The Graphic Truth About Our Education System

Please, take a good look at the graphic truth about public education in America.

National leaders and much of the media repeatedly call the system “failed.” That is their version of the graphic truth. They point to test scores as “evidence.” President Trump described the institution as an …

“education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”

That’s disturbing. Also disturbing is this reporters response to Trump’s “facts” in Trump’s vision of education begins and ends with schools being bad.

“… it’s true that the United States spends quite a bit, relatively speaking, on education, and test results are fairly disappointing.”

But let’s dig deeper into the Trump/DeVos “facts.”

Look closer at the Graphic Truth About Spending and OutcomesTotal costs DID rise dramatically. So did employees. But why? Blame the teacher’s union? Not so fast.Look closer at “The Other Half.”

“America now spends a greater percentage of its education funding on non-teachers than any other country in the world besides Denmark.” CBS News

And the Graphic Truth About Our Education “Outcomes”?

In the news article previously referenced, the reporter states that…

“…tests that try to measure how American students stack up to their peers show that the US is far from No. 1. On the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). … American 15-year-olds scored as average in science and reading and were below average in math.”

Below average in math is what makes the headlines. But to this reporter’s credit, she also stated that…

Another test with different methodology found American students fared better but still scored below Singapore, Japan, Korea, and Russia.”

That other “test” she referred to is TIMSS (Trends in Math and Science Study). It is a study with test results being ONLY one portion of the study —the only portion that makes the news. How about progress on our own national test (NAEP – National Assessment of Educational Progress)?

We made huge progress — until we stalled.

And now, the public education system must defend itself against its current education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who sees traditional public schools as “a dead end.” She, and our other political leaders, need to see the graphic truth about our national progress in a broader historic perspective.

Dead end? Hardly.

Ending illiteracy was a primary reason for developing the public education system. Progress was most definitely made …. until it wasn’t!

This graph was made to help justify No Child Left Behind. NOW, it should be used to demonstrate WHY NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND WAS SUCH A COSTLY FAILURE.

*The following is a MUST KNOW Small but Essential Piece of Education Reform History*

During the 60’s, the nation began making universal efforts (through the force of law) to offer educational opportunity to ALL of America’s children.

To help monitor our progress towards that goal, NAEP was designed to provide a randomized sample of education-related information. NAEP provided statistics for researchers to monitor and help guide the nation’s schools towards equal access to quality education. It was not a tool for ENFORCING accountability where it matters most. Unfortunately, the scores have become a weapon.

So if you look back at the colored NAEP charts, you can see that the country was indeed showing MARKED improvement in basic reading and mathematics skills for groups of children that typically were being under-served (disadvantaged groups). And we were making this progress without detriment to the majority group. That was exactly what we wanted to be doing.

Given what was happening in schools and society at the time, a “flat-line” in the early years of NAEP was perfectly acceptable. But yes, we believe it isn’t good enough to remain educationally stagnant especially with such dramatically increasing costs. However, that is why the public needs to understand a bit more of the politics behind the statistics.

Where Congress Took A Wrong Turn

In 1976, Congress began the policy change FROM federal funding focused on meeting the needs of disadvantaged children TO funding achievement in “basic academic subjects.” That took the public’s focus off indicators of educational equity and quality and put it on the simplistic measure of higher test scores.

This was a WARNING!  September 1991: Education Counts: An Indicator System To Monitor the Nation’s Educational Health. … A Warning IGNORED.

By 1992, standards-based (outcome-focused) education had taken over the states. Education reform plans were “built solely around achievement tests.”

And it didn’t take long for the money-making predators in the education industry to see where profits were to be made. The public was told the restructuring of schools was for our own good — to remain economically competitive internationally. The reality: those selling “education products” benefited most. 

The quest for higher “scores” in basic subjects cost the nation in multiple ways.

Truth Be Told: Education is more than a score!Before the takeover of educational improvement by political and corporate leaders, we led the world in higher educational attainment.

This Graphic Truth was provided by Sandia National Researchers in 1991.

And after the federalization (NCLB) of Outcome-Based Education Reform???? Look at the graphic truth. From 2000 to 2016, we went FROM being second only to Canada (36% to their 40%) TO having four other countries surpass us.

We were TOLD we needed “higher standards” and they must be “benchmarked” internationally (Common Core).

Yet, we had cultivated educational excellence in our best and brightest —in this country— without common national standards.

This Graphic Truth is provided by Dr. David Berliner.

So why would we want to “benchmark” basic academic standards to these other countries? … ?

We are a productive people.

This Graphic Truth is provided by Dr. David Berliner.

And before No Child Left Behind (2001) and Common Core (2010) wreaked tyranny upon the local control of education, most PARENTS were satisfied with their local public schools.

Politicians and other leaders —with political and monetary agendas— disrupted our educational progress, upset parents and teachers, and decreased the quality of education for many children. They restructured our schools into a standardized, outcome-focused gutted version of what was a great system.

That is what we have allowed.

A Call To Action is Overdue

If this country now wishes to stop the destruction of public schools, we have to take action. The current leadership has no intention of preserving and improving public schools.

“Options” are taking away money … harming the children left behind. Photo credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP Source: Clarion Ledger

To save this system from the current destructive forces of federal law and those administering their wrath upon this nation’s public schools, a wide-reaching Congressional Oversight Hearing concerning the actions of Secretary DeVos are warranted and necessary as a first step.

Then Congress needs to go back to the drawing board on federal education law and MAKE IT RIGHT this time. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) did not fix what was wrong with No Child Left Behind.

Zombie Ideas Are Killing Public Education

“Zombie ideas … are policy ideas that keep being killed by evidence, but nonetheless shamble relentlessly forward, essentially because they suit a political agenda.” Paul Krugman

Zombie Ideas!?!

Exactly! … Policymakers have been using zombie ideas to dismantle, transform, and restructure the public education system. But there is a mountain of evidence that the zombie ideas in No Child Left Behind didn’t show any appreciable improvement in student achievement. So why not end the zombie invasion killing our public schools, now?

Zombie ideas are hard to kill because they have already been killed by evidence! Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec

What Zombie Ideas?

The test-based, metric-driven accountability of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law is based on a political agenda, not proven education reforms. Now, NCLB is called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) but the same policy ideas and political agenda remain in place. The same detrimental consequences persist because the aim and purpose of the law did not change.

Zombie Ideas in Education: High-Stakes Testing and Graduation Policies*

Solórzano (2008) found that the results of high-stakes tests used as a high school diploma requirement “show quite clearly that Blacks and Latinos (and English Language Learners) are disproportionately failing them, whether enrolled in Texas, New York, California, or Minnesota” (p. 312).

