Originally Published on July 8, 1998
If you want to get a sense of how pervasive corporate influence in U.S. education is, just take a tour of your neighborhood school. Enter the cafeteria and you'll probably find wrappers from Taco Bell, Arby's and Subway, fast food chains that provide school lunches. The third grade class may be learning math by counting tootsie rolls. Science curricula might well come from Dow Chemical, Proctor and Gamble, Dupont or Exxon.
If you live in Jefferson County, Colorado, Pepsi donated $2 million to build a school football stadium-in exchange for exclusive rights to sell soft drinks in all 140 district schools and to advertise in school gymnasiums and athletic fields. That deal is estimated to earn the company $7.3 million over seven years.
If your local high school is like 40 percent of secondary schools in the U.S., students get their current events from Channel One, a twelve-minute television news program with two minutes of commercials. One Texas school even rented its roof as advertising space aimed at airplanes flying overhead.
It doesn't end there. Education in the U.S. has become big business. The "education industry," a term coined by EduVentures, an investment banking firm, is estimated to be worth between $630 and $680 billion in the United States. The stock value of 30 publicly-traded educational companies is growing twice as fast as the Dow Jones Average. Brokerage firms like Lehman Brothers and Montgomery Securities have specialists seeking out venture capital for the 'education industry.'
"The timing for entry into the education and training market has never been better," glows a Montgomery Securities report. "The problems with American education have elevated education reform to a high political priority and technology is demanding and enabling a transformation in the delivery of education."Analysts at the conservative think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation, Hudson and Pioneer Institutes, tell us that the problems in education stem from inefficient, bloated school bureaucracies. Conservatives talk about "school choice," referring to vouchers and other public/private schemes. Free marketeers strike a chord with many parents when they point out that families do not have the choices they deserve, especially in urban school districts.
However, according to progressive school activists, the problems in education have their roots in decades of unequal school funding. They say that as long as school districts are financed through property taxes, kids in poor, urban districts will never receive an equal education with suburban schoolkids. Wide disparities in school resources open the door for corporations to fill the gap (and their pockets), especially in inner city schools.
Real choice, progressive school reformers argue, would mean that all schools were good. Classroom innovation, computer technology, small classes and actively involved parents would be the hallmark not only of a handful of the best public schools, but of the entire education system. While conservatives and their corporate partners would have us leave schoolchildren to the whims of the market, progressives advocate creating a more equitable tax structure that would make corporations pay their fair share towards education. Access to quality education should be a social issue for educators, parents and activists. Instead, policy makers are increasingly framing the issue in terms of market ideology.
The education industry has some heavy hitters on its side. Conservative economist Milton Friedman, who first proposed school vouchers as early as 1955, argues that public education needs to be radically overhauled to accommodate the free market. In a 1995 opinion piece in the Washington Post, Friedman suggests that:
"Such reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system--i.e. by enabling a private for-profit industry to develop that will offer effective competition to public schools."For Friedman, school vouchers, which allow parents to take tax dollars out of local school budgets and spend them in private schools, are a critical step in dismantling what he describes as the "public monopoly" on education.
The relationship between free enterprise and public education is certainly nothing new. For over 100 years, education has been shaped to fit the needs of business. During the industrial revolution, public education was designed to produce a factory ready, disciplined, workforce. However, since then, public education has become a battleground between elite business interests, and those school reformers who see it as an equalizing force in society. Radical school activists in the 1960's tried to bring about innovations that would tackle institutional racism and make public schools more democratic. More recently, however, free market advocates seem to be winning out. With the new "knowledge-based" economy this means some kids will inevitably be left out; and they are almost sure to be low-income children of color in poor school districts.
According to Libero Della Piana, Senior Research Associate at the Applied Research Center, three tiers in U.S. education have emerged over the last decade. One tier prepares an elite group of students for jobs in the high-tech, information economy, while another prepares students for low-wage, service sector jobs.
"What corporate educational reform is about is retooling education to meet the needs of the new industrial revolution," notes Della Piana, in a CorpWatch interview: Race and Classroom.Della Piana further points out that at the bottom there is a third tier: kids who will never work, but rather go straight from school to jail.
Since the beginning of the 1990's several companies, dubbed "Educational Maintenance Organizations" by Wall Street, have emerged. These for-profit companies, like Channel One founder Chris Whittle's Edison Project, contract with school districts around the country, using taxpayer funds and some venture capital to run public schools.
