Neoliberalism: To Know It Is To Recognize It

noam-chomsky-quote-2The term “neoliberalism” is not in my old college dictionary. And most people I’ve asked don’t know what it is. For that reason, the public is not been able to recognize the ideology behind many of our public policies…

We have become victims of sabotage —of our own doing.

An economic approach is one component of neoliberalism.

An economic approach is only one component of neoliberalism.

We are political pawns in the neoliberal game.

The situation looks daunting. But don’t despair. Shedding light on the neoliberal agenda will enable you to better understand the concept and determine for yourself if you have unknowingly adopted this ideology as your own.

As explained in “Our Neoliberal Nightmare,”

“Everything that promotes the market, i.e., privatization, deregulation, mobility of finance and capital, abandonment of government-provided social welfare, and the reconception of human beings as human capital, [is] encouraged.

It should be said that neoliberalism thrives on prompting crisis after crisis…so that each succeeding crisis only erodes the power of the working class and makes the wealthy wealthier.

[Our] politics succumbs to neoliberal economic theory…[so]… In this revolution of the law, persons have no status compared to corporations…

[And the author writes] I am merely outlining the strength of an opponent that has refused to be named for forty-five years, although it has been the ruling ideology that long!”

Neoliberal beliefs have permeated our social and political structures with bipartisan appeal.

And indoctrination into the neoliberal philosophy runs the gambit — from political propaganda to training within the public education system. That’s right! We’ve been infiltrated.

John Perella’s dissertation on the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) enlightened me. I hope it does the same for you.

  • Neoliberalism is pro-business and does not view powerful corporate influence as problematic (p15)…
  • Neoliberalism is acutely conservative in its economic approach. In fact, neoliberals share many of the same educational goals of neo-conservatives. (See The Politics of Reform for definitions.)
  • Neoliberalism is about restructuring society to allow for, and facilitate the growth of, free-markets (p16). [See “free-market” discussion in the comments below.]
  • Simply put, neoliberalism is a belief system and an economic approach. Privatization is just one strategy of this larger movement and globalization is the background for this entire story (p17).
  • Some have argued that privatization (and consequently the end of public education), driven by neoliberal education policies is the objective of [the] landmark legislation [No Child Left Behind] (p17).

Don’t be led to believe NCLB is gone.

The newest version of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), continues to harbor the neoliberal education reform agenda.

What’s wrong with the neoliberal philosophy guiding our public education system?

Children. It’s creating problems for children, which in turn creates problems for families. And in dysfunctional families, the problems are magnified.

We know children need a supportive social structure.

Proponents and critics alike of privatization have identified social cohesion as a possible victim of market driven education.

One cannot expect a competitive approach to promote social cohesion (p51).

That concept is what people like New York Times writer David Brooks haven’t figured out. As explained in The Common Good & Education, he understands that children need a strong social fabric. But he doesn’t see how neoliberal / neoconservative education reform laws damage the social fabric he claims is essential.

Here’s how. Different —more or less— and “higher” standards led to the perceived need for more standardized assessments. More standardized assessments fed the theory of competition. Test scores stirred the public to call for accountability.

When no accountability was forthcoming, “choice” was offered. Choice nourished the market. And the technology to run this whole ruse brought the neoliberal agenda full circle.

Money is being made at every step of the way. Reform? Not so much.

The neoliberal philosophy has us believing that there is nothing wrong with private industry taking over work traditionally done by public institutions…You know the sell… cutting through the bureaucracy, ending the government monopoly on education, and all that jazz… But, answer this…

What is the problem with NISL — Marc Tucker’s for-profit, non-collegiate, privately controlled organization — training/educating/indoctrinating (your choice) OUR public education leadership?

  • NISL is not understood by its participants and has not been sufficiently examined by the public (p136).
  • Schools are not neutral conveyors of knowledge but are instruments of ideology (p28).
  • Since public education is an instrument of ideology, then leaders trained by NISL will predictably influence their respective schools or districts (p29).
  • NISL will inevitably apply increased sway on public education as more school leaders are trained (p22).
  • Pragmatically, NISL seems to always have one eye on state and federal policies. When it was created, there was a clear alignment in NISL with the spirit of NCLB (pg94).
  • The NISL leadership in Washington envisioned the future of the program to include many new initiatives that would “drive NISL deep” (RH). These included cohort coaching and mentoring, new leadership curriculum in early child learning, special education, ELL and disability, as well as pipelining (p99).

And please keep in mind, neoliberal thinking takes the social justice ideal and uses the platform to justify the market-based theory. It draws in liberal thinkers and civil rights groups trying to do what is right for society — unknowingly putting children at the mercy of the almighty dollar.

And never mind how you and I define social justice. Neoliberal leadership proceeds to act by whatever means they desire —pocketing public dollars in the process—and always producing more human capital to do their work.

As Dr. Perella explained NISL’s program, the leadership “education” combines military and business training practices. Pipelining is how the military routinely picks and develops their leadership. And Marc Tucker’s NISL (with his parent organization National Center on Education and the Economy – NCEE) isn’t  the only show in town.

