The Purpose of Education

In their annual poll of the public’s attitude toward public education, what prompted the well-respected PDK (Phi Delta Kappa) association’s new question about the purpose of education?

And how is it the question asks about the main goal of a public school education while the website and discussion shifts the conversation to the purpose of education?

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-3-46-47-pmJust semantics? Maybe. But, did you know that one definition of semantics is “a deliberate distortion or twisting of meaning, as in advertising, propaganda, etc.”?

Purpose is the reason for which something is done.

Goal is an aim or desired result.

And because struggles in the education reform war continually demonstrate that words are determining outcomes of our battles, we should pay close attention. Words have become the weapon of choice against an unsuspecting public.

The words of reform sold us a perceived need to reform a whole system. The reality is that we needed to only reform the schools in our country that needed re-forming — high-poverty, low-performing schools. We had already identified them before the 1980’s.

The truth? Test-based accountability methods changed nothing. And school choice only reshuffled the deck.

But let’s look at the question of the hour…screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-3-30-15-pm….and look at what one long-time. …long, long time… education-and-the-economy expert, Mr. Marc Tucker, had to say.

This would be a good guess since the marketing of the purpose of education seems to be increasing.

This would be a good guess since the marketing plan appears to be focusing on promoting the purpose of public education as a workforce pipeline. America’s choice?

Our expert is guessing? Let me guess; he knows something we don’t. After all, he is a long-time occupant of the D.C. inner circle, father of the Education/Labor Market System, and an international systems expert. He knows what is going down.

Tucker believes that parents should be choosing BOTH prepare students academically and for work…always beating his education-and-the-economy drum. But why not choose “to be good citizens”?

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This is one more topic where my opinion differs from Marc Tucker’s.

I confess, there is just something about Mr. Tucker’s narrow-mindedness (and his continuing position of power) that makes me want to write. So, here’s my view of this question….

Only 26 percent of respondents in this PDK poll think that preparing students to be good citizens is the most important goal of a public school education. Only!?! Yes, that should be alarming.

Let me ask you; what does it take to be a good citizen?

I thought we needed to learn to read so that we could inform ourselves. I thought we needed to be able to do the math, including understanding statistics, so that we would be less likely to be fooled.

I thought we needed to learn to gather our own facts and think critically because that’s what we need to do in order to be the ultimate authority (the check and balance) in maintaining a representative form of government.

I thought that the pursuit of happiness was a fundamental America value and it meant that our personal interests were important.

I thought that being a good citizen included not being a drag to society, which means being prepared to work and doing the best you can to support yourself.

Academics and work?

Yes, they are part of being a good citizen. But, there is much more to producing an educated electorate than what is being offered in the narrow curriculum of way too many disadvantaged districts —a situation worsened by our outcome-based reforms. Mr. Tucker created and pushed this test-based theory from the get-go.

Tucker has been and continues to be a go-to for The Education Oligarchy.

Yet, Tucker goes on to blame the United States for the damage done to vocational education. — But it’s the STANDARDS STUPID! — Look in the mirror, oh creator of the outcome-based system.

How many times has Mr. Tucker’s publications directed those in power to “start first with academic standards”? Have they ever faced the facts?

The focus on standards narrowed the curriculum.

The focus on standards was deadening to instruction.

The focus on standards almost killed the idea that students need to apply what they learn to real world experiences.

Wake up, America! It’s time to fight for a broad, balanced curriculum, not a narrow set of standards.

We are a nation at risk and the enemy is masked as an expert.

And since when has the purpose of our public education system been to produce already trained workers for private industry? Granted, one purpose is to ensure a solid educational foundation upon which to build. BUT,….

Since when is the goal of public schools to run kids through the workforce development pipeline and pour them directly into jobs? Of course we all need a job but test-and-sort is a recipe for unhappiness.

And, is it a coincidence that editorials are appearing in my local newspaper parroting the same “purpose of education” as the new PDK poll and Mr. Tucker?

“Accelerating talent pipelines is a deliberate effort to prepare our kids, and adults, faster than traditional education pathways, for high paying jobs we know exist today.

