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 many … It 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.
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.” *
“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.’” *
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.
* 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”
Anticipating the Title IX speech by Secretary of Education DeVos, the media last week was abuzz .Their verbiage included words like “overturn,” “roll-back,” “scrap,” “rescind.” They stirred it up and the protests grabbed our attention. But, does that help direct us towards solutions, or create distractions? What’s the truth of the matter?
In pursuit of the truth, please consider this. DeVos is a shrewd political operative, more so than our typical political appointee. She has the means to create distractions.
DeVos’ Title IX speech was impressively delivered. But the reporting that followed, some of her words, and the relative scarcity of facts within her speech fueled controversy.
The real controversy?
Those unfamiliar with Title IX, and the 2011 Office for Civil Rights (OCR) directives under the Obama administration, would be hard-pressed to find the time necessary to piece together the truth. Before last Friday, I felt under-informed on the issue.
So Friday morning, I spent 40 minutes before work searching for information. On Saturday, between putting up tomatoes, baking cookies, cleaning house, fixing dinner, and walking my dog, I spent hours reading a variety of news sources, listening to DeVos’ speech, and reviewing its transcript.
Can we really expect most people to have the time to dig for enough facts about public education to make a thoroughly informed decision? … Anyway…
Let me be clear at the onset: Title IX federal anti-discrimination law, which includes protection from sexual harassment and violence, is a serious matter. By insinuating that DeVos is creating distractions, using Title IX in the process, is not to say that the issue isn’t important or deserving of the media’s attention.
But the public needs less hype and more facts. Here’s what I can now tell you.
During the Obama administration, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent out a letter requiring colleges and universities to use a “preponderance of the evidence” to determine innocence or guilt in sexual violence or harassment cases. As the FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) explains…
…a “preponderance of the evidence”…merely requires that it is “more likely than not” that someone is responsible for what they are accused of…it is our judiciary’s lowest standard of proof…50.01% certain that the accused person is at fault….a “more likely than not” standard…
…in a real court for any crime, no matter how minor, the more familiar “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard must be used, which means that the judge or jury must be virtually certain of your guilt.
So the question becomes, do the directives sufficiently protect the accused person’s right to due process as well as the victims’ rights?
The letter also resulted in creation of situations where …
…a judicial process …[could result in]…a student found innocent in a hearing [being] retried, even if the charges against him or her had already been proven baseless.
At the time, this letter was also criticized for failing to clarify free speech rights as previous OCR letters had done.
Did Betsy DeVos’ speech clarify those issues?
Well, yes, but…in all honestly, if I hadn’t read the FIRE article before listening to DeVos I would have been distracted by the stories she told. They were stories gathered from DeVos’ listening sessions with people. Listening is good. But it was the number of stories she told that I found distracting from the issues.
Was this DeVos’ best attempt at informing the public?
If clarity of the issues and swift resolution were the secretary’s main objectives, her inflammatory language and anti-Obama, anti-government rhetoric sprinkled into the speech certainly didn’t help. They were added distractions.
Truth be told. The problems aren’t that difficult to explain (explain, not solve) especially if your job depends on understanding the laws. Yet, they weren’t clearly explained. Reason enough to question whether or not there is something more to this story. Betsy DeVos isn’t stupid.
So what is the bigger picture?
As Frederick M. Hess & Grant Addison wrote,
“The balance and tenor of her remarks was just right.”
That’s EXACTLY right. DeVos did appear “just right.” She appeared “re-framed.” She was delivering her new image!
The secretary softly spoke well-chosen words. And her actions on the Title IX topic thus far —listening sessions, collecting opinions and stories—were the right way to go. She used the process just right.
But keep in mind; this is exactly what we experienced with President Obama’s secretary of education and the president himself — the promise to listen yet their actions only furthered the political agenda of the ruling elite.
The agenda is privatization of pre-K-12 public schools.
The truth: If you follow today’s Orwellian nature of the media and politics, you can feel the school choice movement advocates drooling over DeVos’ speech. People like Frederick M. Hess want the Trump/DeVos school choice agenda to appear dead. All distractions are welcomed.
They want the media talking about anything other than vouchers, charters, and the federal funding of them through ESSA (the Every Student Succeeds Act) and tax laws.