He goes on to say that students who do poorly on these exams “are viewed as the problem; they are retained, tracked, or denied graduation” (p. 316) and cites several sources for this statement.

Then, comes the most logical and obvious, yet often negated fact of this matter: “They are held solely responsible for their grades, when in fact, they may not have had equal chance of learning because of the unequal resources and opportunities at their disposal at their school site” (p. 316).

The policy of high-stakes testing that has led to multiple incorrect, unethical, and detrimental uses of test results is just one example of a zombie idea that needs to die —permanently.

Other Zombie Ideas That Just Won’t Die!

Choice and competition are market-based ideas whose theories have been applied to public education to transform and restructure our public system into a privatized system. So based on the idea of school choice as a reform, researchers** examined student achievement under this Market Theory  — with the demand side being “school choosers” and the supply side being schools. They did so while also cautioning that psychologists are well aware of the effect of “choice.”

Theory On the Demand Side:

“The simple act of choosing a school then might contribute to a family’s satisfaction with that school.”

Theory On the Supply Side:

“Decentralized decision-making itself might be beneficial to students. … This local control could lead to more efficient, locally appropriate use of resources, better alignment and camaraderie among the school personnel, and improved responsiveness to opportunities and challenges.”

But Overall:

“While there are isolated (and sometimes very impressive) success stories, school choice reforms have not proven to be unambiguously effective on the whole.”

Charter or Voucher: It Doesn’t Matter

“Much like the charter school literature, the literature on private school vouchers does not conclusively link the use of vouchers to improved academic performance.”

Existing Public Schools are Forced to Compete: True

“While most principals report competing for students, few report that they compete by making curricular or instructional changes that might appeal to parents. Instead, they are considerably more likely to report competing through outreach and advertisement.”

Choice and competition are zombie ideas that increase return on investment to the education industry — and the cottage industries of marketing, data analysis, and advertising. School choice is not a systemic reform. It is a market theory that doesn’t tackle the solutions we should focus on — those that strengthen and improve educational quality and opportunity FOR ALL CHILDREN.

Rising from the Depths of the Swamp: More Zombies or Real Reform?

While the political agenda behind the zombie ideas focuses the nation’s attention on “outputs,” the idea of focusing reforms on “inputs” keeps getting buried alive. Even though it is logical and obvious that learning requires specific inputs, that poorer communities have fewer resources, and that the schools that struggle to provide better education are located in areas of concentrated poverty — our laws remain fixed on Outcome-Based (output) Theory.

While federal and state lawmakers continually mandate higher learning standards, “service delivery standards” remain buried in history.

Yes, it is true. Once upon a time America saw educating its youth as a public service. We were going to set a quality standard for delivering that service. While we still hear the phrase “Opportunity-to-Learn Standards,” those pushing their political agenda to privatize the system kill that conversation. Their actions say they don’t care about all the nation’s children. If those in power really cared, they would have pushed for “service delivery standards” to support local school improvements.

Instead of bad policy ideas being killed by evidence, those with a political agenda are killing the public education system.

Zombies are hard to kill because they are already dead. But it seems to be common knowledge that to kill a zombie you must destroy its brain.

These zombie reform ideas —high-stakes testing, metric-driven centralized accountability, competition through charters and vouchers — don’t die because they serve a political agenda. It is the “brains of the operation” that we must expose and politically destroy.

Sources:
*Kern, Diane. Zombie Ideas in Education: High-Stakes Testing and Graduation Policies. New England Reading Association Journal 49.1(2013): 96.

**Loeb, S., Valant, J., Kasman, M., Increasing Choice in the Market for Schools: Recent Reforms and their Effects on Student Achievement. Forum on the Education Reform in an Era of Fiscal Imbalance. National Tax Journal, March 2011, 64 (1), 141–164.

The Fierce Urgency of Now

Spoken by Martin Luther King and repeated often, do the words “the fierce urgency of now” no longer stir our souls? Did they ever?

Why the Urgency NOW?

The urgency is the need for all of us to filter out the divisive political language coming at us from all sides. In this moment, we need to look back at what was once only a theory. Now our reality is that economic theory fostered a political strategy to supplant our constitutional republic with “a private governing elite of corporate power.” *Those pushing corporate control understand how essential it is for them to …

“…kill public education because it tend[s] to foster community values…” *

And market-based education reforms became the weapon of choice. But the role of political economist James M. Buchanan is only now being closely scrutinized. Buchanan’s theories explain much about the divisiveness destroying our schools and our nation.

“…[Buchanan] observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly ASSUMED that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. …[T]hat was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to ‘tear down.’ His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as ‘public choice.’” *

Public Interest vs. Public Choice

Public interest is defined as “the welfare or well-being of the general public.” It is a national goal clearly stated in the Constitution’s preamble — “in Order to … promote the general Welfare…”.

To “tear down” our assumption that officials are acting in the public’s interest is one thing. To destroy our union is another. That goal does NOT appear to be one of the aims of Buchanan’s original 1986 Nobel Prize winning work on “Public Choice Theory.”

In its announcement of the prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted, “Buchanan’s foremost achievement is that he has consistently and tenaciously emphasized the significance of fundamental rules and applied the concept of the political system as an exchange process for the achievement of mutual advantages.Tennessee Encyclopedia (James McGill Buchanan)

His “research program” ** centered on the belief that people make purchases (market choices) based on value. He saw the public making political choices they believed would benefit them. He viewed us as making choices based on our own “venal self-interest.” *

So he and his ilk developed what they called “non-market decision-making.” Finding that name “awkward” and not as appetizing to “free-market” thinkers, the groups’ organization and publications took on the name “Public Choice.” **

Choice or Coercion?

Some researchers believe that Buchanan’s Public Choice Theory began as an “optimistic conception” based on “unanimous consent of the people.” But he later adopted a more “pessimistic view” about “social organization” and people’s “intolerance” to entering into the discussions necessary to reach consensus on issues. Thus Buchanan’s emphasis morphed from “individual freedom” to the need to “enforce order.” ***

As Buchanan explained “Public Choice” to an audience (2003) …

Public choice, in its basic insights into the workings of politics, incorporates an understanding of human nature that differs little, if at all, from that of James Madison and his colleagues at the time of the American Founding.” **

Buchanan wrote that for public consumption. It’s a distortion of history, which is likely being perpetuated through institutions such as George Mason University in Virginia.* And in misrepresenting the American Founding Principles, Buchanan opened himself up to being viewed as a major manipulator in our historic fight against corporate control.

