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.

Wrong is Wrong

Senator Alexander believes in making “the Bush-era law work.” He stated that, “How well our children are learning is much more important than any political game” but his actions have not matched his rhetoric.images copy 3

The truth is that education reform has been nothing more than one BIG political game. A major part of Lamar Alexander’s life was spent in the political arena and his vision of reform has affected the education of the nation’s children.

Here’s how the game “worked”; the influential set our course for education reform 30 years ago. The nation’s schools, teachers, parents, and children have taken the brunt of their mistakes while those in power marched on never wavering from their goal despite evidence of their mistakes.

The influential were wrong in theory and in action. And given his history, Lamar Alexander has to be counted as one of the most influential players in this game.

puppetAs Secretary of Education, Alexander not only led us in the wrong direction, he also helped put blinders on us. In this politically influential position, he found multiple ways to pull the strings to get the country dancing to his tune.

“America 2000” was unveiled in April 1991 shortly after Alexander replaced Lauro Cavazos as Bush’s education secretary. Alexander was prime architect of the program, which included the proposed creation of national standards and voluntary national tests in English, math, science, history, and geography to be administered in grades 4, 8 and 12.”

And,….

“…voucher legislation first prepared in 1992 by Mr. Alexander, as secretary of education in the Bush administration, has been the basis for Mr. Dole’s “opportunity scholarship” proposal in an election in which voters say education is at the top of their agenda.”

And there were things he chose not to do.

Secretary Alexander chose to ignore the Sandia researchers report stating that the idea of school choice is in direct conflict with support for troubled schools.

“In early 1991, the Sandia team prepared a report, asserting that “evidence of decline used to justify system-wide reform is based on misinterpretations or misrepresentations of the data.”

The Sandia researchers have been muzzled. The Department of Education complained that the report was biased because “data shown are consistently supportive of a picture of U.S. education in a positive light.” The report, Secretary of Energy James Watkins charged, “is a call for complacency at a time when just the opposite is required. The Department of Energy will not permit publication of the study as presently drafted.” It has still not been released.” From the Myth of Public School Failures, Richard Rothstein, 2001

Secretary Alexander chose to ignore the warning of the Special Study Panel on Education Indicators…Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 11.53.15 AMA nation misled will eventually be lost…unless we self-correct. We have that freedom.

Lamar Alexander has exercised his freedom of choice and executed his political agenda with fidelity while keeping much of the country veiled in ignorance.

“Mr. Alexander, a former governor of Tennessee, became a co-director of Empower America in 1994.”

“…the Washington-based outfit has provided funding, staffing, and organization to help Messrs. Kemp, [former Reagan Secretary of Education] Bennett, and Alexander refine their policy ideas–including school choice and the devolution of federal education programs–and expand their political bases after departing from public office.”

“Empower America plans to continue promoting school choice, and Mr. Alexander is expected to take a lead role….We’re planning on [Mr. Alexander] coming back and being a part of a big school-choice initiative.”

Empower America is now called Freedom Works. Freedom Works’ motto for education reform is “Bring competition to public education and give kids and parents real opportunity.” Real opportunity?

Words, words, and more words. But….

Senator Alexander has managed to dodge explaining the failures of his theories and to put forth any evidence-based reasons for the federal government (the government of us) to financially support an ideologically driven, market-based, outcome-based, standards-based (test-based), reform law that sponsors privatization of public schools to replace what once was an anti-poverty law (ESEA). It’s wrong.

The Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177 NOTE: the name was changed to Every Student Succeeds Act ESSA & made into law) has it wrong for the very same reasons that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was wrong.

Instead of factual reasons why NCLB was so devastating to public schools, Senator Alexander reaches for his political game card.

“The problem has been that, starting with No Child Left Behind, we’ve created in effect a national school board and Washington has started requiring the standards and that’s created a huge backlash — first with the teachers’ union because they don’t like teacher evaluation from Washington or anywhere else, and second from conservatives who don’t like federal overreach.”

Dodge ball?

