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

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Money, Test Prep, Money,Exams,Money

Guest Post: 
Robert Rendo
Nationally Board Certified Teacher,
New York 

Public education has long become a billion dollar industry, according to a report put out way back in 2007 by Thomas Meldon, professor in the Benerd School of Education at the University of the Pacific in California, and editor of Teacher Education Quarterly, and Bruce A. Jones, professor and director of the David C. Anchin Center at the University of South Florida.

In their fact finding, they state that companies that produce educational materials and supplies were (then) over the billion dollar threshold, with product lines rapidly expanding.

Fast forward almost 6 years later and in the perfect storm of NCLB and Race to the Top, profits are at a record high while teacher's pedagogical autonomy and basic job rights remain at an all time low.

Ultimately, children absorb this "system" as they're being jam packed into assembly line style teaching with frequent and numerous tests. The extent of testing narrows the curriculum by paying far less attention to the arts, foreign languages, athletics, and civics.

The high stakes testing culture created by the ruling power elite, most of whom are not educators or cognitive scientists, stands only to de-prioritize any discipline not measured by a standardized test. And it stands to reason that among the cruelest ironies of all is that standardized tests, which are empirically full of flaws and distortions, can never capture the truest, most accurate picture of a child's abilities. Yet, they dominate the landscape of a student's and teacher's worthiness. For now, the testing companies conjure up the imagery of a crass monster, a hideously writhing, wounded dragon that refuses to expire, thrashing its psychometric tail in a frenzy of might and will.

Upton Sinclair's "The Concrete Jungle" described the horrible working conditions inside Chicago's Meat packing industry, but the educational testing complex is fast producing the same tone of darkness, productivity, and obedience inside public schools. The love of learning is left to fester in the thick and grimy heat generated by the sweatshop of test-to-death academics. Such vapid curriculums will only dumb down future generations, marginalize labor rights, and fatten the pockets of upper end executive of these so called "education products and service" industries.

For fiscal year 2011, Pearson alone pulled in over one and a half billion dollars in income from its testing and publishing services. Add Pearson to other educational service companies, and one can realize an industrial complex that costs taxpayers several billion dollars annually while compromising the quality of education for the masses.

Public education is supposed to promote democracy, but as it becomes adulterated by pecuniary interests, it is undoing democracy. Ultimately, it will be alliances between parents and teachers only, and not government or the anemic education unions, that will, to some degree of hopeful probability, reverse the trends in education policy. While there is hope for real change and an expansion of equality, there is also the inevitability of a long, drawn out fight.

And as with any battle, one is not immune to the consequences of excellent teachers being faultily measured and characterized by a hastily thrown together and overly polticized system. Equally bad are the consequences of a poorly educated society. Catalyzing those unthinkable consequences are many corporations and "think tanks" that have jumped on the "reform" bandwagon to fulfill agendas that have little or nothing to do with equalizing educational opporutnity. The very factions that purport to defend the poor and vulnerable, like the Walton family and Eil Broad to name a few, are the same ones who advance class stratification. 
Is this class warfare? You decide.

In the meantime, 
we natives - who pay taxes, send our children to public schools, and educate - are getting very, very restless. . .

Robert Rendo can be reached at: artwork88@aol.com

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