James Madison vs. James Buchanan 

As a key author of the Constitution, Madison left a record of discussions about our nations founding principles. Therefore, a better understanding of the American Founding political views can be gleaned from Madison’s correspondence with a colleague who Buchanan also admired. ***

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 17 October 1788 (The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Julian P. Boyd, ed., vol. xiv, pp. 18-21) …

“With regard to Monopolies, they are justly classed among the greatest nuisances in Government. … Monopolies are sacrifices of the many to the few. Where the power is in the few it is natural for them to sacrifice the many to their own partialities and corruptions.”

Madison went on to express his doubts about a government takeover by monopolies being skeptical …

“…that a succession of artful and ambitious rulers may be gradual & well timed advances, finally erect an independent Government on the subversion of liberty. … Is there not also infinitely less danger of this abuse in our Government than in most others? … with the power as with us is in the manyIt is much more to be dreaded that the few will be unnecessarily sacrificed to the many …”

It appears the expressed sentiment of that last sentence was taken to imply that corporations are the ones in need of constitutional protection from the masses. But Buchanan obviously took Madison’s words out of their historic time and context. Regardless, Buchanan did communicate to the public an association of his “public choice theory” with our nation’s founding principles.

****This quote is from the blog of libertarian economist, Daniel J. “Dan” Mitchell who believes Buchanan’s ideas are being misrepresented.

Same Old Fight: Big vs. Smaller Government?

Not Quite! Think about the following in relationship to the privatization of public education through “school choice” models. The allure of choice is deadly.

With our political choices being analyzed under market-based economic theory, it is assumed people make choices based on their own self-interests — first and foremost. We shouldn’t deny that as a truism. But when market forces through privatization of public services or goods come into play, competition for a limited supply will result in winners and losers. Always does.

We risk having children lose, or never develop, the safe and secure sense of belonging that defines “community values.” When all of us are seen as “self-interested players in the marketplace,” **** we are vulnerable to division. Competition for public services runs the high risk of destroying community values, but, that part of the equation didn’t seem to garner much consideration.

Instead, Buchanan saw the need to bring his vision to life by NOT focusing on who rules because who the public chooses doesn’t matter since elected officials don’t act in the public interest anyway. Therefore, this brilliant political economist focused on the rules themselves.

“… the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.” *

Buchanan found many willing partners.

“Subversion of Liberty”? Translation: Sabotage of Authority

What Madison saw as improbable under our constitutional republic — “a succession of artful and ambitious rulers” changing the balance of power — is exactly what is happening. Our federal government IS under the control of special interests. Many state governments are no different because too many of our representatives ARE no longer serving in the public interest.

The toxic divisiveness of party politics is permeating our communities. The principles of localism and populism, which formed the fabric of our founding documents, are being replaced by corporatism. Thus, when we can no longer reach consensus on the issues that matter, the authorities will step in and set the rules “to enforce order.” ***

This scenario should sound familiar to Baby Boomers. It was a shared American experience on many college campuses during the protests of the 60’s and 70’s. Martial law was declared in many places, which Buchanan supported (at Berkley***). And not to be forgotten were the killing of students by the National Guard. That’s about the time Buchanan’s vision of “unanimous consent of the people” *** seemed to change.

Now? Consider this.

“[historian Nancy] MacLean details how partnered with [Charles] Koch, Buchanan’s outpost at George Mason University was able to …  promote new curricula for economics education, and court politicians in nearby Washington, D.C.”

“… MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. ‘40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary,’ writes MacLean, ‘had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum.’” *

Supreme Urgency?

Think about the urgency demonstrated during the confirmations of both Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Ask yourself, why the fierce urgency?

Think about it. When changing the Constitution is still out of reach, CONTROL of the U.S. Department of Education and having corporate-minded allies on the Supreme Court are a handy pair of tools. Then it requires pushing appeals through the court system to the level of the Supreme Court. Once there, having enough justices interpreting our Constitution and rules in ways that favor corporations and the wealthy is almost as good as a “constitutional revolution.” *

This is no longer just theory and we knew this day was coming. Now …

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” MLK

Vote, of course.

Is that enough? Absolutely not.

References

* FROM THE LEFT ⇒ Lynne Parramore, “Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America”

**ORIGINAL SOURCE ⇒ James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in Economic Science, George Mason University, “What is Public Choice Theory?”

***STUDY OF BUCHANAN’s EDUCATION SPECIFIC WRITINGS ⇒ Jean-Baptiste Fleury THEMA, Université de Cergy-Pontoise, Alain Marciano MRE, Université de Montpellier, Montpellier, Franc. “The Making of a Constitutionalist: James Buchanan on Education”

**** FROM A LIBERTARIAN VIEW ⇒ Daniel J. “Dan” Mitchell, former senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “A Taxpayer-Funded Smear Job of Professor James Buchanan”

 

We Set Our Course On The Wrong Destination

The Declaration of Independence is seen as our nation’s promise. It contains guiding principles upon which our nation was built. Its words invoked a vision, a place to be created, a destination. Because of it, America became the “separate and equal” sovereign nation it set out to be.

By 1954, it was decided that when it came to public schools “separate but unequal” was our reality. A socioeconomic and racial inequality in America was acknowledged. That fact alone was justification for the writing of federal education law in 1965. And we set our course of action on offering equal access. However, desegregation —a forced attempt to offer that access—overshadowed full implementation of the law.

But equal access alone was never enough; the American standard is one of quality.

So as 1983 rolled around, the National Commission on Excellence in Education openly questioned the quality of our public secondary schools and made the call that we were A Nation at Risk based on eleven “indicators.” The majority of those measures were standardized test scores. The course was set. The destination was higher scores.

At that time, the commission’s analysis of statistics painted a bleak picture. And even though some of us still believe their recommendations were generally in the best interest of improving education, it is the commission’s “final” diagnosis of the quality of education in America that has been a topic of dispute in education circles for 35 years — with good reason.

A decade after the release of A Nation at Risk, researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories conducted their own study of elementary and secondary education. The only article about this investigation that the public has some access to is a summary titled “Perspectives on Education in America” (The Journal of Educational Research, Volume 86, Number 5, May/June 1993).

Sandia researchers did their own analysis of U.S. student’s performance on international and national test scores in addition to looking at “the education goals proposed by President [H.W.] Bush and the nation’s Governors.” They wrote that their analysis “focused on popular measures used to discuss the status of education in America.”

