"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Obama, McCain, and the Disappearing Light Between Them on Education

There are two policy issues that threaten the creation of quality public schools for all who choose them, and Barack Obama and John McCain support both of them: corporate charter schools and teacher raises based on test scores.  

There are many liberals who believe that they, themselves, support charter schools for the promised innovation that such schools of the imagination, well, promise.  As the liberal script goes, charter schools offer the opportunity for parents and teachers to form innovative programs that serve various niches within communities by focusing the school environment and curriculum on things that matter to the constiutents who come together to learn and teach, all the while forgoing the control and bureaucracy of local school boards.

Sounds great, right?  Power to the people!  Well, to the anti-public school wing of American school reform--the wing with the money--this kind of liberal blather sounded the dinner bell for a new feeding line for the ed industry's corporate welfare artists and the religious welfare scammers who believe the solution to urban poverty is a uniform scripted curriculum for uniformed children who are fed a Spartan diet of behavior modification with their boiled reading and math.  

These KIPPster schools, and the corporate charters that emulate them, have an effective PR machine (the American media) that boasts the high percentages of their graduates who attend college.  What is not talked about are the large numbers of children and parents who cannot hack the regimentation or cognitive decapitation on which these schools build their mindless parrot learning programs. Many urban parents desperate for something besides the demoralized poverty schools that have been blown up by NCLB look to these newly-painted child workhouses with a hope and a prayer.

So much for liberal dreaming.  Not only have the privatizers coopted a good figment of liberal imagination and operationalized it for their own economically-driven ends, but they have used the same idea to attack humane teaching, teacher tenure, collective bargaining, and retirement plans.  What about school libraries and librarians?  Who needs them in the small-school chain gangs?  Who has time for the library--if there were one?  

So while both liberal and conservative politicians rub their chins and consider the 20% payroll savings that the charterizers promise by cutting teacher pay in the charter detention camps, they have arrived at a scheme by which teachers in these "schools" may earn back the pay they will have lost through charterization:  higher pay for test scores.  The vortex tightens, and the dizzying spin of mindlessness accelerates.  

Such visionary planning leads me to conclude at this point in "yes, we can" campaign of 2008 that any real audacity of hope came from those audacious enough to believe that the new boss will be any different on education than the old boss.  Read 'em and weep.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much, Jim. I think people get stars in their eyes at election time and find out that important issues like school libraries aren't part of the candidate's agenda until it is too late.