After all, creating distractions is standard operating procedure in American politics.
And all too often, what the country is hearing about education reform is scripted talking points, not the truth.
Now, that leaves the long-standing reform agenda in the hands of Trump, DeVos, and Congress. And America seems willing to follow these leaders.
As stated in Americans Have Given Up on Public Schools. That’s a Mistake…
Our secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has repeatedly signaled her support for school choice and privatization, as well as her scorn for public schools, describing them as a “dead end”…
and claiming that unionized teachers …“care more about a system, one that was created in the 1800s, than they care about individual students.”
The agenda hasn’t changed. The following is one of the most succinct and accurate description of the agenda that I’ve ever read.
Note the reference to funding portability, vouchers, charters, testing, and the lack of respect for preserving the system. And there is always the promise “to educate children.” But what is the truth here? Do we think we can deliver on the promise of education as a public service — absent a public system? That IS privatization. Is that what we want?
1986 to today, the agenda remains the same.
Clearly we have not taken a better way forward.
In total, we’ve had 30 years of propaganda behind this never wavering political agenda.
There is a better way. It starts with refusing to blindly follow the leaders. It begins when we quit taking a wait-and-see attitude about ESSA — the law DeVos will execute.
ESSA was pushed through congress by Lamar Alexander without open public debate. This is the same man who proposed the first federal voucher legislation in 1992 as then Secretary of Education. He’s leading us full circle. It’s time to stop the spin.And thanks to the same media I am lambasting in broad strokes, I can connect some dots. My apologies to honest hard-working reporters who I am dumping into the same barrel as a bunch of bad apples (astroturf).
But our general lack of trustworthy media coverage of education issues is leaving America inadequately informed on KEY ISSUES. It has left us ill-equipped in the propaganda war being waged on public schools.
The truth: Betsy DeVos came into this politically appointed position with no intention of strengthening and improving the system.
Her history is one of disrupting already struggling public schools, dismantling them —and the system (community) surrounding them— and supporting privately run charters instead. That’s what she did in Michigan. Are we going to wait and see if she does the same to the country?
Many “school choice” proponents, who themselves write for the media, want you to believe that the Trump/DeVos/Alexander funding for school choice initiatives are going nowhere this year. Well, guess what is already in ESSA? Betsy knows. Alexander knows.
HERE’S THE KICKER!
If Congress fully funds ESSA —without restrictions on charter expansions—they fund the way forward for the Trump/DeVos/Alexander school choice/privatization plan.
If Congress includes tax credits —under any variety of names – opportunity, scholarship, tuition, etc. —as part of tax “reforms,” they fund the Trump/DeVos/Alexander de facto voucher/privatization plan.
What say you, Betsy DeVos?
“…we live in a country where an open debate of ideas is welcomed and encouraged.
But good intentions alone are not enough. Justice demands humility, wisdom and prudence.
[Justice] requires a serious pursuit of truth.”
Perhaps the title “WHO influenced the Democratic Party into becoming an enemy of public education?” would more accurately represent the subject here.
But the reason for the title came from an article in my “To Read” file. “How to Destroy a Public-School System,” a 2014 article, describes a scenario we should all be familiar with by now. Perhaps that is why I had set it aside, thinking I knew it all. I don’t; we don’t.
We know all about —
“the designation of neighborhood schools as ‘failing’ under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)…” followed by the “turnaround” or take-over by charter schools.
But do we know the depth of the intentional under-funding of public schools in order to create a market for private-sector education reforms?
Private sector — for-profit (like Edison) charter schools or non-profit (like Mastery) charters — it doesn’t matter. They are private entities. And privatization is crushing the chance for more effective public-sector education reform to be utilized.
The private-sector reforms are politically and financially driven. The public has little input or recourse when those reforms are harmful to our schools.
So here’s how it went in Philadelphia as described in 2014.
December 21, 2001, Philadelphia, State takeover of Philly’s schools went into effect … “at the time, the largest experiment in privatization—in the history of US public education. The message was clear: public management, not underfunding and segregation, was the problem.”
Never mind that school financing was
“rigged to benefit privately managed companies” including a loophole that provided charters with an extra “double-dip” pension payment.
