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

Friday, May 15, 2009

Authoritarianism As a Solution for "Maturing" Democracy

The strangling of public education by the casino capitalists, the vulture philanthropists, and the Harvard Business School would have been a slam dunk had the New Authoritarians not been side-tracked by an economic meltdown of their own creation. And even though the catastrophe has not been fully realized yet, there is enough pain to cause most Americans to question the groupthink and genuflecting to greed that treats our democratic institutions like mature business ventures in need of a management makeover or a personnel swapout or a new CEO to bring that entrepreneurial blood to the surface--all that is needed, according to the case study copyists at the Harvard Business School and the Harvard School of Ed, where ideas are copied from the copyists across campus.

This kind of misplaced analogizing by businessmen who know nothing about educating children, or who have other more important priorities, has been around for a hundred years, but only since Reagan have the meddlers and misanthropes actually had a chance to operationalize their stupid and dystopic notions. Ironically, the profiteers' own self-created economic depression could serve to stop the shoving of public institutions over the cliff and our democratic souls with them.

The signs are everywhere that fewer and fewer are believing Arne Duncan's superflous superlatives anymore, and the oiliness of oligarchs like Gates (see the June Harper's Magazine) and Broad becomes more apparent as they implant their manipulators like the uber-macho Steve Barr into the public sphere to do their private and self-serving dirty work. U. S. News has even taken notice of the potential bankruptcy in letting the bankrupt lead:
. . . .Assuming that $5 billion is enough dough to "turn around" some of the nation's worst public schools—and that the turnaround can be done in five years—would such an intervention even work? Besides firing and replacing staff or handing the schools over to charter school operators, Arne Duncan has yet to offer any specific examples of what a "school turnaround" would actually consist of. The mantra most recited by Education Department officials now is "bold action" in persistently low-achieving schools, but what does that actually mean?

Would simply replacing teachers and principals work? If all the other factors in a low-achieving student's life—family, neighborhood, social life—were to remain constant, would substituting an outstanding teacher for an ineffective teacherreverse the achievement levels? Are good teachers and principals all that is needed to turn around struggling schools, the majority of which are in impoverished communities where the parents might not have the time to help their children succeed in school? (Another interesting approach to "shut down" failing schools has recently been mounted by Steve Barr, who is gathering petitions from frustrated parents to convert Los Angeles public schools into charter schools.) What would teachers unions say about the potential massive firings of teachers in an effort to turn around failing schools? . . . .


  1. It is a fact that some of the worst teachers around these days, are the obedient, "teach everything to the multiple-choice test" and "follow all administration commands perfectly" employees---Including the ones who insist teachiung is all about rote facts and items.

    And in some cases, a truly outstanding teacher who generates much real student growth, doesn't always "look" good to some outsider, or administrator, popping into the classroom at any odd moment in hopes of witnessing a perfectly-proportioned piece of IDEAL lesson-planning that represents every aspect of the school's oh-so-rigorous program.

    Here's a personal anecdote that portrays just such a situation:


  2. The personal account you cite is compelling, nikto.

    I thought that Secretary Duncan might wise-up some in his Listen and Learn tour. But to date, he's doing all the talking and he's talking to carefully selected audiences. Same ol, same ol.

    The Secretary is leading the President and the country down the primrose path that Schools Matter keeps pointing to. The Obama Administration has borrowed the empty slogans of the Bush Administration and added some.

    --Race to the Top--To the top of what?
    --Turnaround Schools--In circles
    --State Educational Data Systems--that "store"
    instructionally insensitive test scrore
    --Merit Pay--on the basis of the statistical manipulations of the instructionally insensitive tests

    It's only a matter of time until the nostrums that are touted as Reforms will become recognized as such. We can only hope that the time will be "sooner" rather than "later."