How do we build talent pipelines? We embrace three fundamental realities changing our world.

First, we acknowledge the purpose of education is to get a good job and improve our income.

Second, we recognize companies are rapidly shifting their focus to skills and not diplomas for hiring.

Third, we recognize industry is the primary customer of our education system.

Finally, the solution demands we empower industry to influence education outcomes.

NO! This is NOT the purpose of OUR free system of public schools as envisioned by our founding fathers. This is a takeover of our public education system by THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THE WORLD (that includes information systems).

 Please don’t let the public schools become just another one of their information delivery systems and their publicly funded training services. Is this the expectation parents have for their children’s schools?

When those who run the show begin giving us the illusion that public opinion is driving education policy, we should be very, very concerned that the PDK annual poll has a new driver.  We — and our representatives — will hear what they say is public opinion. ….. Think about it.

For the first time since the inception of the PDK/Gallup poll on education in 1969, Langer Research Associates did the polling instead of Gallup. That in itself might not mean much. But, how much do we know about this relatively new firm other than they did work for ABC News and Bloomberg? And this particular question, about the purpose of education, is straight out of the standard-bearers playbook….?…

The Reality of the Education Reform War

They” control the language, develop the conversation, and convince the public that their way is the right way.

When you have high-powered marketing firms pushing your agenda, your message pops up everywhere. It’s no coincidence.

Thankfully, Gallup (on their own without PDK) continued their tradition of asking parents about their satisfaction with their own schools.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-41-07-pmWith 76 percent of parents satisfied with their child’s education, isn’t it time we asked; what are we reforming? And how is it we are changing the whole system and not focusing on what needs fixing (23%)?

Ask Mr. Tucker. He was the go-to education expert back when the standards,testing, accountability movement took off and apparently he continues to be a power player. He’s one national driver who hasn’t changed.

Do you know who is driving education reform in your state?

If charters and “choice” are high on your state’s list of laws to pass (or have already been passed), good chance ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is involved. The wild west is certainly in their pocket and the conversation about the purpose of education has been going on for some time here.

In Idaho (2013), our Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education stated that …

“the higher purpose inherent in education is obvious.”

But it is not obvious in their plan. Their words mean nothing. Their focus continues to be on a narrowed, test-based curriculum with the same old outcome-based accountability that never held anyone accountable. This is state-led?

If this is called “state-led” under the dictates of the new federal education law (Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA), it is no different from the fed-led dictates of No Child Left Behind. The outcome is the same. The law is driving us towards the development of a corporate-controlled, labor development system dubbed public education.

Are we sure this is the direction we want public education to go?

Are we sold on the purpose of education as workforce development (and military recruitment)? Mission accomplished?index

The Public’s Choice

Parents, educators, and politicians moved forward with the illusion of reform based on individual “choice” without considering the public good.

If public education is a public good, what choice does the public have in deciding its direction?

If public education is a public good, what choice does the public have in deciding how it is provided?

We put choice into education law without really having a conversation about our choices.

The Power of the Word

In Understanding the Psychology of the American Idea of Choice, researchers noted that Americans respond more strongly to the word “choice” than people from other countries. They found that when we think about our lives framed in terms of choices, it …

  • “reduces our support for public policies that promote greater equality,…
  • leads us to feel less concerned about the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor,…
  • leads us to feel less empathy towards others who have experienced negative life events,…
  • [shifts] attitudes in favor of policies that promote individual freedom.”

At the heart of the issue of “choice” is our strongly embedded love of freedom. There’s nothing wrong with that, except, these findings may very well have been used against us. Overall, researchers found the effects that the word “choice” has on us seems “to bode poorly for solving social problems that require cooperation.”

Public education of children is a cooperative effort.

Choice Laws

The education law of the land, No Child Left Behind (now 12/5/15 called Every Student Succeeds Act), is a law promoting school choice.Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 5.30.00 PM

It didn’t used to be. It used to be a law promoting quality and equal opportunity.Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 3.52.56 PM

But even if we eliminated the big bad hand of the federal government in education reform laws, state charter laws abound and ALEC is ready for the State to control education reform.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is advancing the “principles of free markets” and makes claims that they promote…

“public private partnerships between America’s state legislators and concerned members of the private sector, the federal government, and the general public.”