They found that in “nearly every” popular measure there was a “steady or slightly improving trend.” These researchers did not interpret this to mean that we don’t need to improve; they questioned the appropriateness of the popular measures, the difficulty of predicting the future educational needs of the country, and they found us “clearly deficient” on some measures they felt were appropriate.

So if left to their own devises, would the Sandia analysts choose different indicators of educational quality and achievement? The country did not ask.

Have our policymakers taken their findings into consideration? The country cannot possibly know.

This group of engineers — admittedly looking at education from an apolitical, outsiders’ view — summarized for us; the challenges we must face, the barriers that can impede educational improvement, and the conflicts they anticipated with the “reforms” being proposed.

Their findings should have been taken as cautionary. But the country did not hear them.The report was suppressed. The report, and the perplexing act of its contents being censored, failed to draw the attention of the media.

This lack of pertinent information has left us drifting along using “questionable measures.” And we lurched forward with full sails into the gusty winds of conflicting reform theories while anchoring them firmly in law — without good reason.

Any comparisons of U.S. scores on international tests should be seen as irrelevant in discussions of reform until the faults in those comparisons are clearly explained to the public.

What there should be no doubt about is that Gerald Bracey was correct in his observation that 20 years after A Nation at Risk, “The various special interest groups in education need[ed] another treatise to rally round. And now they have one. It’s called No Child Left Behind. It’s a weapon of mass destruction, and the target is the public school system. Today, our public schools are truly at risk.”

Now we know the destination set for the nation is privatization of our public schools.

Today, to effectively use history as a guide, we need the unfiltered insight of some of our best and brightest minds. We need the truth.

As the Sandia report quoted Clark Kerr, then President Emeritus of the University of California:

“Seldom in the course of policymaking in the U.S. have so many firm convictions held by so many been based on so little convincing proof.”

And that is now sadly true of the nation as a whole. We set course towards an illusion that raising test scores would produce “excellence.”

Good decisions are based on observation and evidence.

When information is withheld, we are more inclined to choose a course of action that takes us in the wrong direction. And the destination set for us appears to not be the one the American people desire.

Once upon a time, we were on course “To strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities in the Nation’s elementary and secondary schools.” We are now running full speed ahead towards the alluring but deceptive goal of better test scores.

It is time to write a better passage in this reform saga by starting with the long ago expired and fault-ridden federal education law inappropriately named “No Child Left Behind” and now called the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” To do so responsibly requires we have a true assessment of our education system.

If this country’s leaders sincerely believe in excellent education for all, they will bring the missing Sandia Report up from the depths and welcome re-analysis of both it and A Nation at Risk. Our course in education reform, and our monitoring of it, depends on wise and informed decision-making. Our republic requires it.

(P.S. A version of this blog was originally posted on TruthOut in 2014.)

A False Crisis Set Education Reform Adrift for 35 Years

The false crisis —created by politicians pushing a political agenda— focused the nation’s attention on the wrong reforms.

6-14-1983 President Reagan participating in a Regional Forum on the National Commission on Excellence in Education Report with Governor Lamar Alexander at the Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tennessee

The political debate that followed the release of A Nation at Risk kept the public from hearing the potential solutions offered in the report itself. While President Reagan’s report on education in America is famous for the words that helped create the false crisis, “a rising tide of mediocrity,” the lesser-known words from A Nation at Risk were those describing the creation of a “Learning Society.”

Unfortunately, Reagan did not speak in public about a “Learning Society”a concept that has now been redefined by a variety of organizations further muddying our political “education reform” waters.

The National Commission on Excellence in Education clearly conveyed the ideal of a Learning Society by its…

“commitment to a set of values and to a system of education that affords all members the opportunity to stretch their minds to full capacity, from early childhood through adulthood…”

The concept of the Learning Society is centered on creating life-long learning as the norm. It is about the need for our education system to ensure all children are learning how to learn. It is about becoming self-reliant in an ever-changing world.

The Commission began its study in 1981 with some well-defined items of “concern” to be addressed in their investigation. Included was “defining problems which must be faced and overcome if we are successfully to pursue the course of excellence in education.” The focus of the study was secondary schools (high schools and colleges). On the other hand, the false crisis was about all of K-12 education.

Instead of explaining the recommendations of the commission, Reagan declared that his administration would work…

“for passage of tuition tax credits, vouchers, educational savings accounts, voluntary school prayer, and abolishing the Department of Education.”

He stated that the political agenda was…

“to restore quality to education by increasing competition and by strengthening parental choice and local control.”

None of President Reagan’s political rhetoric was written in the report.

And as Valarie Strauss recalled Reagan’s education legacy, he “may best be known for his oft-stated desire to eliminate the Department of Education. What some may forget is that he changed his mind” in 1983 after the release of A Nation at Risk. Now, we can only speculate as to why that might be.

But if the past is but prologue, it behooves us to now hear some of the actual findings and recommendations from the commission that wrote A Nation at Risk.

The study found “inadequacies in the way the educational process itself is often conducted.” And researchers narrowed their list to “four important aspects of the educational process: content, expectations, time, and teaching.” Their recommendations focused on those four areas.

The commission expressed an understanding of an “emerging national sense of frustration [that] can be described as both a dimming of personal expectations and the fear of losing a shared vision for America.” They expressed their hope that this [education reform] “could well become a unifying national preoccupation.” They warned.

“This unity, however, can be achieved only if we avoid the unproductive tendency of some to search for scapegoats among the victims, such as the beleaguered teachers.”

Today we know with certainty that the warning was ignored.

The National Commission on Excellence in Education asked that we use “history as our guide.” They felt it important to remind us,..

“In the 19th century our land-grant colleges and universities provided the research and training that developed our Nation’s natural resources and the rich agricultural bounty of the American farm” … and that… “American schools provided the educated workforce needed to seal the success of the Industrial Revolution and to provide the margin of victory in two world wars.”

The American system has not FAILED to serve our country. And the recommendations were made based on the belief that the future required improvement.

20 years later, the late and much respected educator Gerald Bracey called the recommendations “banal”— nothing new. Another decade passed as did reform law after reform law. And here we are, still fighting the same historical battles.

As with any history, our history of education reforms are viewed based on the personal perspectives of both the writers and readers. The readers have the choice of putting their own views aside and trying to understand that of the writer. Here’s how I see things:

Those of us born in the late 50’s, who experienced childhood in the 60’s and adolescence in the 70’s, have the advantage of hindsight; our experiences are now our country’s history. I was of the generation investigated by the “Nation at Risk” commission. The quality of education in my small, mid-western, blue-collar town with its racially mixed schools was viewed, by many of us, as mediocre. Its high school is now closed and the students are bused to their school of choice. Our town was put at risk.

