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

Friday, November 13, 2009

Marion Brady's Truthout Essay

Here is is the opening of Marion Brady's essay that appeared earlier this week at Truthout:
Sooner or later, a reluctant Congress is going to have to do something about replacing No Child Left Behind. If senators and representatives will listen, they'll learn why Education Secretary Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top" initiative is a really bad idea, and why thoughtful educators think politicians, business leaders and wealthy philanthropists are bulls in the education china shop.

Back in the 1980's, corporate America, listening to privatizer Milton Friedman, came storming into the shop, not to buy, not to examine or talk about the stock, but to evict educators and take over. With the help of state governors, Congress and the mainstream media, this they did. Professional educators weren't just fired. Convinced that experienced teachers were tainted by "the soft bigotry of low expectations," the self-styled "New Progressives" barred them from the premises.

Non-educators have now been in near-total control of US education policy for more than a full kindergarten-through-12th grade cycle, and things aren't going well. Lou Gerstner, ex-CEO of IBM, RJR Nabisco and The Carlyle Group, a leader in the takeover of education by corporate interests, admitted in a December 1, 2008, op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, "We must start with the recognition that, despite decade after decade of reform efforts, our public schools have not improved."

Those who follow educational issues carefully enough to see past the public relations hype, the test-score manipulations and the statistical game playing, will agree.

Gerstner advocates nationalizing the "standards and accountability" approach. And so, apparently, do the new administration, state governors, the conservative Business Roundtable, the liberal Center for American Progress and educators who should know better. Notwithstanding the ideological "big government is bad" reversal it requires many to make, and notwithstanding the US Constitution's provision that educating is a state rather than a national responsibility, "national standards" probably has enough of a no-nonsense ring to it to counter the philosophical misgivings of most states' righters.

Before Congress opens the national standards and testing can of worms, it might want to examine more closely the assumptions about public education to which the New Progressives cling. Those assumptions are at odds with research and the facts on the ground, but are held with such conviction that behind-the-scenes strategies (including the use of industry-sponsored front groups) have been set in furious motion to convince politicians and the public that the assumptions aren't just valid, but that basing education policy on them assures the success of America's "Race to the Top." . . . .

Read the rest here.

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