ALEC is looking out for the general public?

ALEC supports “more choices in education both as a matter of principle and as a promising solution to the increasing challenges facing America’s K-12 education system.”

With charter laws in place across the country, here’s ALEC’s smorgasbord of other “solutions” to choose from ….Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 7.41.11 PM

But is “choice” a solution for the American K-12 education system?

The Assumption of Choice as a Reform

The basic assumption is that ALL parents are very savvy and their school choices will be well-informed. They will be able to judge the schools accurately and won’t get sold on advertising gimmicks similar to how the country was deceived by test score comparisons.

I admit my bias here; I volunteered in classrooms for 11 years and saw these same kids with their families in different settings in my community. This is my opinion…

The ignorant crack head is not “savvy”; the single working mother struggling to get everything done in a 24 hour day doesn’t have time to adequately do her homework on schools, she isn’t “savvy”; the homeless but proud (and yes, I can put a face to them) can only use the library computer for a limited time, not enough opportunity to become “savvy”; and those parents whose children are their translators have a real barrier to becoming “savvy.”

Put another way in “Choice or Commonality” by Martha Minow, a law professor and inspiration to a young Barack Obama,

“if educational responsibility remains solely on the immediate family, ‘choice’ may take place in a world of insufficient numbers of quality schools, inadequate information about the stakes and alternatives, and large numbers of people unable to use the choice system effectively. This state of affairs means choice for some and not for others, and whether a child’s educational needs are met will depend on her parents’ ability to choose.

So with federal education law originally meant to support the public education system in order to break the “poverty-ignorance-ignorance-poverty cycle” by providing ALL children with quality education, we know “choice” cannot logically get us to equal educational opportunity.

What problem is fixed by “choice” through charters?

Quality? You can put the word “quality” in front of “charter” in law but it doesn’t make it so. In the new federal law set to replace No Child Left Behind they use the term “high quality” while others say “high-performing”; still, words don’t make it so. Only 17% of charter schools perform better than traditional public schools. Unequal quality isn’t fixed and that is the major problem.

While the problem being fixed by choice through charters is illusive or non-existent, the growing troubles are well documented in this Washington Post article, A Dozen Problems with Charter Schools.

  1. Most are not helping kids.
  2. Some are actually hurting kids.
  3. Far too many are cash cows.
  4. The industry is rife with fraud and corruption.
  5. Lack of transparency and accountability.
  6. Skimming and weed-out strategies.
  7. Contribute to the re-segregation of U.S. education.
  8. Drain resources from struggling districts.
  9. Closing traditional public schools.
  10. Lack of innovation.
  11. Hard to get rid of the bad ones.
  12. Charters promote “choice” as solution.

As the curtain goes up on all the complications with charters, that will not slow the Choice Movement. Look at Nevada and their Universal School Choice.mistakes

Is this informed choice? What are the risks? And really, what is the difference between shopping for a charter and shopping for education products with public money in hand? How informed will parents be, how inefficient is the system to become, how unequal will the quality be, and who will be responsible to the children left behind in the end when their parents don’t make good choices or are fooled into bad choices?

The choice to leave a school never improves that school. For certain individuals, a different school than the one they are assigned is appropriate, but those situations must be handled at the local level. They are the exception, not the general rule.

The choice this country was never given is the one to continue to strengthen and improve all schools through proven methods. The choice we never got was to put in place the best practices we know that match our students’ needs. The choice we never got was to improve the teaching profession as a nation. The choice we never got was to fund schools in a manner that is fair and reasoned.

When all reform is based on responsiveness to the needs of community members, continuous improvement happens. That’s what we have always needed, always will.

Choice is a very powerful propaganda weapon; choice is not a reform. School choice is not a solution. To create more equitable educational opportunities, continuous school improvement of every public school is the only logical solution.

But I’m not the one making this choice.

personal-choice-quotes-3The public must choose. Do you want public education to be a public service provided by our government, or, a commodity provided by private individuals or organizations paid for by tax dollars? This is about control. This is about how we govern our schools.