So 35 years after the National Commission on Excellence in Education published their report, I can also look back through the lens of my children’s educational experiences during the implementation of No Child Left Behind in a western city — high-minority, high-poverty setting — and I wish the people of this nation had insisted that all schools follow the banal recommendations of A Nation at Risk. As a parent, I would have been pleased to have my schools offer what this report endorsed.

It took another decade before the false crisis was significantly challenged and then the evidence would be buried.

Now, I can only hope we will set things straight for the next generation —using history as our guide.

(P.S. A version of this blog was first posted on TruthOut in 2014.)

35 Years Adrift on an Ocean of Reforms

A Nation at Risk began as a commissioned report to define problems in America’s schools. It became known more for the longstanding political debates that developed. But did this single report produce the ocean of reforms that now threaten to destroy our public schools? Was it the report that forced us to set our course on national standards and testing? Or did a few choice words, and powerful people, set us drifting on the ocean of reforms that are now eroding the educational foundation of America?

“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

Like or loathe them, those words from A Nation at Risk live on in education reform infamy.

MormonWiki Secretary of Education Terrel Bell with President Reagan

As President Reagan explained, he and his Secretary of Education T. H. Bell “agreed that it was imperative to assemble a panel of America’s leading educators, an assembly of such eminence that the Nation would listen to its findings.” So when the nation did listen, it was Ronald Reagan, not the experts, we heard say, “…our educational system is in the grip of a crisis caused by low standards…” The words grabbed and held the nation’s schools hostage.

The New York Times reported that we were…

“being threatened by lax standards and misguided priorities in the schools” and that “the commission said low educational standards constitute a serious problem.”

If members of the National Commission on Excellence in Education did speak those words in 1983, they did not choose to write them in the official report!

What the report really said about high school and college standards was this:

“We should expect schools to have genuinely high standards rather than minimum ones, and parents to support and encourage their children to make the most of their talents and abilities.”…

“…we find that for too many people education means doing the minimum work necessary for the moment, then coasting through life on what may have been learned in its first quarter. But this should not surprise us because we tend to express our educational standards and expectations largely in terms of ‘minimum requirements.’” …

“In some colleges maintaining enrollment is of greater day-to-day concern than maintaining rigorous academic standards.”

And their advice for setting standards for high schools and higher education:

“We recommend that schools, colleges, and universities adopt more rigorous and measurable standards, and higher expectations, for academic performance and student conduct, and that 4-year colleges and universities raise their requirements for admission. This will help students do their best educationally with challenging materials in an environment that supports learning and authentic accomplishment.”

In addition,

“Persons preparing to teach should be required to meet high educational standards, to demonstrate an aptitude for teaching, and to demonstrate competence in an academic discipline. Colleges and universities offering teacher preparation programs should be judged by how well their graduates meet these criteria.”

What A Nation at Risk Did NOT Say

You can read, reread, and word search the document and you will not find a recommendation that we set K through 12 academic standards at a level that all students will meet. Instead, we were urged to NOT see standards as the goal but instead set the expectation for students that they will do their personal best to push themselves to the limit of their talents and continue through life as life-long learners.

In A Nation at Risk, you will NOT find “standards” being held up as either the silver bullet nor the major problem despite what foes and fans alike —and the public—have been led to believe.

Look closely at the actual recommendations for standardized testing.

The commission wrote:

“Four-year colleges and universities should raise their admissions requirements and advise all potential applicants of the standards for admission in terms of specific courses required, performance in these areas, and levels of achievement on standardized achievement tests in each of the five Basics and, where applicable, foreign languages.

Standardized tests of achievement (not to be confused with aptitude tests) should be administered at major transition points from one level of schooling to another and particularly from high school to college or work. The purposes of these tests would be to: (a) certify the student’s credentials; (b) identify the need for remedial intervention; and (c) identify the opportunity for advanced or accelerated work. The tests should be administered as part of a nationwide (but not Federal) system of State and local standardized tests. This system should include other diagnostic procedures that assist teachers and students to evaluate student progress.”

This one recommendation — that standardized tests of achievement be administered only at major transition points — should have replaced the yearly testing mandated in No Child Left Behind (NCLB). But yearly standardized testing remained in NCLB’s replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Thus, accountability based on testing remains a senseless detriment to educational progress.

The Truth

It was never A Nation at Risk that led the standards, testing, and accountability movement. As Valerie Strauss recalled, it was “Reagan’s second education secretary, William (Bill) Bennett, [who] continued to pursue a policy that focused on standardized testing.”

US Secy. of Education William J. Bennett (L) standing with Pres. Ronald W. Reagan during ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Influential people set this nation adrift on the faulty belief that somehow raising the bar with different standards and more testing would float all boats and stem the “tide of mediocrity.” It didn’t float all boats; it sank a whole lot of dreams.

The political focus on standards and testing drowned the discuss on the more important topic of expectations.

Getting Back On Course: We Need A Real Wake-Up Call

Think about it; thirty-five years of having political leaders telling the public, parents and educators that standards and testing improves schools is long enough. No, it’s too long! It obviously did nothing but create conflict, narrow the goals of education, and put money in the pockets of education corporations rather than in classrooms.

Let’s get back on course. Start by simply asking congressional candidates and representatives to pledge to remove the yearly testing mandate from federal K-12 education law (the Every Student Succeeds Act). It’s up to us to end this testing nonsense.

As A Nation at Risk affirmed,

It is by our willingness to take up the challenge, and our resolve to see it through, that America’s place in the world will be either secured or forfeited.”

#####

P.S. This blog originally appeared as an article in TruthOut (9/19/14) BEFORE No Child Left Behind was renamed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The name was changed; the need to fix it was not. The process to FIX ESSA should begin next year.

Children Need Parents To Be Partners With Their Schools

Parents — the most influential people in a students’ life — are too often the least well-informed about the need to partner with schools in a productive way.

Parents & Kids: Building Meaningful Connections.

Life itself is a risk-taking adventure and with young children and adolescents, it is even more so.

How many times have you heard of “good parents” who lost their child to drug addiction or the ultimate of losses, suicide? No one is totally immune. The best we can do is reduce the risks as much as possible, in every way possible. And for that, we do need partners.

Schools continue to be an institution whose role in many students’ lives is second only to their parents. But have we done all we can to foster parental partnerships with schools? Are we even consistently informing parents as to what their constantly changing role in education is?