Often it is poor school districts, where parents and school boards are the most desperate, that turn to private companies.
"The Edison project is brilliant at marketing," observes Lindsay Hershenhorn, a first grade teacher at a troubled San Francisco school that recently voted to contract with the Edison Project. "They play on parents' and teachers' frustration with the lack of money for education," adds Hershenhorn who refuses to teach in a school run by the Edison Project.Some teachers and parents fear that, just as HMOs have made the financial bottom line the standard for health care delivery, EMOs will be more accountable to investors than to students. So far, EMO experiments have survived in less than one hundred schools. In fact, these companies are not interested in running the entire school system. Providing a universal service for all schoolchildren would not be profitable, and many of these young companies have yet to pay dividends to their investors. However, they are bringing profit oriented interests to bear on the educational system.
"The public benefit and the profitability (of EMOs) are two very different things," Alex Molnar, author of Giving Kids the Business, told CorpWatch. "A market by definition can't address issues of equity," adds Molnar, Director of the Center for the Analysis of Commercialism in Education.While the EMOs say they have invested millions in curriculum development, critics charge that they are "cookie cutter schools," whose lesson plans are developed out of a central office. They worry that just as HMOs have depersonalized health care, EMOs will provide one-size-fits-all education. And they say that many of the teaching innovations promoted by the EMOs are already in use in some public schools.
The defunding of public education is also part of a worldwide trend. In many countries it is often a component of neo-liberal economic reform or structural adjustment mandated by the World Bank or IMF.
One of the first governments in the world to experiment with school vouchers in the 1980's was Chile's military dictatorship. As Martin Carnoy points out in the Global Perspectives section of this feature, while the Chilean experiment did little for poor schoolchildren, it was part of a broad trend towards privatization that included defunding other parts of the social safety net, including social security. Some of the proposals tested by U.S. policy advisors in Chile are now coming home to roost as legislation being debated in the U.S. Congress and state houses across the country. Some Republicans have even proposed abolishing the Department of Education.
"Privatizing public education is the center piece, the grand prize, of the right wing's overall agenda to dismantle social entitlements and government responsibility for social needs," explains education consultant Ann Bastian, in a piece entitled "Lessons from the Voucher War" which is reproduced in this feature.For more than a decade conservatives have been organizing around school reform, tapping into parents' and teachers' real concern with the lack of educational options. Corporations have seized on the opening provided by educators' and families' frustration with the lack of school resources. Parents, teachers and students can roll back the corporate takeover of education, but only if they offer an alternative vision. One in which corporations pay taxes instead of getting free advertising and tax write-offs for donated promotional materials; one in which school systems do not abandon students to for-profit companies, and one in which educational choice is a basic right for all families, not just a few.
Originally Published on March 5, 2008
The summary of "The Corporate Surge . . ."
It’s more than a year since we wrote “Exterminating Public Education" in response to the "Tough Choices or Tough Times" report of the National Commission on Skills in the Workplace.
That report, funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and signed by a bipartisan collection of prominent politicians, businesspeople, and urban school superintendents, called for a series of measures including:
- Replacing public schools with what the report called "contract schools," which would be charter schools writ large;
- Eliminating nearly all the powers of local school boards—their role would be to write and sign the authorizing agreements for the “contract schools;
- Eliminating teacher pensions and slashing health benefits; and
- Forcing all 10th graders to take a high school exit examination based on 12th grade skills, and terminating the education of those who failed (i.e., throwing millions of students out into the streets as they turn 16).
Indeed, their measures would mean privatization of education, effectively terminating the right to a public education, as we have known it. Many of the most powerful forces in the country want the US, the first country to guarantee public education, to be the first country to end it.
For the last fifty years, public education was one of only two public mandates guaranteed by the government that was accessible to every person, regardless of income. Social Security is the other. Now both systems are threatened with privatization schemes. The government today openly defines its mission as protecting the rights of corporations above everything. Thus public education is a rare public space that is under attack.
The same scenario is being implemented with most of the services that governments used to provide for free or at little cost: electricity, national parks, health care and water. In every case, the methodology is the same: underfund public services, create an uproar and declare a crisis, claim that privatization can do the job better, deregulate or break public control, divert public money to corporations and then raise prices.
In the past year, it’s become evident that the corporate surge against public schools is only part of a much broader assault against the public sector, against unions, and indeed against the public’s rights and public control of public institutions.
