal vs. conservative or Democrat vs. Republican vibe to them.  This is not an issue that can be divided along those lines.  This is an issue that has no lines drawn in the sand or political parties to blame.

Here are a few points to consider:

  1. This is not a progressive agenda.  I am a progressive educator–meaning I believe that the world is changing too fast to be using Industrial Age techniques to teach Information Age kids.  Just because the “reformers” call themselves Democrats doesn’t mean they are progressive, in any sense of the word.  They are corporate puppets, stooges, and panderers.  
  2. This is not a conservative agenda.  I am also a conservative educator–meaning I do not believe that public education should be changed to become a Federal and nationalized system.  Again, corporations are not automatically conservative.  They aren’t anything other than self-serving and profit-minded.  And education policy should be advised and led by educators, not politicians or corporations.
  3. This is not socialism or communism.  Those two terms refer to the means of production and resources being either controlled or taken over by the state and distributed as equally as possible.  That’s not even close to what’s happening with education.  This “reform” movement is corporate-run, with the government in partnership.
  4. This is not fascism.  Fascism generally refers to extreme nationalism and the totalitarianism that comes with it.  I haven’t seen anyone equate over-the-top American pride with the Common Core State Standards, especially since it was basically sneaked past us before we knew about it.  And this isn’t Nazism.  If it were, then the government would have taken over the corporations in order to serve its own purposes.  If anything, we’re seeing the reverse.
  5. This has nothing to do with redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor.  No wealth is being redistributed to the poor, other than the grants and contributions of billionaires and corporations in support of the privatization of schools for their own purposes.
  6. This is, absolutely, a means for indoctrination.  But not for or against any ideology, religion, or political party.  This is how wealthy corporate owners and investors get to secure their own future–by setting our kids up to serve their place in it.

corporate_flag

I want to emphasize that last point.  This is a corporate agenda.  This is the planning and preparation stage for the America that has been dreamed up by CEOs and other assorted moneybags who have not a shred of national pride or sense of community.  This also isn’t just about a $500 billion industry known as public education; this is about the future!

This is unprecedented and never before seen in our country.  Our corporate leaders, our billionaires, and most of our government leaders have become equal partners in this takeover.  Their kids are secure in their futures, as they will grow to take their places among  the movers and the shakers and the innovators and the owners in the United States.

The rest of us?  Well, our kids have futures that are guided based on what they can accomplish against the national standards in place in 46 states, the tests that are measuring their standardized skills, and the data tracking that will determine their best course of study and work.

"Public school graduates are bee-you-tiful!"

“Public school graduates are bee-you-tiful!”

And if you think those national standards promise that every kid will be ready to be successful in 21st century America, you need to ask yourself what “successful” means in that context.  It’s taking on a very different meaning than what we’re used to hearing.

Read more: Children of the Core on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Google Play.  

Comments

  1. Margaret Benson says:

    Chris, you argue that we are not dealing with Socialism, or Communism, or Fascism. You see this as a corporate take-over. To quote you, ” Our corporate leaders, our billionaires, and most of our government leaders have become equal partners in this takeover.”

    I suggest you go read the interview with John LeCarre in last Sunday’s NY Times magazine. Talking about allowing private mercenaries to fight our wars, he says, “Mussolini said that the definition of fascism was when you couldn’t put a cigarette paper between corporate power and government power.” That seems to fit our present educational “reform” all too well.

    Margaret

    • No doubt there is “government power” at play, but to me they are secondary to corporatism.

      • Margaret Benson says:

        When the government turns over its rightful functions to the private sector that is step one toward Corporate Fascism — something that has always been a possibility with Capitalism.

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