Alexander uses the nonexistent “national school board” as a catchphrase… “What states need is not centralized support for the new policies and procedures dictated by the national school board, but freedom from Washington …,”

If the nation wants national standards, who do they want to put in charge of them? The non-profit who currently holds the copyright to the Common Core? The powers that be? Answers Senator Alexander?

If the nation wants national standards, who do they want to put in charge of them? The non-profit who currently holds the copyright to the Common Core? The powers that be? Answers Senator Alexander?

He rallies his troops with empty rhetoric. Freedom, freedom, freedom works!

Three decades after the plot was set, the plans laid by Alexander and company are coming to fruition. They have convinced a nation (with the help of some of the best marketing firms in the world plus some deception) that standards and testing are an essential first step in education reform. They’re wrong.

Wrong is wrong no matter how you dress it up, talk it up, or mark it up in law. It’s wrong and as a nation we’ve been wronged.

The influential pulled our strings.

Our guiding principle in the design of a choice system is this: Public authority must be put to use in creating a system that is almost entirely beyond the reach of public authority.”

Is that the guiding principle the influential followed?

So much for ACCOUNTABILITY! Isn’t this FLEXIBILITY with our tax dollars to the extreme? CHOICE served up in law all because the country didn’t know the facts and marketers did a number on us?

No Child Left Behind was a bad law because its guiding principles are “accountability, flexibility, and choice.” We should not try to make it work. Its guiding principles are dead wrong.

Wrong is wrong. There is no making this education law right, unless…..we go back to the guiding principles of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)— supporting quality education and equality in opportunity by focusing on the children from low-income families. It’s the only way to make this right.Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 3.52.56 PM

“Education is the business of the American people.” Francis (Frank) Keppel

We jump in now or let the big players finish the game. You can see how it’s done. Just look at Senator Alexander and the position he is in today —- the vote on his law is coming in the next couple of days.

Playing politics has been Lamar Alexander’s game of choice (pun intended). There is only one way to right this wrong. Stop the process.

Doing the same thing, following the same leaders, and expecting different results is not only insane, it’s wrong.

54f226a5704f4351094d8dc6f02db40bStop playing follow the leader and take independent actions to hold lawmakers accountable. Make them do the right thing for the right reasons.

Need to Know

In What You Need to Know about the Every Child Achieves Act by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), AFT says “the Bill Is Better than the Current Law, Race to the Top, and Waivers.”………..UPDATE Dec. 5 – the name has been changed to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA still S.1177) and on Dec. 10, it was signed into law. This information is still what people need to know and consider….

“Better” is the standard that leadership has set for this nation?

Build on "better" or just more of the same?

Build on “better” or just more of the same?

I ask you to consider; is it the best we can do for the American public education system and the children in that system? Do we have no higher expectation of congress, after the eight year wait, than to make the law “better” than No Child Left Behind (NCLB)? What about the right thing to do?

The Bill in question is The Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177, previously written as The Every Child College or Career Ready Act slanted for debate on July 7th). IT has many moving parts as does its House counterpart (both obviously written by the education industry representing themselves).

AFT says,It restores the original intent of the groundbreaking 1965 ESEA law.”

DOES IT? (Update now that it is law: it did not.)

AFT says, “the intent was to address poverty and educational inequality. This bill ensures that resources continue to be directed to where they are most needed.”

DOES IT?

This continues the standards-based theory that led to a narrow curriculum...which is devastating TO poor kids.

This continues the standards-based theory that led to a narrow curriculum…which is devastating TO poor kids.

 

 

 

The bill mentions a needs assessment but associates the needs assessment with achievement scores and standards…

….and does not require review by the U.S. Department of Education to assess whether or not the money granted does go towards meeting children’s real needs.

Keep in mind, WE must submit our plan for standards and testing but NOT our needs assessment....please question this logic.

Keep in mind, WE must submit our plan for standards and testing but NOT our needs assessment….please, question this logic.

The original intent in 1965 was to strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunity.