This has been evident for some time now in New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina’s devastation is used as an excuse for permanently privatizing the infrastructure of a major American city: razing public housing and turning land over to developers; replacing the city’s public school system with a combination of charter schools and state-run schools; letting the notorious Blackwater private army loose on the civilian population; and, in the end, forcing tens of thousands of families out of the city permanently. The citizens of New Orleans have had their civil rights forcibly expropriated.
Just as the shock of the hurricane was the excuse for the shock therapy applied to New Orleans, so the economic downturn triggered by the subprime mortgage crisis is now the excuse for a national assault on the public sector and the public’s rights.
In California, where we live, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has convened an emergency session of the legislature, demanding that the state’s $14.5 billion “budget deficit" be closed by slashing vital services including housing, health care, and education. He has proposed lopping $4.8 billion off next year’s K-14 education budget. That the deficit exists largely as a result of the Governor's corporate-friendly tax policies is not considered part of the debate.
In public education, the corporate surge has grown both qualitatively and quantitatively. Where two years ago the corporate-education change agents were mainly operating in a relatively small number of large urban areas, they have now surfaced everywhere. The corporatization of public education is the leading edge of privatization. This has the effect of silencing the public voice on every aspect of the situation.
Across the US, public schools are not yet privatized, though private services are increasingly benefiting from this market. However, increasing corporate control of programs – a different mix in every locale – is having a chilling influence on the very things that people (though not corporations) want from teachers: the ability to relate to and teach each child, a nurturing approach that nudges every child to move ahead, human assessments that put people before performance on standardized tests.
Perhaps the single most dramatic development of the corporate approach was the launching of the $60 million Strong American Schools / Ed in ’08 initiative, funded by billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad. This is a naked effort to purchase the nation’s education policy, no matter who is elected President, by buying their way into every electoral forum.
Ed in ’08 has a three-point program: merit pay (basing teachers’ compensation on students’ scores on high stakes test); national education standards (enforcing conformity and rote learning); and longer school day and school year (still more time for rote learning, less time for kids to be kids). The chairman of Ed in ‘08/Strong American Schools program is Roy Romer: former governor of Colorado; former chair of the Democratic National Committee; most recently superintendent of schools in Los Angeles (he was persuaded to take that job by Eli Broad). Its executive director is Mark Lampkin, a Republican lobbyist and former deputy campaign manager for George Bush.
Other steering committee members include Eli Broad; Louis Gerstner (former CEO of IBM); Allan Golston (head of the Gates Foundation’s U.S. programs); and John Engler (president of the National Association of Manufacturers and former Governor of Michigan [where he gutted the state’s welfare program]). A truly stunning array of corporate wealth and bipartisan political power in the service of privatization.
Where two years ago charter schools were still viewed as experiments affecting a relatively small number of students, in 2007 the corporate privatizers—led by Broad and Gates—grossly expanded their funding to the point where they now loom as a major presence.
In March, the Gates Foundation announced a $100 million donation to KIPP charter schools, which would enable them to expand their Houston operation to 42 schools (from eight)—effectively, KIPP will be a full-fledged alternative school system in Houston. Also in the past year, Eli Broad and Gates have given in the neighborhood of $50 million to KIPP and Green Dot charter schools in Los Angeles, with the aim of doubling the percentage of LA students enrolled in charter schools. Oakland, another Broad/Gates targets, now has more than 30 charter schools out of 92. And, as we shall see below, the same trend holds across the country.
NCLB in 2008 is still a major issue. It continues to have a corrosive effect on public schools. It is designed an unfunded mandate, which means that schools must meet ever rigid standards every year, though no more money is appropriated to support this effort. This means that schools must take ever-more money out of the class room to meet federal requirements when schools with low test scores are in “Program Improvement." Once schools are in PI for 5 years they can be forced into privatization.
NCLB is a driving force that decimates the “publicness" in public schools. In California, more than 2000 schools are now in “Program-Improvement." This means that they have to meet certain specific, and mostly impossible standards, or they must divert increasingly greater amounts of money out of the classroom and into private programs.
For example, schools in 3rd year PI must take money out of programs that helped schools with a high proportion of low achieving schools and make it available to private tutors.