Mastery [charter school] is “not doing more with less,” says Michael Masch, the school district’s former chief financial officer and a progressive fan of Mastery’s work, “They’re doing more with more.”
How did that largest privatization experiment of its time turn out?
By 2007,… “despite additional per-pupil resources,” privately managed schools like Edison’s “did not produce average increases in student achievement that were any larger than those seen in the rest of the district,” while “district-managed restructured schools outpaced the gains of the rest of the district in math.”
What say the supporters of private-sector education reforms? Same thing we still hear said today…
“We just don’t have enough of them yet,” said Edison CEO Chris Whittle, according to PBS’s Frontline.
The problem is not enough charters? You think.
The problem was that Philadelphia was under Republican rule? It was, but remember there has been plenty of bipartisan agreement. The Democratic Party approved of all of this.
The problem is THEY (and it’s a big “they”) don’t work for US. Enough Republicans and Democrats alike have fallen for the idea that private-sector advocates for education reform have all of our children’s best interests at heart.
Look, many in the country see and understand the connection between conservative organizations like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and Republican privatization policies. Many object. But there is another side. Look again.
It’s time for the country to see and understand the New Democrats and their “progressive” “neoliberal” agenda that we know to be a “bipartisan” agreement on education reform. It is now the Democratic Party reform philosophy based on and driven by advocates for private-sector reforms.
In the words of Helen Gym, a leader of Parents United for Public Education, the reform movement
“has been singular in its focus in dismantling previously stable, strong institutions like public education….”
In other parts of the world, some clearly see what has happened. Those fighting against private-sector education reform are Battling for the Soul of Education.
“George W. Bush bought in the “No Child Left Behind” strategy with its emphasis on high-stakes testing, data-driven decision making, choice, Charter Schools, privatisation, regulation, merit pay and competition amongst schools. Incredible as it might seem, by 2008 this had been taken up by the Democrats.”
Incredible? I guess.
But is this author right in that by 2008 the private sector reform movement had been taken up by the Democrats?
“Fully engulfed” the Democratic Party by 2008 might be a better way to state it. But much earlier than that key “Democrats” not only took up this private-sector reform strategy, they helped create and perpetuate it.
As president, Bill Clinton essentially used an “education and the economy” theme to drive education policy. His reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA/IASA/ Improving America’s Schools Act) brought Standards-Based education and school choice (charters) into federal law. Education costs have risen dramatically ever since.
But to quickly march this story forward, I’ve taken some facts from Ken Derstine of Defend Public Education! I encourage readers to explore the wealth of information he has provided on his website. Look into the power and control created by the corporate and political elites. Here’s a glimpse.
Billionaire Democrat and philanthropic venture capitalist, Eli Broad is invited by President Bill Clinton to spend the night at the White House. [What do these men have in common?] They work under the “guise of a progressive agenda” while advancing “a neoliberal agenda.” The agenda continuing to be advanced today.
“Playing a central role in promoting Clinton’s neoliberal agenda was the Democratic Leadership Council.” … It became the think tank for many of the rightwing neoliberal policies promoted by Clinton. …A key player shepherding the neoliberal agenda during the Clinton Presidency and after was Bruce Reed who became head of the Democratic Leadership Council in 2001.
All their plans are on display. They have to be. They are using our government to put their agenda in place.
“With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.” Eli Broad Foundation, 2009/2010 Annual Report of the Broad Foundation (page 6)
Bruce Reed is the common education reform denominator between the Clinton and Obama administrations.
“Reed boasts of helping shape education policy on the national stage for three decades.”
Teaming up with Eli Broad may just be the creation of the perfect storm that finally destroys the institution of “public” education.
“Broad is somewhat happy with the progress of education reform. He takes credit for influencing the signature changes nationwide in the past 20 years.”
‘Between No Child Left Behind, which wasn’t perfect, between Race to the Top, we’ve changed a lot of laws in a lot of states, allowing teachers to do a better job in the classroom,’ he said.”
Have the laws helped teachers do a better job? This man’s organization wrote the book on school closures — really! Literally! And his group directed the spending of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars. We invested in their agenda while our schools struggled!!!! Nice, huh? They titled it Smart Options. They are smart.
“Broad has known all along he needs allies in public office to carry out his vision. He’s generously donated to elections — from school boards to the U.S. presidency. He leans Democrat in Washington but anti-union on school boards.”