The Every Child Achieves Act (S.1177) focuses on standards-based achievement, assessments of achievement, and charter expansion. The focus has not changed from what we had with No Child Left Behind. Have these things strengthened and improved educational quality and opportunity for all children?

AFT says, The Every Child Achieves Act “takes a crucial first step toward smarter assessments and accountability.”

Smarter assessments? In document after document — like Marc Tucker’s “Tough Choices or Tough Times” and the Smart Options (how to spend our Recovery Act dollars) —standards and testing were always seen as a first step where the truly crucial first step is addressing children’s learning needs and opportunity-to-learn resources.

In addition, keeping federal emphasis on testing perpetuates the fallacy that achievement test scores are valuable while the reality is they are an extremely poor and UNETHICAL way to judge the quality of education. We need to do away with that deceptive idea. And the next crucial step would be to define opportunity to learn indicators (which we have but don’t use).

AFT says the Every Child Achieves Act “maintains the current law’s annual testing requirements, but allows assessments to be delivered in the form of portfolios, projects or extended performance tests.

There is actually a BIG “IF” in the law… if states can demonstrate the alternative assessments are valid and reliable AS compared to the standards-based achievement tests. This means not only continuing with the achievement tests but also having the State resources and capability to validate what you are using, or farm it out to the testing industry.

Consider this, students’ grades and the quality of their courses continue to be more reliable than standardized test scores when it comes to trying to predict success in higher education.

AFT says the Every Child Achieves Act “allows accountability systems to include multiple non-test measures.”

“ALLOWS”??? (And the word was used in multiple places)??? If that doesn’t tell you that we have gone from an equal opportunity law to a federally controlled accountability law, I don’t know what does.

BUT, who was held accountable for the devastating effects of No Child Left Behind?

AFT says The Every Child Achieves Act “gives states authority to determine interventions for struggling schools.” 
…..

Sigh…What if you live in a state that lacks the capacity to improve schools? What if schools were identified for 8 and 9 years under NCLB as “In Needs of Improvement”? Then when the NCLB waivers changed terminology to “Focus” and “Priority” schools, what if those same schools went on the lists and your state still never did anything proven effective to help them improve? This true-to-life scenario is why the law existed to begin with. Why think this is a good thing for all states? Are all states offering equal access to quality education? And why do we continue to ignore what works when we could support it through law?

The Every Child Achieves Act is NOT an equal opportunity or educational improvement law reflective of the original intent of ESEA.

AFT says The Every Child Achieves Act “takes the federal government out of teacher evaluations.”

The Every Child Achieves Act requires teachers be labeled and that information goes on the State report card.

The federal government is by no means out of the teacher evaluation business.

The federal government is by no means out of the teacher evaluation business.

AFT says, “The federal government will not be the human resources department for every school district nationwide.”

Did they read the law? The Every Child Achieves Act will incentivize human resource development through the training of leadership to evaluate teachers calling it the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program. They are looking at “human capital.” And it will be controlled through “State plans”.Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 8.31.02 PM….Look at all the components…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Those in the education reform wars can probably name off a slew of "national non-profits" who stand to gain on this one.

Those in the education reform wars can probably name off a slew of “national non-profits” who stand to gain on this one.

Remember, carefully selected things must meet federal approval.

Remember, carefully selected things must meet federal approval.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFT says, The Every Child Achieves Act “expands collective bargaining protections to include both school improvement initiatives and teacher quality provisions.” WHERE???????

Do you call this expanded protection?

Do you call this expanded protection?

 

 

And what AFT doesn’t talk about that is in the bill are huge expansions for charter schools and other modes of privatization including the specifics of pre-schools……WOW!!!! Do we have a budding industry there!

What’s missing from the bill? Plenty! Gone is the whole sense of community-led improvement that was embodied in the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act….How can anyone say we have nothing better to offer in replacing No Child Left Behind? Where’s the suggestion box?

Or are those in power afraid of competing ideas?

Tell Congress NO on this one. Better than NCLB isn’t good enough for American education.

Civil Disobedience

Test refusal is an act of civil disobedience.