In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education came out with this statement:

To Parents from a Nation at Risk (p.35)

“You have the right to demand for your children the best our schools and colleges can provide. Your vigilance and your refusal to be satisfied with less than the best are the imperative first step. But your right to a proper education for your children carries a double responsibility. As surely as you are your child’s first and most influential teacher, your child’s ideas about education and its significance begin with you. You must be a living example of what you expect your children to honor and to emulate. Moreover, you bear a responsibility to participate actively in your child’s education.”

This presidential commission on education studied secondary schools (middle, junior, and high schools) and made recommendations for this often overlooked and misunderstood age group. And they had much more to say to secondary school parents:

“You should encourage more diligent study:

► monitor your child’s study;

► encourage good study habits;

► encourage your child to take more demanding rather than less demanding courses;

► nurture your child’s curiosity, creativity, and confidence;

► be an active participant in the work of the schools;

► exhibit a commitment to continued learning in your own life;

► help your children understand that excellence in education cannot be achieved without intellectual and moral integrity coupled with hard work and commitment.”

Clearly understanding our roles and responsibilities for every “stage” of our children’s education is a good first step but only if the information is correct.

Too often parents hear that teenagers don’t want them “involved” at this age, Not true. Involvement in their lives will take on different forms, yes, and partnerships are especially helpful in staying involved albeit at a bit more of a distance. And this is where the larger community, and parent partnerships, comes into play.

Parents must of course fulfill their responsibility to their own children first. But anyone can watch out for and help others. It isn’t government that is needed to accomplish this; it is people building a sense of community. At a time when society desperately needs to foster well-educated, well-informed citizens, we all need to look at what we can do to create the conditions for personal partnerships to develop and grow.

Little acts can have a big impact.

We won’t improve education without educating each other. When you read or hear something that you believe is valuable, find a place to share it; it will surely have value for others. If your school administrators are not receptive to your views, refuse to allow those barriers to stand in your way. Find another way to be heard. It is, after all, your vigilance and your willingness to act that is the “imperative first step” in the improvement of YOUR schools.The principles of partnership building are nothing new or excessively complicated. Partnerships develop as people begin to understand their common concerns. Conversations about concerns foster respect for each other’s opinions and allows a forum for expression of our expectations — of each other. Partnerships are a two-way street.

It takes personal relationships to form partnerships.

Invest your time where it is most important and will decrease the risks associated with the growing incivility of our society. Build partnerships in your child’s school and community.

(Note: This blog was first posted on April 3, 2013 under the title “Every Child at Risk.”)

America’s Crisis: One Part Education, Four Parts Political

“America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis.”              Jeffery D. Sachs

America’s crisis is real. Despite what many believe, the crisis isn’t caused by our public schools. Our public schools are a reflection of what has happened to our society. And rather than arguing over students test scores, the most important score in need of discussing is the falling U.S. Happiness Score (Gallup International Cantril ladder).

The rising rate of drug addiction, suicide rates, and school shootings are more indicators of social decay. But it would be a huge mistake to jump on simple fixes and ignore this opportunity to examine the factors underlying the problems.

What Are We Doing That Has Intensified America’s Crisis?

The country is being led to believe that if lawmakers focus on economic growth their policies will restore happiness in the American people and the American Dream will live on. But what the public is not considering is the current “paradox” that is giving rise to a worsening social crisis.

“Income per person has increased roughly three times since 1960, but measured happiness has not risen….happiness is now actually falling.” Yet,…

“Almost all of the policy discourse in Washington DC centers on naïve attempts to raise the economic growth rate, as if a higher growth rate would somehow heal the deepening divisions and angst in American society. … the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach.” Author: Jeffery D. Sachs RESTORING AMERICAN HAPPINESS

Sachs points to five major factors that have contributed to the decline of our society:

  1. the rise of mega-dollars in U.S. politics,
  2. soaring income and wealth inequality,
  3. the decline in social trust,
  4. post 9/11 stoking of fear rather than social solidarity, and
  5. the deterioration of America’s educational system.

What Sachs may not understand is that the American public education system has been under attack for decades. The “deterioration” has been politically induced. And the system has been re-purposed for workforce development in a controlled economy. Here again, we see the policy focus on the economy. That takes away from the other purposes of education.

What Are We Not Doing?

We are not considering the true value of happiness. And too few of our citizens are willing to sacrifice their time to help ensure a civil and prosperous society for the future. So we find ourselves without the critical mass of people to push public policy that invests in our societal needs. Instead, the current push to maintain the already established corporate state continues.

But as a society, we might have an even bigger problem.

Does the Idea of “Community” No Longer Hold Any Significance?

Have we become so hyper-partisan that words like “social capital” no longer hold a common meaning?

“L.J.Hanifan’s 1916 article regarding local support for rural schools is one of the first occurrences of the term ‘social capital’ in reference to social cohesion and personal investment in the community.”

Is the phrase “social cohesion” or “social solidarity” being interpreted as socialism? Yet certainly people shudder at the idea of “social collapse.” Are we giving thought to what holds us together?

We may be politically divided but the greater society has common problems.

Rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust can only be countered through social supports, political participation, generosity, education, and the will to cooperate and work together for the good of the nation and the happiness of society. It’s the only way the republic survives.

“The form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.”

– John Adams, Thoughts on Government.

So How Do We Start Alleviating America’s Crisis?

We start by facing America’s appalling reality: we don’t care about our children.

“A population that does not take care of the elderly and of children and the young has no future, because it abuses both its memory and its promise.”

That sad thought was expressed by Pope Francis. But for some reason it reminded me of a non-fiction book written by my favorite author. James A. Michener wrote…

“We are the survivor whose basic roots were sound to begin with and were carefully nurtured and improved as two centuries passed. Now, with dedication to the principles that made us great, we can at least borrow time. Clear sailing —albeit through increasingly roiling waters—until 2050, then the beginning of the twilight. But in the next half century we can light new candles of excellence, protect the ones we already have and gain an extension. I wish I could witness the next years of decision; they should be riveting as we face one crucial choice after another. I hope our genius for doing the right thing will guide us.” This Noble Land: My Vision for America, 1997.

We cultivate and grow social solidarity or we collapse and die a slow national death that most of us will not live to see. Is that why most Americans prefer not to join the political fight for the life and happiness of America, our decline won’t affect them?

“Why don’t people care, when it doesn’t affect them? Maybe people ought to start.

… Because one of these days, the person needing help, or just some caring, will be you. That’s why I care

Reason enough?

“I hope our genius for doing the right thing will guide us.” James A. Michener (1907-1997)

These are not the candles Michener envisioned seeing us light. Let’s get busy changing our society.