“The Broad Academy is a subsidiary of the same Broad Foundation that has [financially] supported NISL. Broad has two distinct flagship initiatives, a residency program for placing “participants into full-time high-level managerial positions in school districts, CMOs (Charter Management Organizations), and federal/state departments of education” (http://broadresidency.org/about/overview.html)

… at the risk of interrupting your reading, let me stop you right here…. Did that last point wake you up? Placement in federal and state “departments of education.” Targeted, strategic placement in our governing structure…just checking that this bombshell hit you…. Okay, so, there is the Broad residency program…

and their Superintendent Academy. The primary goal of the Academy is to train and place non-educator executives into superintendent positions.

In 2009, 43 percent of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates (p58).

So between just these two neoliberal buddies, they have covered the training of urban district superintendents, U.S. Department of Education employees, many State Department of Education hires, and principal training in at least 15 states — all indoctrinated (my choice of words) into the neoliberal doctrine.

I’ll ask again, what is the problem?

Well, I agree with Dr. Perella…

Tucker truly is the man behind the curtain. [And] NISL is but one component of Tucker’s influence on public education reform (p138).

…there is very little ‘public’ in NISL’s design for the training of public school leaders (p137).

And we must always remember,

Central to the neoliberal doctrine is a simple, yet powerful objective: profit (p40).

So with much appreciation for Dr. Perella’s diligent work in answering some very important questions, let me end with some words from the man behind the curtain…from page 50 of Tucker’s publication Governing American Education: Why This Dry Subject Might Hold the Key to Advances in American Education”screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-8-53-41-am

Stoppable? Well, we do have a choice. But the question is, do people want to hear it?

And will people consider answering a few questions, like these:

Who should be holding the key to our future?

Are we going to let our public education system go the way of neoliberalism?

If we do nothing, we know how this story goes. History tells us.

Our move.polyp_cartoon_rich_poor_neoliberal

 

 

 

 

 

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Note: The pdf provided here for Dr. Perrella’s dissertation concerning NISL is my personal copy. I provided my highlighted and underlined copy not to influence readers with what I found important or interesting but as a courtesy to those who might need to skim, rather than read, the 172 pages.

A clean copy can be found here.

The Common Good & Education

Republican political analyst and writer David Brooks’ spoke about Character and The Common Good last week in Boise, Idaho. His conflicting views on the importance of community versus our current education “reforms” were striking — to me.

Is doing what is best for the next generation considered a common good?

Is doing what is right for the next generation considered a common good?

Brooks spoke about how love, relationships, and friendly interactions changes lives.

He believes the country is suffering from “a crisis of the social fabric.” He sees the hope for humanity in communities’ picking up communities thereby building a “denser moral fabric.”

He knows we are divided by education.

He feels our need for personal relationships.

He sees how both Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln supported “limited but energetic government to enhance social mobility.”

But my theory here is that David Brooks can’t see how education reform policies are destroying our social fabric. There’s a couple of reasons. One, A Nation At Risk (in his own words) marks his involvement with education reform. And two, if you view education reforms from a narrow political perch you can easily fall off. If you fall off, you can’t see far enough back to clearly view the road to educational quality and equality. You can’t see our history.

But, let’s consider the education reform road he, and the nation, traveled.

After the release of A Nation At Risk in 1983, there was a flurry of media sound bites unleashed on the public (more propaganda than substance). But what followed is what really set the stage for standards, assessments, accountability, and technology to be the education reform “gift” from the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and others. (See the fine print below.)

The gift that keeps on giving or taking?

The gift that keeps on giving, or taking?

In the decades that followed, many attendees of this 1996 Education Summit remained major players in education laws that govern our public K-12 system. That reality did not change with congress’ newest law – the Every Student Succeeds Act – ESSA. “They” pushed the law into existence. They rule.

Their governing philosophy —the foundation upon which they built our reforms— is that we were entering the information age and the economy was dependent on dollars flowing into the education “industry.”screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-6-00-59-pm

The fact that the majority of parents were satisfied with their child’s school drove the need to wage a propaganda war on public schools. “They” needed to create a market. (To Market to Market, 1997)

Keep in mind, changes in education take roughly a decade to unfold. During the period prior to the standards, assessment, accountability, technology movement, the United States was making significant educational progress in our K-12 system. This was also a time when our higher education was still the most highly revered in the world.

What the hell were we thinking?

Fast forward to post-9/11 of 2001 when David Brooks wrote One Nation, Slightly Divisible. He talked about the education gap and how the income gap had widened as we entered the information age (aka knowledge-based economy).

And in 2005 Mr. Brooks noted the maturation of the information age, in The Education Gap, as he linked “economic stratification” to “social stratification.” He documented behavioral differences in divorce rates, smoking, exercise, voting, volunteer work, and blood donations linked to educational attainment. Stating that this might be a “more fair” (?) system, he acknowledged that the system was creating

“brutal barriers to opportunity and ascent.”

A couple of months later (and four years after No Child Left Behind), Brooks noted in Psst! ‘Human Capital’ that…

“When President Bush proposed his big education reform, he insisted on tests to measure skills and knowledge…. No Child Left Behind treats students as skill-acquiring cogs in an economic wheel, and the results have been disappointing.”