52 years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. explained the chain of events that typically leads to civil disobedience and the reasons it must occur.

Civil disobedience landed MLK in the Birmingham jail where he penned these words on April 16, 1963.

Civil disobedience landed MLK in the Birmingham jail where he penned these words on April 16, 1963.

“IN ANY nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action.”

The United Opt Out Movement is a campaign to, among other things, end high-stakes testing that has been firmly embedded in public schools through the No Child Left Behind law.. (and now continues with the Every Student Succeeds Act)…

As Dr. King explained it:

“There are just laws, and there are unjust laws…. A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law… Any law that degrades human personality is unjust… [it] distorts the soul and damages the personality…. [creating a] false sense of inferiority.”

Over-emphasis on standardized tests’ importance, their over-administration, and the inappropriate uses of standardized tests have made children, teachers, whole schools and districts feel inferior — most falsely so since these narrowly focused, single-point-in-time tests cannot accurately judge the quality of education nor diagnose an underlying condition with any accuracy. It’s like taking a temperature, blood pressure reading, or monitoring thyroid levels; they can change simply based on the time of day.

So…..

Step 1 in the campaign: Facts on testing and No Child Left Behind are clear. Research and time has verified the truth.

I’ll never forget being in a meeting of the Idaho Assessment and Accountability Commission and hearing person-after-person get up and testify to the absurdity of the test-based (outcome-based) mechanism of “accountability” that was about to go forward. The words “we are headed for a train wreck” still echo in my mind. Well, we are there.

Step 2 in the campaign: Negotiations were attempted repeatedly at the local, state, and federal levels.

And throughout the years, multitudes of people scattered across the country, separated by distance, differing ideologies, political party affiliation, socioeconomic stature, race, and a whole host of issues including the divisive topic of how to “fix” schools all continued trying to derail the standardization and privatization of our institution of public education.

“We realized that we were the victims of a broken promise.”…

“We did not move irresponsibly into direct action.”

Many made the determination that it was going to take a personal sacrifice of time and money to move forward. That is self-purification — acknowledging that personal sacrifices are needed for the sake of progress.

Step 3 in the campaign: Self-purification occurred knowingly and unknowingly as many of us gave our time, energy, and money to make the Save Our Schools March happen.

And that has led us to Step 4 in the campaign: Direct Action

So….

How will “opting out” work?

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.

It is the entrenched educational community; it is the dysfunctional community; it is the corrupted lawmaking communities that have refused to face facts, the issues, and the more logical solutions.

It is those “bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue” that have oppressed those wishing to move the efforts of education reform to focus on what is best for children and what child need us to do to ensure they have been provided with quality learning opportunities that fit their individual needs.

Martin Luther King saw others “smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society” and knew it was morally wrong to turn away. We must face that same problem now.

We are left “with no other alternative.” The time is right for civil disobedient in the education reform arena. Test refusal is the tool.

Choices We Must Make

No Child Left Behind (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – ESEA) has forced the direction of education “reform” without bringing to the table those who understand the needs of our communities and our children — the real stakeholders — the People.

That federal law combined with our financial wrong turns as a nation and the misguided reforms of the last three decades has brought public education to a crossroads. Only as a united nation can we prevent the system from being brought to its knees.

Decide and Take Action

Decide and Take Action!

Choices must be made.

Provide standardized education for the masses with individualized instruction for the lucky few and those that can afford it, or provide equal access to quality education?

Allow teaching to become another low-wage trade, ripe for outsourcing and importing, or remain a profession that we can continuously improve?

Spend our education dollars to support privatization of public schools, or invest in supporting and strengthening the institution of public education?

Continue to follow the pretense of reforms, or solve school improvement problems?

Stop the No-Win Blame Game

Excerpt from The Crucial Voice: Chapter 5 What Is the Problem? Why Children Get Left Behind

WHAT WE HAVE IS A SYSTEMIC FAILURE

The system has failed to thoroughly educate the public about educational issues. Our inaction on this long-ago identified problem has led us to accept the unacceptable. As Yong Zhao observed in his book Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization, “The American public, short of other easy-to-understand measures, seems to have accepted the notion that test scores are an accurate measure of the quality of their schools” (2009, 33). It is not right.

