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

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"The Cartel" Concludes Public Schools Greater Threat Than Terrorists

If there is any narrative the Boston Globe loves to push more than charter schools and corporate education deform, it would be someone who truly hates public education and public school teachers as much as the Boston Globe. A new corporate propaganda fear film entitled "The Cartel" fills the bill on both counts, and the Globe's drooling hyperbolic review by Brian MacQuarrie reads like an Eli Broad playtime fantasy:

When “The Cartel’’ opens Friday in the Boston area, it will take aim at what its creator calls the most important story in the country, one that the last person featured in his 90-minute documentary says is a greater threat to American civilization than terrorism.

It’s not the implosion of the financial system, the runaway national debt, or ideology-driven paralysis in Washington. The threat, instead, is the state of the nation’s public schools, and the powerful teacher unions that “The Cartel’’ believes are sabotaging the future.

It’s a subject that is familiar to countless parents, public officials, and even casual observers of the sausage-making of municipal government. But in “The Cartel,’’ a debut film by former television reporter Bob Bowdon, the causes and consequences of the failings of public education are chronicled in extraordinary detail.

Hideously low test scores in reading and math. Impenetrable obstacles to removing poor teachers. Insidious corruption and the related waste of massive amounts of taxpayer money. All this toxic fallout, Bowdon says, is the byproduct of an American education system that leads the world in per-pupil spending, yet lags many countries in performance.

The result, according to “The Cartel,’’ will be a national train wreck engineered by a woefully unprepared workforce. For Bowdon, who says he became bored reciting earnings reports on Bloomberg Television, “it struck me that this issue needed the long-form kind of treatment that a documentary could provide.’’

“The Cartel,’’ however, is more than a treatment. It’s a full-frontal assault, almost three years in the making, on the teacher unions and administrators whom Bowdon sees as stubborn stranglers of innovation. In his view, tenure often trumps learning, and the amalgamation of power can be a union’s top priority. . . .
So as the Wall Street banksters and casino capitalists have driven the American and world economies into the crapper, there is no more pressing diversion, it would seem, than to blame the teachers and the schools once again for failures of an economic system based on intermittent grand larceny and fraud by the managers of that economic system. From reading this review, however, we might conclude that unions are the reason for the national bankruptcy and for hundreds of thousands of teachers losing their jobs this coming fall, as class sizes become larger and more prescription drugs are ordered up to maintain student control.

Meanwhile, the systemically corrupt cartel that exported all the jobs, arranged the economic meltdown, collected the billions in bailouts, foreclosed on all the mortgages, and reclaimed all the properties remains in charge of the ramped up corporate ed reforms aimed now at turning dwindling public school expenditures into just another corporate revenue stream. And never mind that the "reform" represents, yet, one more generation of the same test and punish tactics that have brought American schools to brink of a nervous breakdown with not even improved test scores to recommend another round of the same treatment.

I like the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge, but I hope teachers will out in force with picket signs when this piece of corporate progaganda opens on April 30.

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