Santa Fe High School freshman Kylie Trochesset, left, and her mother, Ashlee, wipe away tears during a prayer vigil following a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, on Friday, May 18, 2018. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

In Pursuit of Truth: How to Stop Dismantling the Public Schools

“Dismantling the public schools is all about control.” Lynn Parramore

In “The Corporate Plan to Groom U.S. Kids for Servitude by Wiping Out Public Schools,” Ms. Parramore explains the strategy the One Percent is using to produce a dual economy (haves and have-nots) and how the process of dismantling the public schools aides this agenda. Based on research from Gordon Lafer and Peter Temin, the article is a must-read for all citizens — before it’s too late to reverse “the new system.”

“Lafer explains that in the new system, the children of the wealthy will be taught a broad, rich curriculum in small classes led by experienced teachers. The kind of thing everybody wants for kids. But the majority of America’s children will be consigned to a narrow curriculum delivered in large classes by inexperienced staff —or through digital platforms with no teachers at all.”

This new digital delivery system is being called “Personalized Learning.” It’s also sold as Competency-Based, Mastery-Based, Proficiency-Based, Outcome-Based, and “Standards-Based” education. To be clear, none of this is proven education reform. That alone is reason enough to stop dismantling the public schools under the guise of reforms or “modernization,” which is code for privatization.

Standards-based reform policies, like No Child Left Behind, have already narrowed the curriculum. Decades of focusing on outcomes without the necessary inputs has left us with large classes, driven out experienced teachers, and put alternative certifications in federal and state laws to solve a problem created by lawmakers. None of this is theory or conspiracy. It’s the reality produced by our politically motivated policies.

And this is where we are:

It remains to be seen if the rights of the many can triumph over the selfishness of the few, and whether economic servitude will be the fate of the children of the wealthiest and most powerful country the world has ever seen.” Parramore

Here is part of the story behind the dismantling of public schools:

“After five years of research and the publication of The One Percent Solution, Lafer concluded that by lobbying to make changes like increasing class sizes, pushing for online instruction, lowering accreditation requirements for teachers, replacing public schools with privately-run charters, getting rid of publicly elected school boards and a host of other tactics, Big Business was aiming to dismantle public education.”

Dismantling the public schools required a coordinated effort.

A “host of other tactics” included using the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, instilling longitudinal data systems, coercing use of the Common Core Curriculum, giving priority to workforce data “interoperability,” and anchoring in place the false assumptions of No Child Left Behind in its replacement — the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

We were told that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money would be used to restore operating funds for schools due to state budget cuts during The Great Recession.

Did states recover and reinvest in education? According to this 2014 report, 30 out of the 47 state budgets analyzed DID NOT.

“The lack in funding is hurting not just students, but also the economy.”

“State Education Funding Lags Behind Pre-Recession Levels” Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

While ordinary Americans were struggling, so-called “reform” groups worked to put their “SMART OPTIONS” education agenda in place using Recovery Act funds. They controlled the setting of priorities.

The leaders of this agenda labeled the process “disruptive innovation.” They used us.

Instead of restoring education funding and hiring back laid off teachers, the majority of states spent money on adopting new standards and putting data collection infrastructure in place. Common Core was never about improving student achievement; it was about the common data points the system can collect. Common educational data makes possible the workforce data interoperability system. This system is designed to link student data from the Education Department (plus testing & online education data) to workforce data from the Labor Departments for development of the human capital to fill the directives (orders) placed by businesses and corporations.

And the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) not only continued the federal mandate for the yearly standardized testing first dictated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB), it created a NEW Title IV grant with an attractive name, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (PLAW-114publ95 beginning p.168 of 392). Although this NEW federal education program has three stated purposes, technology definitely is a priority. (Here is a screen shot from Rise to the Challenge, a blog written in response to a 2015 comment about my views on ESSA.)

UPDATE: The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 provides increased funds for education technology, and the Department of Education as a whole. “In a complete contradiction to the Trump administration’s proposal, not only did Congress keep Title IV, it doubled the amount allocated to $1.1 billion. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) originally authorized Title IV for $1.65 billion. ” —- So the tech industry got a little less than anticipated in our NEW federal grant program.

STOP the dismantling of public schools.

As one person wrote on Facebook:

“We let them divide us against each other. Because united they can’t control us. Divided they keep control and can continue to pillage the country.”

It’s been established that it’s all about control. So we need to take control.

ESSA has to go. It has been proven that school accountability from the federal level is a joke. It doesn’t work. It makes no sense because the 90 Plus Percent obviously have no control —yet—over congress and their corrupt lawmaking process. Federal law continues to be an excuse for State “controllers” of the dismantling. Therefore, ESSA remains a barrier to diminished local control of education.

Take actions to disrupt and dismantle the policies, processes, and practices the One Percent put in place to control the schools that are attended by the 90 Plus Percent….It’s not too late. It’s time the country followed our teachers’ lead.

In Pursuit of Truth: The Language of Political Conformity

Political conformity makes good people do things against their own better judgment. Consequently, political conformity is killing the very character of America.

“True conformity, according to many scholars, involves an actual ‘change of heart’…

[The] person believes the [group] norm in question is correct…. [It has been argued that] such internalization will only take place if informational influence has occurred” (p11). Source: Political Conformity: Evidence and Mechanisms

It is political conformity that has the country tearing down the foundation of our republic.

We once had a system where strengthening and improving schools was seen as reform. We now conform to a pretense of reform typified by an “accountability system” based on “competition.”

What’s Wrong With Competition?

There’s nothing wrong with competition when it comes to things like sports, card games, spelling bees, or debate teams. In the job market and in life in general, competition is an acceptable norm. That’s life!

But, is it reasonable to make competition the norm in ALL our schools?

Think about it. The competition for test scores is a competition to achieve. The ever-present thought of failure is creating stress in too many students, families, and teachers.

Think about the kids. Growing up is challenging. Additional — unnecessary — competition is putting our youth at risk.

2012: India has some of the world’s highest suicide rates. The Lancet Medical Journal says suicide rates are highest in the 15-29 age group, peaking in regions considered richer and more developed with better education, social welfare and health care.

[It’s] a new phenomenon experts said has happened recently as more middle-class youths strive to meet achievement expectations, and new technologies like cell phones and social networking sites help break down traditional family units once relied on for support.

2013: In the United States, “every year since 1999, more Americans have killed themselves than the year before…”

We are told, “Teenage depression and suicide are way up — and so is smartphone use.” We are told, “the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.”

We are told? NO! We need to challenge that assumption.