… Brooks saw skills and knowledge as superficial components. And he went on to mention one of our “classic” government studies…

“…James S. Coleman found that what happens in the family shapes a child’s educational achievement more than what happens in school.”

So despite recognizing inadequacies and the misdirection of the No Child Left Behind law, ITS GOVERNING PHILOSOPHIES REMAIN IN PLACE — student outcomes as measured on standardized tests continues as the basis of our “accountability” mechanism?

Call it fed-led or state-led; it doesn’t matter. The nation doubled down on it…quietly.

And in 2009, David Brooks got caught up in the frenzy of “standing up to the teachers’ unions” as expressed in The Quiet Revolution. He, and many other Republicans across the country, jumped on-board the Democrats’ Obama/Duncan bandwagon of what they were calling “real education reform” — coupling student outcomes and teacher pay.

Never mind that test-based accountability didn’t yield real reform.

Never mind that family and other social supports are extremely important to student success in life. … regardless…

…the Quiet Revolution was celebrated.

By 2010, many involved in the American education reform war declared that Teachers Are Fair Game. Many people still believe that the major problem in education reform is that union rules “protected mediocre teachers.” I know many of my representatives here in Idaho do. But the vast majority of American parents don’t see their children’s teachers as the problem.

Time to Reflect, Reconsider, and Respect the Evidence?

By 2005,  the country recognized the major faults with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). But it remained the education law of the law for an additional decade. The name was finally changed to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) but these guiding principles (the major problems with the law) remain in place…

  • yearly standards-based, test-based accountability,
  • the push for “personalized” learning through technology instead of supporting better teacher-student personal relationships, and
  • “choice” through funding of charter schools (which has been sold to us in the name of “parental engagement,” “flexibility,” “competition,” “free-market,” “a civil right,” and “equality of opportunity” to name a few). It’s the ultimate education-real-estate market.

We know what doesn’t work but we’re being pushed into more of the same through the rules that govern our schools —federal, state, and local.

Consider This: Our Common Ground

In 2001 in One Nation, Slightly Divisible, David Brooks asked; Are Americans any longer a common people? Do we have one national conversation and one national culture? Are we loyal to the same institutions and the same values?

According to his research, we agree “too many children are being raised in day-care centers these days.”

You see, we do value family and support the ideal of family.

In The Education Gap (2005) he stated that we “believe in equality of opportunity.”

You see, we do value the ideal of equal educational opportunity as expressed in the aim of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965 ESEA, changed to 2001 NCLB and now 2015 ESSA).

How We Missed Seeing the Trees for the Forest

In keeping with most journalists, Brooks only quoted PART of the work of James S. Coleman. Missing is the rest of the Coleman story.

Brooks touched on the importance of a child’s willingness to learn which Coleman delved deeply into and discussed it as “the pupil attitude factor.”screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-6-45-44-pm

Coleman discovered, as Brooks finally did, that a strong community support system for school children is essential to giving every student the opportunity to excel. Coleman dubbed that safety net “social capital” and defined it.screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-6-45-56-pm

So we do see!

In Psst! ‘Human Capital’ (2005), Brooks expounded on what works.

“The only things that work are local, human-to-human immersions that transform the students down to their very beings. Extraordinary schools, which create intense cultures of achievement, work. Extraordinary teachers, who inspire students to transform their lives, work.”

And by 2015 Brooks looked smack in the face of the solution. He does see. In Communities of Character he talked about …

“super-tight neighborhood organizations” and revealed, “…very often it’s a really good school.” These schools “cultivate intense thick community.”

And earlier this year, Brooks once again brushed-up against a solution to offering equal educational opportunity in The Building Blocks of Learning. About this I write with extreme trepidation!

David Brooks wrote,

“Education is one of those spheres where the heart is inseparable from the head.

Even within the classroom, the key fact is the love between a teacher and a student.

For years, schools didn’t have to think about love because there were so many other nurturing social institutions.….emotional engagement is not something we measure and stress.

Today we have to fortify the heart if we’re going to educate the mind.”

So here’s my reason for concern. Just because something is important to student learning does NOT mean WE should:

  • measure it in the children,
  • scapegoat the teachers if the outcomes don’t meet our arbitrary standard, and
  • make damned sure it is anchored to standards, assessment, accountability (and the technology to do that accountability) in our laws!!!!!

Stop already!

We know functional communities are safer, healthier, and better educated. The people in those communities instinctively understand the concept of a strong social fabric and supporting the common good.

Dysfunctional communities don’t get it. Their safety net does not include the strong fabric of our common good. And standards, assessment, accountability, and technology are no substitute for increasing the resources necessary to supply the proper and necessary fabrics.

“Better policy can help.” We need education reform laws that are free from the dirt and stench left behind by the education reform vulture-capitalists. Does the nation agree?vulture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And are David Brooks’ views on the common good and education reform policies conflicting to others, or, do they clearly echo the sentiments of the nation?

“We” should have a national conversation about that!