The struggles of the Civil Rights Era made people realize that quality education was a right that everyone deserves. Education today, whether public or private, is a social policy. We make choices about how far it is extended, what the purpose is, what quality is offered, and to whom. Now that wealth is polarizing in this country, corporate forces are determined to create a social system that benefits the “Haves" while excluding the “Have-Nots."
Privatizing public schools inevitable leads to massive increase in social inequality. Private corporations have never been required to recognize civil rights, because, by definition, these are public rights. If the corporate privatizers succeed in taking over our schools, there will be neither quality education nor civil rights.
The system of public education in the United States is deeply flawed. While suburban schools are among the best in the world, public education in cities has been deliberately underfunded and is in a shambles. The solution is not to fight backwards to maintain the old system. Rather it is to fight forward to a new system that will truly guarantee quality education as a civil right for everyone.
Central to this is to challenge the idea that everything in human society should be run by corporations, that only corporations and their political hacks have the right or the power to discuss what public policy should be. As Naomi Klein stated so well in The Shock Doctrine,
Privatization “will remain entrenched until the corporate supremacist ideology that underpins it is identified, isolated and challenged." (p 14)The real direction is to increase the role and power of the public in every way, not eliminate it. If we can spend $2.5 billion a week for war in Iraq, we can certainly build quality schools. It’s not a matter of money. The issue is who will benefit and who will control. Should schools be organized to benefit the super-rich, or should they be organized to benefit everyone?
August 4, 2010
Our educators aren't very good at raising SAT scores, increasing literacy, or spreading knowledge. But they are world-class at making excuses.
Let me rattle off a few. Money! You know money is always the problem. If only taxpayers weren't so selfish. Violence! This is a big deal. All the students are in gangs or fighting in the halls. Broken homes, divorce, domestic tensions! How can children concentrate? Even if the home is stable, kids are watching TV or goofing off on the Internet.
That's a huge problem. Or they're sending text messages on their phones. Or spending hours with their video games. No wonder that schools can't get good results! Did we mention drugs? Kids are shooting up or stoned on marijuana. What else? They're hanging around malls, wasting time and going to bad movies. What can you expect when most kids are lazy or ADD? The parents are ignorant and won't help. The problems never stop. Not to mention, all the schools are too crowded. Teachers are overworked, and the whole system is broken from top to bottom and about to collapse...
In fact, there is only one thing our educators are better at than making excuses. And that is coming up with bad ideas.
Gee, probably there's a connection. Maybe if our elite educators stopped inventing pedagogical gimmickry, they would not need excuses.
Here's just a quick survey of education gone bad:
Starting in 1930, our educators have been insanely devoted to a reading method variously called Look-Say, Sight Words, Dolch Words, Whole Language, and Balanced Literacy (with so many aliases, you know it's a criminal). This gimmick has resulted in 50 million functional illiterates and a million dyslexics. Whole Word requires that children memorize words by their shapes, at a pace of about 300 words per year. Do the math. By the end of high school, students will know only 4000 words and be, for scholastic purposes, illiterate.
Speaking of math, our educators show a similar incompetence when they pick math pedagogies. Around 1960 educators said that New Math was the answer. Five years later they said, never mind. In fact, they went back to their laboratories and devised variations of New Math, which they called Reform Math, but the rest of the world sarcastically labeled New New Math. Some of the familiar variations are Everyday Math, MathLand, TERC, etc. All these pedagogies engage in the same trick: they mix in college-level terms and perspectives, while refusing to teach any of the standard methods for addition, multiplication, etc. Such approaches virtually guarantee children will never master ordinary arithmetic.
Meanwhile, a non-subject called Social Studies (truer name: Socialism Studies) appropriated everything it could grab--geography, politics, economics, civics, history--and tries to substitute PC opinions for knowledge.
Meanwhile, across ALL subjects, and all ages and grades, our educators sabotage what's left of the traditional curriculum by insisting that children need not memorize anything. Not a single fact. Additionally, educator are in love with constructivist thinking, whereby students are supposed to invent their own versions of everything. Which can take a long time. Our educators are similarly enamored of cooperative learning, whereby children do everything in groups, thereby guaranteeing that children will not be able to think independently. Another fad that cuts across all subjects is what might be called sloppy thinking--fuzzy math, fuzzy English, fuzzy everything. Close is good enough.
Imagine the cumulative impact of all the shoddy pedagogies described so far. You will easily imagine schools doing a very bad job. You will easily imagine a perpetual need for excuses, excuses, excuses.