That’s what they wrote in ELI BROAD APPOINTS BRUCE REED AS HEAD OF BROAD FOUNDATION EDUCATION EFFORT.
And the story doesn’t end there. There’s more to come.
The “how” is a familiar story of money and political corruption. The “who” is a web of deception still being fully untangled….if we must.
Some people believe the United States is already a totalitarian state. If that is our reality, it doesn’t mean we can’t regain our status as a republic.
“Corporate totalitarianism means total control by corporate interests…. What’s happening in the United States today is a corporate coup of the U.S. government, and anyone who isn’t grieving that must not be looking.” Corporate Totalitarianism, or Not, Opinion by Marianne Williamson
Totalitarian power by definition is considered to be…
“…of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation…”
I’m sure that during the Kennedy presidency, foreign totalitarian regimes were the concern. But what JFK stated back then can be used in the fight we must take-on today. To win this battle, our citizenry …
“[It] requires skilled manpower and brainpower to match the power of totalitarian discipline.”
Kennedy’s words were in reference to what he called “the keystone in the arch of freedom and progress “— education. Now, with corporate-elite totalitarianism being an internal threat to our nation, people must recognize and resist conforming to corrupted laws for the sake of conformity.
When the corporate-elite coup is focused on our lawmaking process, that is where it must be stopped.
We need brainpower? Not a problem. But, whom are we matching wits against? And how powerful is their discipline, their control over us?
That is where my passionate support for public education keeps me digging for answers. And I don’t like what I have found.
When the public education system is completely controlled and directed to focus on the “productive capacity of the nation,” then we are concentrating our manpower and money on one of the corporate-elites’ endpoints — the production of their labor supply. This is where we must focus our brainpower and consider what purposes we expect a public education system to serve.
Children do need to be employable. We all understand that.
But what I don’t get is the public’s willingness to let education be narrowed and controlled —made into a test-and-sort, data-collection system— to fill corporate workforce needs.
Organizations of all kinds, with a variety of political ideologies, have jumped on the “education reform” bandwagon. They are the ruling elite — ultra-rich individuals and foundations of all structures, sizes, and attractively deceptive names. And they are hiring people, just like you, to work on promoting and selling their agenda. (Recognize astroturf?)
Are we sure we want these groups — under the guise of philanthropic efforts and state control — in control of our productive capacity?
In The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer explains that—
“… propaganda articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of the recipients.”
Now, think about this: How many parents have been frustrated at one time or another with something that happened in their public schools?
How many business owners have been frustrated at one time or another by hires who didn’t seem adequately prepared for work?
Same question, professors and college students, etc. … I’m NOT saying there is a HUGE problem; I’m saying there are some underlying unaddressed social tensions associated with public education. There has always been a constant desire to improve schools — as there should be. But that fact has been used against us.
Hoffer illuminates how leaders play on our emotions —
“…leadership articulates and justifies the resentment damned up in the souls of the frustrated.”
Because of frustration, we are vulnerable.
With the illusions of education reform thrust upon the nation, the massive changes aren’t fixing the real problems. The pseudo-reforms are only feeding the corporate State. And, yes, that is state with an authoritatively capital “S.” It is the Special Interest State that we all recognize exists.
America was given a choice long ago, but it was an “either/or” choice. (America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages) That’s a propaganda technique that creates a false dilemma. You have only two choices and you MUST pick one. It looks like we did. But there is nothing wrong with admitting we made a bad choice. Good leaders do that and then work to set things right.
Where have all the true leaders gone?
The State — Big Money running what we used to call Big Brother (our government) — is no longer a republic. As Chris Hedges explains in Our Invisible Revolution,…
“Our shift to corporate totalitarianism, like the shift to all forms of totalitarianism, is incremental. … The ‘consent of the governed’ is a cruel joke. Barack Obama cannot defy corporate power any more than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton could.”
However, WE can defy them. You see, I believe this because of what I see. I see a corrupted federal education law that must be stopped. It can be stopped.
The “new” education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is a perfect example of persisting totalitarian creep into the education of the next generation. ESSA continues the marketable propaganda of No Child Left Behind — accountability, flexibility, and choice — with the promise of State control. All the while, it’s moving the corporate-elite agenda of privatization forward by leaps and bounds. The law furthers corporate-elite control over what is becoming their workforce development system.