This is a BIG choice. We urgently need to decide.

Words for Sale

World Press Freedom Day: today, May 3, 2015. But do we have freedom of the press or are words now for sale for propaganda purposes?

...and the sign said...

…and the sign said…

While other places in the world fight for freedom of the press, here in the United States our press sells words to the highest bidders.

Until recently, I did not know about the covert actions behind the No Child Left Behind propaganda machine. As Jim Hightower wrote:

“Just a bad apple,” said the Powers That Be, “an aberration” in an otherwise honest system.

The New York Times wasn’t so kind in their article titled All the President’s Newsmen.

“…the Jan. 7 [2005] edition of CNN’s signature show can stand as an exceptionally ripe paradigm of what is happening to the free flow of information in a country in which a timid news media, the fierce (and often covert) Bush administration propaganda machine, lax and sometimes corrupt journalistic practices, and a celebrity culture all combine to keep the public at many more than six degrees of separation from anything that might resemble the truth.

…[Armstrong Williams] had just been unmasked as the frontman for a scheme in which $240,000 of taxpayers’ money was quietly siphoned to him through the Department of Education and a private p.r. firm [Ketchum, Inc.] so that he would “regularly comment” upon (translation: shill for) the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind policy in various media venues during an election year.”

This gets even sleazier.

It was USA Today that broke the story and their article began by saying,

“Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law,…”

Consider those words one more time. … “to build support among black families.” They targeted a race demographic for propaganda purposes.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) propaganda campaign did such a number on the country that civil rights groups and others, including our half-black president, continue to believe in the basic premise of NCLB. The country needs to take the time to evaluate the theory of NCLB based on the scientific method.

But here is a theory pertaining to NCLB in general. It is possible that Bush #43 was just walking in his daddy’s footsteps and following Bush #41’s executive order to advance privatization:

“…in order to ensure that the United States achieves the most beneficial economic use of its resources, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Definitions. For purposes of this order: (a) “Privatization” means the disposition or transfer of an infrastructure asset, such as by sale or by long-term lease, from a State or local government to a private party.

(b) “Infrastructure asset” means any asset financed in whole or in part by the Federal Government and needed for the functioning of the economy. Examples of such assets include, but are not limited to: roads, tunnels, bridges, electricity supply facilities, mass transit, rail transportation, airports, ports, waterways, water supply facilities, recycling and wastewater treatment facilities, solid waste disposal facilities, housing, schools, prisons, and hospitals.”

Looking at the good side of all this corruption of power, at least in this incidence the actions were taken using government money which more times than not leaves a paper trail for journalists to uncover.

But now, we have “journalism” sponsored by philanthropists. Ever hear of Solution Journalism Network?

As reported from the Education Writers Association 2015 Conference,

“News is spreading that the Boston Globe is going to join the Seattle Times and BRIGHT in taking the “solutions” approach to education journalism, with funding from Gates and others.  That’ll allow the newsroom to hire a second K-12 education reporter (not yet named) and let longtime Globe reporter James Vaznis to do more in-depth pieces.”

I only stumbled upon this because of my recent personal experience with a Boston Globe Common Core op-ed that was printed in my hard-copy newspaper but not in its online version. When there is no way to comment quickly in order to debunk or dispute the words stated as facts, it’s frustrating. It’s not the first time.

A couple of weeks back I called my paper, the Idaho Statesman, because I wanted to comment on an article but couldn’t find it in the online version. Their later explanation was that it was a mistake that couldn’t be corrected.

Today, with another Common Core article, marks the third time that I clearly recall this happening. Despite being called a conspiracy theorist and “nutcase,” it takes getting hit over the head several times before I observe a pattern. Many time in the past, I thought it was my inability to find the articles. Now, I understand the growing pile of notes on my desk. They represent the lies I’ve seen printed which I have been unable to help correct.

This could be “an aberration” in an otherwise honest system; it could be my newspaper. It‘s owned by The McClatchy Co. (third largest in the U.S.). The articles in question were from two different sources —Boston Globe and the Associated Press (AP). The only connection between those two is the fact that the CEO of McClatchy, Gary Pruitt, is the head of the AP. That doesn’t prove anything. But let’s theorize a bit more.