The takeover of our education policy and practices at the exclusion of “us” in the process has not been a result of the “business-model”; it has been a result of a greed-driven, self-serving society. It has brought more education wars: competition in opposition to cooperation, choice against commonality, rigor versus flexibility. Stop. The collateral damage has been too great.

The system has failed to show understanding of the learning environment that 89dd4de0e80a965b6d93a07100f7af0dneeds to be created in classrooms and in communities to provide what children need to be educated to their fullest potential. We have unknowingly created another “gap”—the wisdom gap. It is reminiscent of the story of the old man picking up starfish on the beach and throwing them back. A young boy thinking it foolish tells the old man, “it doesn’t matter; they’ll wash up again tomorrow.” The old man flings one far into the sea and says, “It mattered to this one.” That story didn’t just demonstrate that we can save one at a time; it also expressed the vision of the elder passing on wisdom to our youth.

Wisdom comes from knowledge, experience, and understanding. It comes with time. And as John Taylor Gatto expressed in Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, “without children and old people mixing in daily life, a community has no future and no past, only a continuous present” (2005, 21). Gatto originally wrote that book in 1992 and used the term “pseudo-community.” In far too many places today, our “present” is no different from our past. Our nation is at risk.

But remember, not all schools are a problem. Schools that fail to properly educate children have a common underlying issue, as expressed by Ratner, “the absence of the key human resources” necessary to be effective (2007, 22). And if “academic proficiency” is our educational goal, current policies incorrectly assume “that schools and districts already know what to do to accomplish this goal and have the capacity to do so. . . . And it incorrectly assumes that if districts cannot turn failing schools around, the state departments of education have the capacity to assist them to do so, or, if necessary, to do it themselves” (49).

Capacity means possessing the knowledge, skills, abilities, motivation, and desire to accomplish a goal. In the case of school improvement, it means being able to take the handbook off the shelf and make things happen. First, we have to stop blaming each other. And then as Philip K. will tell you, “We must put aside our differences.”

We’ve all heard teachers who complained about how “the families of their students simply did not value education” (Noguera, 2003, 47). Yet it turns out that this statement, as Noguera points out in his story, was made by people who in reality didn’t know this to be true. It was and continues to be an assumption. If lawmakers and educators are out there “blaming uncaring parents, lazy students, or a society that does not provide adequately for the needs of poor children” (49), they need to stop playing the no-win blame game so we can get on with meeting our shared responsibility to serve the educational and developmental needs of all children.

When we have underperforming schools anywhere in our country, we have a systemic problem. If you believe there is no way to “reform” the public school system, then it is understandable that you would want to throw in the towel and privatize the whole business. But there is another choice.

We now understand better than ever what needs to happen and where that change needs to occur first—in the boundary waters where teachers, parents, and kids are found floating around searching for solutions to grab onto. ©2012 The Crucial Voice of the People, Past and Present (Note: Boundary Dynamics explains my use of “boundary waters.”)

Will society throw them a strong lifeline?

Will society throw out a strong lifeline?

Gatto, John Taylor. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, Iceland Gabriola: New Society Publishers, 2005.

Noguera, Pedro A. City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education. New York: Columbia University, Teachers College Press, 2003.

Ratner, Gershon (Gary) M. Why the No Child Left Behind Act Needs to be Restructured to Accomplish Its Goals and How to Do It. University of the District of Columbia Law Review, David A. Clark School of Law, Vol.9, Number 1, Winter 2007.

Zhao, Yong. Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization. ASCD, Alexandria, Virginia, 2009.