Too many questions have gone unanswered! In 2001 in an open forum, it was recommended that we monitor the suicide rate as we implemented test-based accountability. But the suggestion was seen as far-fetched.

So the pros and cons of competition in schools were not debated. And, we proceeded with the plan to transform the culture of our K-12 schools.

Competition became the norm because we complied with “No Child Left Behind.” It sounded good.

Political Doublespeak and Orwell’s Advice

In “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell ripped apart the political language of his time. Our time is no different from his.

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aim,…

Perhaps our time is worse. Words are for sale. And political leader’s insincerity is running rampant.

Wake up, People. Resist the language of political conformity.

“…one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.”

And with “Truth Decay” being a defined and researched entity, it’s time we stop and examine our own political bias and the conformity that blinds us from seeing the truth!

Orwell cautioned us about using “ready-made” phrases that “anesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.”

How many times have you heard the phrase a “more level playing field”? Have leaders sincerely worked hard towards “…the goal of improving education for all…”?

No! Instead, public “school choice” is packaged as “freedom,” while COMMON curriculum and testing is endemic. “Accountability” through standards and testing is a bad joke. And this is how we “change the status quo”?

No! The status quo is political conformity to a political “reform” agenda.

Orwell’s advice:

“…to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration…”

Thinking Clearly

In Orwell’s novel 1984, “’doublethink’ describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct.” This allowed leaders to use both beliefs to their advantage. It doesn’t seem like that could work, but it does.

Public opinion polls did, and continue to show, that the majority of parents with children in the public schools like both their teachers and their schools. Yet the public says the public schools are bad. GOOD IS BAD?

Education Reimagined? Not by the teachers and parents in your community.

And we decided that the whole K-12 system needed to be “restructured” and “transformed”? NO! “We” did not decide.

The education reform oligarchy decided. They decided  “reform” was “imperative.” The system is “antiquated,” a “factory model”; we need to “modernize.” They told us we aren’t “globally competitive.” And the “government schools” are a “monopoly.”

The hook was baited with the right political language, not with the truth. And without the truth, we can’t think clearly.

An Overview Of the Truth

You don’t need to have read 1984 to understand Orwell’s messages to us. His writings exist to help people see the truth and help us think clearly about the danger in letting the CONTROL of knowledge be concentrated in the hands of a few powerful people.

Historically, the norm used to be that parents and teachers worked toward education goals that were mutually acceptable. Then came corporate-elites CONTROL of education. We conformed to the new norm. Those leaders CONTROL the conversation and can flip it when they want.

We are told there is “a new play: empowering parents.” OLD IS NEW does seem Orwellian.

1984 [sounds the alarm] against the abusive nature of authoritarian governments, …[analyzes] the psychology of power and the ways that manipulations of language and history can be used as mechanisms of CONTROL.”

The Party slogans in the novel 1984.

Set in a world governed by totalitarianism, overseen by Big Brother and controlled by The Party, three official slogans are used in 1984 to manipulate people’s thinking so their minds accept propaganda as truth.

The truth is, there are problems in need of reforming, but “reform” isn’t what happened. Reform was never the aim. CONTROL is the aim.

WAR IS PEACE

In Orwell’s fictitious country, Oceania, perpetual war was the norm. War kept the masses united against an enemy. … The parallel to today should not be ignored.

Repeatedly, we went to war in this country over education. The Reading Wars over phonics versus sight words probably began in the mid-1800’s! And it drags on and on.

Between the Reading and Math Wars we have been in a perpetual state of war dividing educators and parents while uniting the public against the “government schools” and the big bad teacher’s union.

We liked our schools and teachers; but we accepted vilifying both.

And now, 30 years after the corporate-political elites’ assault on K-12 public schools began, we have legitimate reasons to dislike the schools. They have been transformed, at the bidding of our leaders, by standardization and privatization.

The war against the K-12 system has weakened it and higher education is next in line.

If you support “the system” — the centuries-old highly successful U.S. institution of public education — the new Minister of Education, Betsy DeVos, says you are against what is good for children. You are the enemy. Your priority is wrong. You are against “educational freedom.”

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

Freedom is the American religion.” It’s written into the Constitution. It’s stamped into our DNA. It is the word of choice in the language of political conformity. It is THE BIGGEST political hook in the arsenal.

…”It’s about educational freedom! Freedom from Washington mandates. Freedom from centralized control. Freedom from a one-size-fits-all mentality. Freedom from ‘the system.’” Spoke the Minister of Education, Betsy DeVos

“The System”? The system of free public schools has been transformed into the Common Core System. All teaching, testing, and learning using technology is based on common curricular CONTENT. Where we once had common national goals — we now have common instructional CONTENT controlled by… ?… an algorithm …?… designed by …?… Who does CONTROL online CONTENT?

Where 30 years ago we did not have a one-size-fits all “industrial-model” school, we do now!But WE ARE TOLD that government-sponsored freedom of choice is good. And DeVos says she has “never heard it claimed that giving parents more options is bad…for the child.”

Freedom—the word—is the hook. Freedom isn’t really being offered.

A system based on competition for the new “educational freedom” makes families’ slaves to competing in a race for common education.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

As one person described this Party slogan, “Believe and never question!”

Ignorance of the truth gives strength to political deception.

When the Curtain of Deception Parted

While discussing higher education, Betsy DeVos let slip what the rulers see as the purpose of their education system — a “delivery system to meet modern work place needs.”We have obviously accepted that political language. But the idea that public education is nothing more than a corporate and military human capital development system?  … No! Not everyone agrees…Consider what folks have to say…

“A school system to provide workers for the wealthy? Not to educate!”

“The country’s higher education system is indeed in dire need of a facelift, but not the one she [Betsy DeVos] wants to give it. It needs a nip and tuck, not the removal of the entire nose.”

If we accept a managed economy, it requires a managed and tightly controlled education/labor system.

While the “small government” mantra is used, the education/labor development system is being completed.

To CONTROL the economic system in the United States requires controlling people. And that political thought sure doesn’t fit the ideal of the American Dream.

Regeneration Requires Reviving the Norm

Initiative, resourcefulness, and generosity are traditional American characteristics.

Possessing those traits, great educational leaders of the past set the foundation for a public education system to serve all. Now, in our public schools system —in our self-proclaimed Land of Opportunity — competition and a market-based mentality has replaced generosity as the norm.

But because the character of Americans as people is founded on independence and revolt, resistance to conformity is probable. And the historic writings of George Orwell do shine light on that fight. We have to be willing to look, and think. He told us where to start. Look for the truth.

“Truisms are true, hold on to that!”

#Resist #Revolt #Regenerate