Bowling For Bailouts
Where Have The Education Lobbyists Been For The Past Quarter Century?
The last time I bought an American car was … hmmm, let's see now, was it 1980? Nooo. Maybe 1970. No, not then either. My 1970 Toyota Corona Mark II was my first car - $2,700, and that was the top of the line. It didn't have giant fins like American cars and the doorknobs didn't fall off the day you got it home.
The American car industry got its ass kicked in the 1970s, as the gas lines got longer (remember those?), by cheaper, more fuel efficient cars coming in from Japan that worked better. What did they do about it? Oh my! Here we go again.
Thomas Friedman in the NY Times has no sympathy for the American auto industry. "Instead of focusing on making money by innovating around fuel efficiency, productivity and design, G.M. threw away too much energy into lobbying and maneuvering to protect its gas guzzlers." The usual corporate shenanigans where they worry more about buying politicians who will do their bidding, than about trying to run an efficient company. Of course, we hear "blame the union" stories. Oh my, all those health care and pension costs G.M. has to pay that are making them hemorrhage $2 billion a month. "Please, spare me the alligator tears," Friedman writes. "Why did G.M. refuse to lift a finger to support a national health care program…?" Friedman goes on to show how Honda and Toyota are still flourishing building cars in the US and Canada. Are the guys running things incompetent or what? They're asking for so many billions, my calculator exploded trying to add them up. But, hey, we're in a financial crisis, aren't we? So let's dump more money down the well.
Enough about cars and economics. Let's talk education. For 25 years since the business-financed "A Nation at Risk" was released, we've been told we are in an educational crisis. Whenever we bring up the concept that reducing class size is the key, we have been told it is too expensive. People like NYC Chancellor Joel Klein have said that we first need to guarantee a competent teacher in every classroom. How about assuring a competent manager of car companies? Or banks? (We just handed another $25 billion, making it a total of $150 billion, over to AIG.)
The numbers are astounding when we compare them to what it would cost to assure every kid in America the same class size and educational services enjoyed by kids in the most elite private schools. Another generation of opportunity wasted as we will now see educational budgets cut to the bone while the financial and auto industry and who knows what else will go bowling for bailouts from the very same politicians that have denied the poorest kids the services they need to truly close the achievement gap.
The so-called education quick change artists running so many large school systems - Michael Bloomberg/Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee in DC, Paul Vallas in New Orleans (after messing up Chicago and Philly) - have been telling us we can't change education by throwing cash at the problem but by changing the culture of the schools. All in the name of closing the achievement gap, which has been termed the civil rights struggle of our times.
Read this to mean - get rid of teachers who won't be bamboozled into thinking they will close the achievement gap just by working 12-hour days, doing all the dumb assessments, making an astounding number of dumb charts that will look good for visitors but have nothing to do with teaching and learning - with 25 percent more kids in their class than schools in the suburbs have even though they are dealing with the poorest kids with the most difficult academic problems. Find a kiddie corps of people with zero educational background to train to be principals in a business oriented manner. Hand over a major chunk of schools built and supported by public funding to charter schools run by private interests - the biggest land giveaway since the land rushes in the Midwest in the 19th century.
And oh yeah, turn urban school systems over to dictatorial mayors while suburban (white) parents actually get to vote for school boards and school budgets. Here's the real civil rights struggle of our times - give parents in our city the same rights 95 percent of the parents around the nation have by removing politics from education and getting rid of mayoral control.
You know those scenes in movies where people put their hands over their eyes in horror at an accident about to happen? That is how NYC educators and parents felt when an ugly rumor surfaced that NYC Chancellor Joel Klein was a possible choice for Education Secretary in the Obama administration. The education blogosphere in NYC and beyond responded with parents and teachers chipping in with their objections. There's even an online petition addressed to Obama opposing Klein. (See my blog for the link.) Blogger "A Voice in the Wilderness" said, "Ok, ok, stop screaming," and suggested the advice Joel Klein would give to superintendents to make it look like their policies were having a positive impact. Here are a few delicious tidbits:
Numbers in the toilet? Fudge 'Em!
Violent Incidents in Schools Getting You Down? Bury 'Em!
Pack Kids in As Tightly As Possible - Don't buy into this educational hoopla about children needing more attention and all that positive school climate crap. Save you lots of money, and then you can give property away to make charter schools!
Make Your Own Principals [I especially like this one as it reminds me of a Frankenstein movie - Actually "Young Frankenstein" in honor of the numerous teen principals who have been "made" under Klein.]
I'm a NUT
Writer Steven Krashen writes:
No Unnecessary Testing (NUT) is the principle that school should include only those tests and parts of tests that are necessary, that contribute to essential evaluation and learning. Every minute testing and doing "test preparation" (activities to boost scores on tests that do not involve genuine learning) is stolen from students' lives, in addition to costing money that we cannot afford these days. The full piece is posted on my blog.
Almost every major issue facing teachers in NYC (and elsewhere) can be linked to the evils of high stakes testing. Closing schools based on tests leads to Absentee Teacher Reserves, a floating band of teachers (1400) without assignment. Narrow curriculum. Bored students. More discipline problems as a result. Yet the UFT, while paying lip service to the concept that there is too much testing, has gone along with most of the Bloomberg/Klein/market-based know nothing education engineers: merit pay, rating teachers based on tests, no opposition to closing schools, etc. The UFT clearly has a stake in the merit pay program, as they ran workshops jointly with the DOE accountability people. I've been working with a group of teachers on a campaign to reach into the schools and get teachers to join us by creating such a massive movement in the UFT that the leadership will be forced to notice. Join us. Become a NUT in your school.