I suggest it doesn't matter how much money you give these people. Nothing will improve until you take away their bad ideas. Educators are not a very glamorous group but I now think they have one thing in common with our Hollywood stars. They need to go to rehab now and then. For their own good. Somebody needs to take away their pills and bottles. Give them back their self-respect. Give them a life without excuses.
By Lindsey Burke, The Heritage Foundation
February 1, 2010
The President’s FY2011 budget request calls for significant increases in education spending and, as promised, the Department of Education is exempt from Obama’s so-called spending freeze.
At a briefing today at the Department of Education, words such as “historic” and “bold” were used to describe the President’s budget. Secretary Duncan stated that the FY2011 budget represents “one of the largest increases” in education spending, which the president “sees as the key to our economic future”.
But is more spending on education the key to economic prosperity? For that matter, is it even the key to raising academic achievement?
Since 1985, inflation-adjusted federal spending on K-12 education has increased 138 percent. Yet, indicators of educational improvement such as increases in academic achievement and graduation rates have remained flat.
Despite the evidence that more spending is not the answer to increasing academic achievement, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development Carmel Martin noted during the briefing that discretionary funding for the Department of Education will increase 10 percent under the president’s proposed budget, raising total discretionary spending to $50.7 billion.
Included in this “historic” spending increase is $3 billion for ESEA programs, $173 billion in college loans and grants, and $9.3 billion for a new preschool program created in the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), which has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.
The budget increase also includes a $1 billion reserve fund for the Department of Education, contingent upon successful reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). But those of us who’ve taught in the classroom know that you don’t give students extra credit for simply doing their assignments. That’s why the administration’s proposed $1 billion incentive for Congress to complete a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is puzzling. After all, it’s Congress’s job to complete legislative assignments such as ESEA, which has been due for reauthorization since 2008. It’s also a little strange for the White House to be proposing an extra $1 billion as an incentive, since the Congress holds the power of the purse and could choose to increase funding for ESEA itself.
Perhaps the president feels that this is the increase that will finally solve the problems facing American education. When it’s all said and done, the president’s Fy2011 budget for the Department of Education tops $77 billion. This includes $50 billion in discretionary spending, $1 billion for successful ESEA reauthorization, and $35 billion for Pell grants, which became mandatory in 2010. The budget increase comes on top of last year’s $100 billion infusion of “stimulus” cash into the Department of Education’s coffer. Unfortunately, the sacred cow of education spending has been spared of the spending freeze.
Rather than calling for “historic” increases in federal spending or gimmicks like this $1 billion ESEA reauthorization incentive, Congress and the administration should focus on streamlining and reforming federal education programs in 2010 to better serve students and taxpayers.
Click here for more analysis on the 2011 Budget.
Originally Published on January 17, 2005
Any parent with a child in a public school has likely discovered that our education system is little more than a vehicle through which liberals indoctrinate our children with socialist ideology.
If this sounds like a radical assertion, I assure you it is not. In fact, examples abound indicating just how accurate it is.
Take the "community box," for instance. How many elementary school kids across the country show up the first day of school, only to have their brand new supplies pilfered by their teacher and thrown into one big box, to be distributed henceforth as said teacher sees fit? (As I recall, Marx also had very little regard for private property rights.)
Or how about "cooperative learning" methods of instruction? I use quotation marks here to point out how impossible it usually is to get kids to either cooperate or learn when they sit in groups about a pencil length from their neighbors. But in the event a teacher is blessed with darling little angels who'd never think to misbehave, the fact remains that students who have "more" knowledge are regularly expected to assist those who have "less." (How's that saying go again? "From each according to his ability…")
Ever heard of social promotion? This egalitarian concept is standard procedure at most public schools, where students are promoted from one grade to the next regardless of academic aptitude. It practically takes an act of Congress to retain failing students these days, lest we give them the impression that they are actually responsible for their own accomplishments.
These are not isolated examples, nor is this short list exhaustive. This is business as usual in many American public schools. But as ridiculous as every one of these concepts is, one would think some ideas would be beyond the pale. Not anymore.
According to a WorldNetDaily report, California schools have been barred from informing parents if their children leave school grounds "to receive certain confidential medical services that include abortion, AIDS treatment and psychological analysis, according to an opinion issued by the office of state Attorney General Bill Lockyer."