“Just” Standards

“These standards are just that—they are standards.” These are the words used by Luci Willits of Idaho State Department of Education, Chief of Staff to Tom Luna, as she introduced Common Core to our Senate Education Committee (1/19/11). And you will hear that sentiment parroted by others; “The standards are just that: standards.” Bill Gates (2/12/14)

But when you look further, you can find the claim that “When the grant [Race to the Top] was put forth, the State Department of Education went to the colleges to ensure that any student who passes these standards will be able to go to any college without the need of remedial training.”

Standards DON’T “ensure” student success. Somehow, these standards became magical standards. And all of Idaho’s major colleges and universities stood with arms locked in testimony to the Core.

Standards are “just” guides. But these standards —The Common Core Standards — are much, much more. They are the Trojan Horse of systemic transformation.

But Idaho’s department of education went even further in claiming “There is also tremendous cost-savings associated with these standards; Idaho will be able to get the test it has always wanted but never been able to pay for.” Who will pay? The same magician sprinkling fairy dust, or, will we all be paying the pied piper?

Lawmakers across the country are being asked to judge whether this is the change that is best for children, families, and communities. How will they make the call when the horse is so attractive?

Expose what is in the belly of the beast. The foundational principles, or the assumptions that are made by those in power, are what is important to understand.

Look inside!

Look inside!

  • The State will decide what education outcomes are important based on economic data.
  • Local control is a barrier that can be gotten around by training school board members properly (decided by the Broad Foundation?).
  • Lay-citizen participation in governance of schools should be weakened “in favor of control by politicians, especially governors, elected positions in general government.” (Marc Tucker, Governing American Education, page 44)

Real school improvement involves “lay-citizens.” But that is not how it is seen from above.

I know many people believe that private industry can do a better job than public institutions. But, please, think about what happens when private associations and organizations are using the law to their benefit – monetarily or for political power – what will be the true cost to taxpayers?

In Idaho, as it would seem to be the case across the country, the seemingly innocent policy of strategic planning and training of school boards is being put into law. It is putting the governing of schools at the local level in jeopardy.

Strategic planning is not necessarily a school improvement process; it all depends on who does the “training” and what “curriculum” they are using. What will those in control be “leveraging” our board members to do?

Close the gate (so to speak). Keep the Trojan Horse out!

Decide how schools will be governed. It matters!

STANDARDIZED & PRIVATIZED

Are Americans sure they want a standardized and privatized system of “public” schools? Does the public understand what is happening?

Dismantling through standardization and privatization. That is what is being done using

Hard to See. That's why they call it Hidden Privatization.

Hard to See. That’s why they call it Hidden Privatization.

the crowbar of outcome-based “reforms.”

Long ago political leaders of both parties began allowing and fostering policies that the arrogant and greedy have used to their advantage and to our detriment. We are allowing a widely recognized destructive and over-reaching federal law —No Child Left Behind (NCLB)—to go unchecked and unchanged. (As of December 2015 the name was changed to the Every Student Succeeds Act – ESSA- but it is still an outcome-based (test-based) federal law.

NCLB celebrated its 12th birthday. It is officially six years overdue for revision—according to its own statute. Why? Is it because Congress can’t get it right, or, is the law doing exactly what it was meant to do?

What we know it did:
1.    Narrowed the curriculum,
2.    Produced cheating scandals,
3.    Gave use data without real results,
4.    Diminished local control and divided communities.

What we know it did NOT do:
1.    Increase accountability for results,
2.    Narrow the achievement gap.

It appears that NCLB also opened the policy door for full standardization and privatization with policies promoted as putting “students first” and the latest new tool for undermining the system — Common Core.

The Idaho task force recommendations* rely heavily on Common Core, the Luna Laws, and outcome-based theory (upon which NCLB was based). R&D – research and development (not Republicans and Democrats) – recommends differently.

*Note: Idaho has its Governor’s “Task Force for Improving Education” putting forth 20 recommendations that the public knows little of in the way of details – but the “preview” is well written. Poised to repeat the mistakes of the past!

*****Double Note for the Nation*****Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Who controls “leadership” and school board “training”? It is in our soon to pass laws – better check yours.

This was originally written for and published in the Idaho Statesman January 30, 2014.

