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

Friday, September 14, 2012

It's Not the Teachers Stupid

Buried underneath the rubble of abysmally pathetic television news coverage of the Chicago teachers strike was a story  our nation's political leaders would like to shove back under the rug but it needs to be shouted out loud from the rooftop of every public school across America. It's the finding of a report by the World Economic Forum and it shines the spotlight right where it belongs.
 The reason the U.S. has slipped again in the rankings for economic competitiveness has nothing to do with our teachers, our educational institutions or those who support public education. Rather, the U.S. is in deep trouble because of failed leadership in government and the corporations that control politicians and every aspect of our lives. These same private interests  have been trying to get their hands on public schools for decades. Why --not to improve education, teaching or learning but to feed their greedy, self serving agendas while they hide behind a smoke screen that is finally disappearing along with the middle class and a compliant workforce that has nothing left to lose.  
The story didn't get much coverage but it came from a business blogger at the Times,  Catherine Rampell's Economix and it ties right into how teachers, parents, students and concerned citizens can begin to change the narrative about education being the key to global competition. It's time to look behind the curtain and hold those who are responsible accountable. Save the Republic.
The main reasons the United States has been slipping in the rankings appear related to distrust of and lack of confidence in government leadership.   The World Economic Forum
SEPTEMBER 6, 2012, 2:29 PM

A Look Behind the U.S. Decline in Global Competitiveness

For the fourth consecutive year, Switzerland is the most competitive economy in the world, according to a ranking from the World Economic Forum. And, for the fourth consecutive year, the United States fell in the rankings -- largely because of worsening criticism of the American government -- and is now in seventh place.
The interactive map below shows how each of the 144 countries analyzed ranked. Click on any country to see how it stacks up on different dimensions of competitiveness.
The World Economic Forum defines competitiveness as "the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country" and thereby lead to sustainable growth. The report graded economies based on an index of categories like over-regulation, property rights, tax burdens, transparency and trustworthiness of both the government and the financial sector, infrastructure, inflation conditions, the health and educational attainment of the population, access to technology, and research and development.
The main reasons the United States has been slipping in the rankings appear related to distrust of and lack of confidence in government leadership.
Here's an excerpt from the report; the numbers in parentheses refer to America's ranking on that category in relation to all 144 countries:
The business community continues to be critical toward public and private institutions (41st). In particular, its trust in politicians is not strong (54th), perhaps not surprising in light of recent political disputes that threaten to push the country back into recession through automatic spending cuts. Business leaders also remain concerned about the government's ability to maintain arm's-length relationships with the private sector (59th), and consider that the government spends its resources relatively wastefully (76th). A lack of macroeconomic stability continues to be the country's greatest area of weakness (111th, down from 90th last year). On a more positive note, measures of financial market development continue to indicate a recovery, improving from 31st two years ago to 16th this year in that pillar, thanks to the rapid intervention that forced the deleveraging of the banking system from its toxic assets following the financial crisis.
Note also that the map shows a sharp divide in competitiveness between Southern Europe (Greece, Italy, Spain) and Northern and Central Europe (Finland, Sweden, Germany, etc.). This is a divide that has been growing,
Separately, Gallup on Wednesday released a new metric looking at the share of adults in each country who are working full time for an employer (as opposed to being unemployed, out of the labor force or self-employed). The United States came in 16th place, with 41 percent of its adult population working at least 30 hours a week for an employer. Worldwide, the share is 27 percent.
This metric is closely correlated with economic growth, as well as with a country's competitiveness rating:


  1. It's simple: people cannot get jobs if there are no jobs to be had. No amount of "pick yourself up by the bootstraps" bunk changes that. It does not take a mathematician to figure out that 22 million unemployed Americans cannot squeeze into 1 million jobs, most of which pay little more than flipping burgers.

    Watching the news, one would think our graduates are not skilled enough to become employed in the go-go, futuristic, technological, information-age work place. The truth is that this work place does not exist. The few skilled jobs that were here left with the recession, and continue to leave as soon as companies find ways to offshore them in the never-ending pursuit for slave-wage labor. The few jobs that have replaced them are low-skilled, low-paying service jobs. It is no coincidence food stamp roles are increasing. Get a job at Walmart, get handed a food stamp application on the first day.

    The job market has steadily been hollowed out over the past 30 years and, with it, so have unions and the middle class. Anyone who blames the education system for this is a fool.

    But of course, that is exactly what is happening. There is this myth that schools are failing and need to be reformed to produce the skilled workforce of tomorrow. In truth, schools are not "failing" and should never be looked on as merely economic institutions to mold human capital. They are civic institutions that are supposed to turn out citizens intelligent enough to live in a free country.

    What the education reformers really want to do through their charter schools, Common Core, standardized testing and union busting is turn public education into a chain of cookie cutter learning centers administered by untrained, low-wage, temporary instructors and computer screens. The aim is pump out a future work force with no job skills, no creativity, no critical thinking skills and no curiosity about the world around them. None of these things will be necessary given the types of jobs our corporate overlords intend to make for us over the next 50 years.

    The privatizers know they intend to supply the country with mindless, rote, minimum wage jobs. They want a public education system that will produce workers for just that. Preparing the next generation to actually think and care about democratic values is anathema to the ruling class who have nothing but corporate fascism in mind for our futures.

    Unfortunately, the bullying of teachers has too much traction today. People honestly think they are poor because some teacher somewhere is making $70,000 a year. The ignorance is astounding. This country has become so disconnected from reality, so quick to turn on itself, so willing to allow banksters, corporate crooks and Wall Street off the hook, that we are nothing more than a giant, third-world nation who pretends to be a global superpower.

    Let us see what kind of "superpower" we are in 30 years. Actually, I hope to be somewhere else by then.

  2. The Government serves the Corporation. Viewed properly then the above quote about "business" confidence in spending and detachment is willfully obscurantist. Corporations, and the governments that serve them, have pushed further into a technocratic economy with zero concern for human well-being. This is not a failure of "government"--it's a failure of the powerful to care about anything other than their singular, self-serving perspective. It is THAT perspective that is in charge of the world and responsible for its failures.