Listening to a discussion about the public school system in the U.S, on NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook this morning, I learned many uncomfortable pieces of information. And one of those pieces of information is that in some cities like New Orleans, the whole public school system has been turned over to Charter Schools, something we do not have in Canada.
Some of the Charter Schools are "for profit" or are operated on a "for profit" basis, while hiding under the official umbrella of "not-for-profit". And some of those under the radar, use their board members to provide services, on a fee basis, to the Charter Schools. Some Charters also filter their intake of students, filtering out the poor, and the potentially poor students, based on academic achievement, thereby the better to market their program to new parents who may not be as sophisticated as some others and may fall for the "better record" marketing plan. Of course, having filtered out the students plagued by poverty, and also be learning disadvantages, those schools would have to demonstrate a "pure score card" for their wider (and possibly unsuspecting) potential parent market.
Some Charters are exclusively privately funded, by such organizations as the Koch Brothers, who will have nothing to do with unionized teachers, and demand a curriculum that espouses the capitalist system, in effect using the schools as social engineering machines to produce future voters for their right wing agenda.
The last several years of education "reform" in the U.S. have been blanketed by testing every year to demonstrate both achieving students (according to the test instruments only) and worthwhile teachers and administrators. Failure on either or both levels of testing, students and/or teachers, often has resulted in the dismissal, or firing, or simple termination because of budget short-falls, of many hundreds of teachers.
In fact the public perception of teachers as the central problem in American education has been so trumpeted by the Republican right that it has taken hold, in a manner similar to the same kind of fortissimo tromboning of the protests against Obamacare, from the same tin-eared political terrorists on the right. Like beginning musicians, without any training or appreciation for the potential of their new adventure to generate musical sounds, the Right is blasting into their instruments, when and wherever they can find an open mic.
Privatizing the American school system, as part of a wider agenda to swing the country to the side of the Republican party in less than a single generation is finding too many deep-pocketed donors who are far too willing to throw the public education system under the proverbial bus of public infamy.
Trashing teachers, recalling administrators, dumping unionized teachers and their unions, and pouring public money into for-profit charter schools...this lobby is effectively participating in a planned, executed and finalized coup d'état on the public school system.
And their social agenda is, not to produce better test scores or even better education (because that is not what they care about!)...but rather a new social class of capitalists who will, they hope, pray, and bet will produce right-wing governments for the next half century.
Trouble is, they have too many willing accomplices who call anyone who writes or thinks this way as reductionistic, criticizing their writing as simplistic, reductionistic and countering with their own multiple interviews of educational leaders who want to find a middle path between the so-caller reformers and their strongest critics.
Representing the critics of the movement to turn schools in to instruments of the capitalist market on this morning's edition of On Point was Diane Ravitch, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education in the administration of George H. W. Bush, author of “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” and “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,” historian of education and an educational policy analyst at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. (@DianeRavitch)
Representing the "reductionistic" critique of Ravitch's work was Jessica Levin, education policy advisor in the Department of Education under Bill Clinton, independent education consultant and former Chief Knowledge Officer for the New Teacher Project.
Unless and until someone, or some reputable group of scholars (and in education, in a room full of 1000 PhD's in the subject, there will be 1000+ different opinions about the causes of the American education's failures, and a similar number of solutions to their diagnosis of the problem) demonstrates clearly that Ravitch's thesis is not worthy of serious consideration, we support her position and her work to broadcast her findings. They need to be scoured, dissected and debated by the Secretary of Education, by the Obama Administration, and by those responsible for educational programs and policies in the fifty states, where budgets for public service workers (teachers, fire and police) thereby "gutting" those classrooms in the public school system of their teachers, and leaving the field ready to by "bought" by those whose agenda, slightly to the right of Attila the Hun, is only exceeded in its extremism by the size of their bank accounts and their hubris that they should and indeed must "own" the schools, the hospitals, and the oil and gas resources on which their empires are based (in the case of the Koch brothers).
If the people of the United States do not wake up to the rape of their school system, by the capitalist ideologues, their children will be sentenced to a future whose programs and whose teachers will be dictated by those very "bagmen" who have nearly decimated the national political system, through eviscerating the word compromise from the lexicon...and all of the implications of that surgical strike.
It is not only drones and cruise missiles that are making surgical strikes...and the enemy is not only on the other side of the world, wearing turbans, and sporting Kalishnikovs. They are wearing Hardy Amies suits, sitting in offices and limousines riding up and down Fifth Avenue, and the streets of many other large cities across the country, pulling strings of feeble political puppets, whose gravy train only greases their hands, as Brylcreem once greased the locks of a famous singer named Presley.
It is a very tragic turn that will see both poor and challenged students wearing the scars of this undeclared and unregulated war on public education for generations.