While it may come as a surprise, it's not altogether uncommon for high schools to allow students -- namely seniors -- to leave campus for various reasons during the normal school day without informing the front office -- say, during lunch period or to attend courses at local colleges. But I'd bet my lunch money parents are made aware of any such policies.
Make no mistake, this decree handed down by Attorney General Lockyer is not some unambiguous legal maneuver intended to protect the public school in the event it loses track of a student, or to safeguard a student's doctor-patient privilege. To the contrary, it is an announcement of Mr. Lockyer's intent to protect organizations like teachers' unions and Planned Parenthood, who have resisted efforts in the state to adopt parental notification policies for medical procedures like abortions.
Think about this for a second. If California's attorney general is allowed to get away with this absurd policy, your kid's geometry teacher essentially has more right to know your child is pregnant -- or has contracted HIV, or is potentially suicidal -- than you do. Moreover, how in the world is a "medical service" any longer confidential if someone other than a doctor and his patient is aware of it?
In plain English, it isn't. But this hasn't stopped school officials and liberal lawyers from assuming they know better than parents what's best for their own kids.
It is irrefutable that there are many outstanding teachers, and still more who are appalled by the actions of people like Bill Lockyer. But alas, this has not prevented public school districts from believing they have the right to act tyrannically, even if usurping authority from abusive or irresponsible parents generates policies that apply equally to the vast majority who aren't.
In the "perfect" society, there is no private property because everything belongs to the state (or the "village," in Hillary Clinton's mind) -- even your children.
It is a sad day in public education when teachers and administrators -- who so adamantly proclaim their love for "the children" -- would even consider engaging in active parental deception to conceal affairs that pose such clear emotional burdens to youngsters.
What's worse, we're not even talking about forcing schools to report such distressing information, as we do if they suspect cases of child abuse -- we're talking about encouraging, even requiring, schools to intentionally withhold vital student health information from parents even if the parents ask for it.
Public schools can't even take students on field trips or hand out Tylenol without the consent of a parent or guardian, but if they want to toss out condoms and, apparently, schedule abortion appointments for knocked-up teenagers, why, that's just none of our business.
If this doesn't convince you that parents practically forfeit all control over their kids' lives upon subjecting them to the draconian fancies of today's state "education" facilities, nothing will.
Originally Published on February 12, 2001
The President's education plan, with or without vouchers, suffers from an essential defect. In the U.S. Constitution's enumeration of its powers and responsibilities as regards "raising revenue" (Article 1, Section 8) you will find no mention of "education."
While education is a national priority, it is more properly a priority of the parents of students, their teachers, and local school boards. The flaw in President Bush's education plans is the US Department of Education, an agency that since the 1970's has racked up a dismal record when it comes to educating the nation's youth. The "national standard" of education being discussed ignores the most fundamental issue. Under the DOE a deliberate plan to dumb down American students has been in place for decades. No one seems willing to discuss this.
We should not support the President's plan because it will expand the powers of the Department of Education. Forget the rhetoric of block grants and other forms of slippery bookkeeping jargon and logic designed to make this palatable. "Accountability" and "Leave no child behind" are political slogans that have helped ruin schools by diverting attention from the entrenched subversion of our schools.
Individual States are, in reality, the conduit for the programs designed by the federal Department of Education. Federal programs are intended to subvert the teaching of the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic, along with history, civics, and science. The problem is the top-down federal programs and other changes in American life such as the trend to litigate against the disciplinary powers of school authorities that have severely undermined the ability of local schools to achieve their intended goal.
- It is not the government's job through Outcome Based Education to shape the opinions, personalities, and values of students. That's the job for parents.
- It is not the government's job to set up health facilities in schools and insist that millions of students be required to take mind-altering drugs like Ritalin.
- It is not the government's job to send so-called social workers into the homes of parents, threatening to take their children from them.
- It is not the government's job to create School to Work programs as if students are mere economic units whose skills are to be pre-determined as to what occupation they will enter upon graduation. That's what the former Soviet Union did and that's what occurs in Red China, Cuba and other Communist nations today.
The Department of Education and the teacher's unions have ruined our nation's schools. Everyone knows it. Parents under the current system are powerless. In the schools, the principals and teachers are powerless to deal with disruptive students, to separate the slow learners from those who can progress at a faster rate, to avoid having disabled students mixed in so as to diminish the teacher's attention to the rest of the class.