And now, it is obvious that the public education system is being used for other purposes. Here’s how.
We bought the plan to focus education on standards and outcomes. Standards control what is taught. Outcomes determine what needs reforming. Sound too simplistic? It is. But it worked for those wishing to control the system.
As we focused on math and reading standards for two decades, civics education suffered. … “Reformers” to the rescue!
In addition, ESSA (a law pushed without the Consent of the People) establishes a Presidential Academy for civics instructors. Innocent enough? Perhaps. BUT when accountability for education is being left up to “the State,” who’s to say? How narrow will the civics instruction be? Who will be controlling the content? And who is training “our” educational leadership?
Convinced that this is some serious stuff?
Well, let’s look further at totalitarianism. It can be defined as…
“…tending toward monopoly.”
And there is no doubt; whether it is Bill Gates or the Koch Brothers, Big Money has monopolized education policy — from State to Federal and Federal to State — including local policies through the training of parents and school board members. This is the problem many of us have with Common Core National Standards. They aren’t just standards. They are based on a vision for a totalitarian workforce development system paid for by the public but privately controlled. The corporate-elite created the Common Core System. (America’s Choice?)
So, who is in control of the education of the next generation?
“Controlling information and controlling dissent are part of what goes into maintaining a totalitarian state,” said Jerrold Post, director of the political psychology program at George Washington University.
See why the public education system is such a big prize?
The anti-Common Core groups are fighting hard. The anti-high stakes testing groups are still battling after over two decades. Anti-charter/voucher groups are on the rise. Their individual efforts deserve our respect and admiration, but it hasn’t been enough to stop the coup.
To date, federal education law continues under the control of the corporate-elites. We are still only minor players.
“Through their control of politicians, political parties and corporate media, they do everything necessary to make sure that political candidates who resist them get nowhere near the levers of power.” Marianne Williamson
We, the populace, are rising. But,…
“An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling elites.” Chris Hedges
That is where the ideas and visions of JFK can still serve us well.
Totalitarian discipline did creep into education law. But we don’t have to comply with it. Civil disobedience is needed at every opportunity.
Reinforcements are a must. All the groups out there saying they are fighting against corporate-elite rule need to recognize where their strength and numbers are needed most. We know the corporate-elite takeover is real. We have the brainpower to match theirs. What we lack is the collective manpower focused where we can make a huge difference right now…. and in the future.
Join forces. Help stop the escalating takeover of our public schools.
The 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 able to recognize the ideology behind many of our public policies. …
We have become victims of sabotage —of our own doing.
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”…
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.
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.
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.
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 32 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.
As 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.”
“…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…A 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. He has failed 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 — replacing what once was an anti-poverty law (ESEA). It’s wrong.
The Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177/ESSA) has it wrong for the very same reasons that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was wrong. (NOTE: the name was changed to Every Student Succeeds Act ESSA & made into law, Dec. 2015)
Instead of factual reasons why NCLB was so devastating to public schools, Senator Alexander reaches for his standard political game-ball.
“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.”
That was dodge ball Lamar Alexander-style.
“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 …,’”
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. NCLB/ESSA is wrong and as a nation we’ve been wronged.
Consider this: The influential pulled the strings of government to do their bidding.
“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.”
Please, read that guiding principle again. That is the principle followed by the politically powerful designing our school choice system. We always assumed the game was rigged against us. And it was boldly stated out loud.
So much for ACCOUNTABILITY! This is 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.
“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. (NOTE: He pushed ESSA into law. Then he dragged Betsy DeVos over the finish-line.)
Playing politics has been Lamar Alexander’s game of choice (pun intended).
Stop playing follow the leader and take independent actions to hold lawmakers accountable. Make them do the right thing for the right reasons.
(Update: The only way to make this right now is to demand ESEA be reauthorized on time – TARGET 2020. We need federal education law with the right focus.)
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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”.….Look at all the components…..
AFT says, The Every Child Achieves Act “expands collective bargaining protections to include both school improvement initiatives and teacher quality provisions.” WHERE???????
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.
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.
“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.
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
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 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 one tool.
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.
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?