If these omissions to online access are intentional, what demographic group is being targeted for the message? My guess in the case of Common Core is the older voting block.

But, I’m personally done with chasing facts today. If we can’t use what we already know, what good is it?

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Specialty: drive adoption throughout an organization.

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Specialty: sets education agendas in motion.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.09.33 PM

Specialty: accelerates results through decisive actions.

I uncovered the people behind the Common Core propaganda machine with the thoroughness and integrity of a journalist true to their trade. I just wish I had the advantages of being a journalist — pay, a copy editor, and wide access.

It’s hard work fighting against the media machine armed only with the truth. But it’s a small price to pay.

Freedom of the press — a Constitutional Right in the United States of America — has been rendered meaningless by the highest bidders — the people who own the worldScreen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.26.55 PM

Propaganda Pitfalls

So as not to be misunderstood, propaganda is technically defined as the promotion of one’s ideas to further a cause. Label me a propagandist in this sense and I will now gladly stand beside Thomas Paine.

thomas-paine-arguing-600x305(Quick reference to a list for those not wanting to read this blog.)

Researching Paine for my first book, I had decided then that the last person I wanted to be like was he. He was labeled a revolutionary propagandist. But now that I’ve had some time to look into the topic of propaganda and thought about some of the ideas presented by Ronald B. Standler  (and others), I can see Standler’s point in that propaganda is an essential tool for leaders but it is equally as essential that we recognize when propaganda techniques are being used. Only then can we think our way clear of the pitfalls.

As Standler explained, “Rhetoric is the art of persuading someone…Propaganda is a subset of rhetoric, in which the speaker/writer attempts to manipulate the audience with emotion or fallacious reasoning.” Defining a propagandist like this, I hope I’m not labeled this way. I have written some emotional things, because I am passionate about educational improvement. But I have not attempted to manipulate any of my readers. I have tried to unite not divide.

Standler felt that “the us vs. them posturing is particularly damaging to society, in that it is inherently divisive and erects barriers to working together to solve problems that affect everyone.”

You can go online and find multiple authors explaining propaganda techniques. I randomly chose Rickety’s examples to summarize here:

Name-Calling is a device to make us form a judgment without examining the evidence. It appeals to our hate and fear.

Glittering Generality is a device to make us accept and approve without examining the evidence. It appeals to our emotions of love, generosity, and sisterhood.

Transfer is a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept (nationalism and religion being examples). Symbols are used to stir emotions both for and against causes and ideas.

Testimonial is a device to make us accept.

Plain Folks is a device to win our confidence by appearing to be just plain folks like us.

Card Stacking employs all the arts of deception by stacking the cards against the truth. It uses under-emphasis and over-emphasis to dodge issues and evade facts. It uses half-truths.

Bandwagon is a device to make us follow the crowd, to accept the propagandists program en masse. The theme is: “Everybody’s doing it” and our emotions push and pull us on to the Band Wagon.

Please go read the examples others have written. It is up to each of us to recognize when propaganda is intentionally being used in misleading the public or discrediting those fighting the good fight.

When I wrote, They Have Plans for U.S. Children, I can see why some people instantly refused to hear what I had to say because of my choice of “art” to decorate that page and attract more attention to the article. Many feel that Nazism is too “inflammatory” a topic for “rational discussion” and there is of course “Godwin’s law”  that whoever makes an analogy to Nazism has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress, losing “credibility” in the discussion. That worries me because the gentleman that came up with that theory talked of “inappropriate” analogies. Who is to be the judge of that? And isn’t that “labeling” of a person as “non-credible” – a form of name calling?

Be aware, think, make your own informed decisions, and resist conformity without valid reasons.conformity-final-1

Our country is embarking on a propaganda campaign in education of the likes that we have never seen — over Common Core. Those of us taking a stand against the Core will be targets.

The political season is upon us and the topic of education has the attention of much of the nation as never before. Be careful out there; watch for and avoid the pitfalls!