I’m sharing it here because I believe – we must share what we know to be the truth. Also consider, To Privatize or Not to Privatize

And for those brave enough to want to consider the global scale of this, check out Hidden Privatisation. Here’s a one page brief.

Thank you for caring….Now let’s stop this destruction!

Public Education: Is It Broken?

Depends on your perspective. If you are a parent or concerned citizen finding your efforts to improve your schools blocked, it is a broken system that allows that to happen. It’s a case of no one being responsible for inaction where and when action is needed.

What's broken?

What’s broken?

When “the system” becomes a barrier to improvement—through unacceptable policies and practices — the system is broken.

That doesn’t mean that all pieces are broken (not all schools, all teachers, all places), but it does mean the system failed to serve, protect, and educate ALL children as well as we can. So this is a place where my perspective differs from Diane Ravitch’s; she continues to say it “is not broken.” Where we do agree is here: “What began as a movement for testing and accountability has turned into a privatization movement.”

The result is unacceptable policies leading to unethical testing, scoring, and reporting practices furthering the already existing inequality of opportunity, segregation, and privatization. I hope people everywhere can agree on this; this is a cycle that is dismantling the system, piece-by-piece, policy-by-policy. Those openly aiming to privatize the public education system are boasting over the strides they have made in transforming the system.

One way the Friedman Foundation measures success is…

“the increase in the percentage of public dollars going to fund private school choice compared to the overall funds going to all K-12 education.”

This is the data they track! Comparing to overall funding!!!! Success is when that decreases?

My theory, speaking as a parent with children in the system during the first big take-down (the No Child Left Behind policy), is that privatization never would have gotten this far if policymakers AND the public had been listening to the multitude of people trying to stop the political machine driving the movement and driving our children over the cliff in the process. But we can’t go back and change what happened; we can, however, change policies.

What we can do is move forward determined not to repeat the mistake of ignoring the crucial voices of people wanting to do the right thing for the right reason. We have to sort out those who are offering real, good, practical solutions to existing significant problems—true reformers —and those wishing to transform the system to fit their ideology or to profit the education-industrial complex.

Reformer, or Transformer?

To transform means to change the appearance, character of, or function of.  To reform means to make better. Now, what ARE we doing to our education system?

I saw problems in my local schools and I offered solutions. Is there a high poverty rate in my area? Yes, now 83% free & reduced lunch children. Could the solutions not be accomplished because of poverty? No. And let me give you an example.

When we were in the process of expanding into a brand new school building, our district was going to have empty classrooms. Having helped in first grade classes with 28 students and seen the behavioral distractions that then led to decreased instructional time, decreased personalized attention, and the creation of at-risk students — I didn’t give a damn what research said or didn’t say — it makes good sense to start kids off on the right foot! Race of life and all that, ya know?

So, I did my math and brought a proposal to the school board to decrease only first grade class size; not as an experiment, but because it was the right thing to do at the right time. Before this, limited facilities had always been the excuse for the crowded classrooms. Could we not afford to do it? No, we could at the time. “We” just chose not to. Proposal rejected; no explanation.

Enter what Diane Ravitch in Reign of Error called the “’reform’ agenda including high-stakes testing, test-based accountability, competition, and school choice.” Did these efforts make the public education system better? NO – they are not reforms. Did they change the appearance of the system? YES – it appears more dysfunctional than ever. Did they change the character of schools? YES – much more test-based. Did they change the function of the system? Let me answer using Ravitch’s words here: “What began as a movement for testing and accountability has turned into a privatization movement.” The function of policies and practices did change.

The people pushing the privatization movement are transformers, transforming public institutions into private profits.

I am a reformer. They have not earned the right nor deserve the privilege to wear that label. Reformers work to make things better, not destroy them.

Call them what they are - TRANSFORMERS.

Call them what they are – TRANSFORMERS.

 

Transformational change is not the change we need. STOP the Dismantling of the PUBLIC SYSTEM so we may begin to make things better.

Understand what reform is and is not.