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

Thursday, September 15, 2016

How Opt Out Could Remain Legitimate, But Won't

The last national conference held by United Opt Out in February featured Green presidential candidate, Jill Stein, long-time radical educator, Bill Ayers, and radical intellectual, Chris Hedges.  The line-up for the conference scheduled for next month in Houston is quite different.

The October UOO conference at the Hilton will be be co-sponsored by an AFT affiliate, the Houston Federation of Teachers, and the headliners will contain no radicals, free or otherwise.  Featured will be education economist and KIPP sympathizer, Samuel Abrams, along with Diane Ravitch's lieutenant at NPE, Julian Heilig.  In short, UOO has become the latest casualty of cooptation by the corporate unions, and just in time, it seems, for AFT/NEA/NPE to, perhaps, claim a victory of sorts for the opt out movement that they now control.

Even though the annual testing requirement for public schools remains a part of the ESSA federal statute going forward, the ominous plan for future testing accountability would impose test data gathering, storage, and sharing every day, rather than just once a year.  Assessment, under the new scheme that will receive federal millions under ESSA, will be as ubitiquous as getting on and off the bus.  So even as Randi and Lily are already leading testing victory laps for a false win not yet won, such a "victory" would come at an expense that no parent, student, or teacher can afford to pay.

You see, the new personalized testing paradigm on the horizon, if implemented, will not only change the face of school as we know it, but it will jeopardize the physical and mental health of children, as well as abridge their rights to privacy and the integrity of children's future goals.  The dystopian dream by the dangerous crackpots who are advancing the new "competency based" business model for schools will be realized when graduating teens have electronic dossiers that include longitudinal testing data, behavior data, attitude data, and character data, all of which will be available for steering young adults into the most appropriate cell to serve the global economic hive.

So, you see, if the marriage of Opt Out and AFT yields its best possible result, which would be the end of annual testing, the real challenge of the next corporate education horror show will be left entirely unaddressed and, thus, with viral dimensions surging.

Why, then, you may ask, will not the new union-partnering UOO move to urge parents to opt out of all digital student data gathering, storage, and sharing, which would bring down this new most hazardous scheme?  In short, it is because of the deal with the Devil that the corporate unions made with the corporate reformers a long time ago.  It involves survival of a union bureaucracy that the corporate state allows to exist as long as union misleaders remain complicit in the corporate reform agenda.  It involves national politics at the highest levels, and the choosing of a predictable corporate presidential candidate over one that is not.  It involves an elite pay-to-play scheme that required, most recently, the AFT/NEA support for the reauthorization of ESEA in 2015, which we know as ESSA.

The implicit support by rank and file teachers for ESSA's passage was assured by propaganda from NEA, AFT, NPE, and other second and third tier corporate union hangers-on who comprise the liberal group-think blogger group, Basecamp (think permanently ensconced with no summit in sight).  One of NPE's board members, Julian Heilig (the same Julian who is headlining at UOO in October) bragged on FB of knowing the details of ESSA's awfulness prior to passage, but he, like others who "felt" like they could not affect the outcome, kept their mouths shut about how truly dangerous ESSA really was.

NPE/AFT/NEA's insider strategy of going along to get along, while preserving that proverbial "place at the table," required that the ostensible protectors of public education like Diane Ravitch to effectively dissemble and obfuscate enough to keep opposition to ESSA at a minimum.  The rest of the pack kept their mouths shut.

Both national parties wanted ESSA to provide for the next generational serving of corporate welfare charter schools and high tech gadgetry built on archaic learning models, this time lavishly garnished with big dollops of "blended" classroom bullshit, de-personalized "learning," and computer-assisted everything, topped off with every data hoarder's dream of never forgetting a student mistake or teacher screw-up.

This is what NEA/AFT/NPE did for the movement to stop the corporate onslaught.  And these are the same folks now calling the shots at Opt Out.  Do you think they will urge parents to opt out of the new omnipresent "personalized" testing coming to a school near you?  To boycott all digital testing stored on corporate government servers? To refuse to send kids to school where blended bullshit is being served?  All these miseducative notions are in full swing, by the way, in Houston, where HFT President, Zeph Capo, pleads ignorance about what has been going on for the past four years.

If you do think UOO will lead the boycott against big data, then I urge you to keep reading from the Ravitch script.  Closely.  While you are doing that, I hope you will form new reading habits, too, with people who know what the hell is going down here, here, here, here, here, and here.


  1. Thank you for writing this! There is definitely something that is not right in all of this with people who profess to be on the side of education. Certainly is appears that it isn't about the kids at all whether you are on one side of the coin or the other. Everyone seems to have their hands in the education money pot. And as a parent, a daughter of a former public school teacher and a school board member, this really ticks me off!! These people are deplorable!

  2. I completely concur with your assessment of the malicious agenda of "personalization" via digitalizing teaching and learning. However, I do not share your cynicism with respect to UOO. Kevin Ohlandt quotes their declarations regarding digital learning in his blog post today.

    "Since ESSA was passed, we at United Opt Out National have encouraged parents, students, and teachers to refuse indoctrination through digital learning. As we became aware of how the reformers would use ESSA to push through their new scheme we restructured our goals to include:

    "Push for protections for quality pedagogy, the teaching profession, and public school funding that the newly legislated Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) attempts to tear down via the push toward isolationist computer based digital instruction that facilitates indoctrination, free for all data mining, and compromised cognitive, physical, and social development; the alternative teacher certification programs that place unqualified people in classrooms, and the unregulated charter industry that strips public schools of resources, increases segregation, and allows for theft of public money.

    "Instead of only opting out of high stakes standardized tests, we have promoted opting out of all digital learning and assessments. In fact, given the documented negative effects of excessive screen time on children’s healthy development, our revised opt out letters must call for no screen time or a very limited amount each day (see sample letter below). We must make it clear that no matter what legislation is passed or what new gimmicks they create; we will not be tricked into thinking that corporations have our best interest at heart." https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/a-conversation-with-diane-ravitch-clarification-on-opt-out/

    The fact that UOO is working with union members does not mean that they have been co-opted in the way that union leadership has been. Millions of teachers are members of unions. They need to wake up to what the corporate reformers are subjecting them to, and resist en masse. I believe that UOO leaders planning this conference are fully aware of the dangers of competency based education, data monitoring and collection, etc., and are working passionately to empower that resistance.