Why do you think that tutoring services outside the school system are a booming business these days? Desperate parents spend money out of their own pockets to get the education for their children that the nation's schools are not providing. Millions more parents have turned to home schooling in order to insure their children receive the education public schools cannot and will not provide.
They do so to insure that their children grow up with the values that are prohibited in today's schools. These children uniformly score better on the same tests given those currently suffering from the lack of a real education they should receive in the schools.
The power to educate children must and should be returned to where it was before the tentacles of the federal government and the teacher's unions turned our schools into shooting galleries and indoctrination centers where environmentalism, global government, and sexual behavior are on the curriculum as the prime objective of a student's education. All signs point to the fact that the President is, in fact, a captive of the education establishment's rhetoric. If he is, you can bet the nation's mainstream media will be as well.
Giving tests in school is the oldest and best way to determine the progress of students. National standards that determine the federal and state funding of school districts, their budgets, the pay teachers and administrators receive, can only lead to schools that devote an enormous amount of the school day "teaching to the test." It's not the scores that matter; it's who sets the standards. Right now it is the "educrats" in Washington, DC.
Current curriculums and the way they are implemented insure that all students are indoctrinated to give the "right" answers to the questions determined by someone in Washington, DC, not the local school board, not the teachers, and not the parents. All real power has long since shifted to the Department of Education and this is why our schools are in wreckage.
It's easy to condemn the Democratic Party, controlled in large part by the teacher's unions, for embracing the President's and previous proposals for education in America. At its heart, it is a socialist concept. What is frightening is that Republicans have, since the 1960's, embraced it as well, oblivious to the true intent of "modern education." It must stop.
Title 1 and other programs provide the chokehold on education in America today. It controls school lunches, in-school healthcare programs, and pushes the concept of "at risk" children. This opens the door to a wide variety of abuses including the prescribing of mind-altering drugs, inappropriate physical exams, as well as permitting social workers to invade homes to enforce these programs.
Until Title 1 is dismantled and removed, the President remains as much a prisoner of the education establishment as everyone else in America. Right now, those with the least power are the parents of America's school children.
The history of the effort to model America's schools after those of the former Soviet Union is largely unknown to Americans. This is why they need to take back their schools. This is the new American Revolution.
Originally Published on February 19, 2001
We hear it all the time. Americans want something done about education. Their children can't read or work math problems without a calculator. They can't spell, find their own country on a map, name the president of the United States or quote the founding fathers.
For the past decade or more, we have been focusing on a massive national campaign to "fix" the schools. In some schools we can find ultra high-tech, carpeted, air-conditioned classrooms with computers and television sets. We have education "programs" full of new ideas, new methods, and new directions.
In the 1990's the education mantra became "national standards" and accountability through "national testing" with Goals 2000. Politicians and "educrats" declared that every child would come to school "ready to learn", "no child would be left behind." They pledged our kids would be "second to none" in the world. Right now, the Bush administration, prior to issuing its budget, is trying to get Congress to sign off on a program based on these political slogans.
In the past, we spent money, money, and more money! The new "fix" intends to spend more. The result: American students have fallen further behind, placing 19th out of 21 nations in math, 16th in science, and dead last in physics.
With all the programs, attention, and money lavished on education, how can that be? The problem? It's the federal programs and the education bureaucracy that run them. Simply stated, over the past twenty years America's education system has been completely restructured to deliberately move away from teaching basic academics to a system that focuses on training students for menial jobs.
The restructured education system has been designed to deliberately dumb-down the children. Most Americans find that statement astonishing. Believe it! Parents don't want to let go of their child-like faith that the American education system is the best in the world, designed to give their children the academic strength to make them the smartest in the world.
None of the problems will go away, nor will children learn, until both parents and politicians stop trusting the education establishment and start ridding the system of its failed and subversive ideas and programs.
Politicians continue to offer old solutions of more money and more federal oversight, almost stamping their feet, demanding that kids learn something. Programs are being proposed that call for teacher testing to hold them accountable for producing educated children. More programs call for annual tests to find out if children have learned anything.
The nation is in panic, but none of these hysterical responses will improve education because none of them address the very root of the problem. Parents and politicians must stop believing the Education Establishment's propaganda that says teaching a child in the twenty-first century is different and must be more high tech than in days past. It simply isn't so.
The root of the problem
Today's education system is driven by money from the federal government and private foundations, both working hand-in-hand with the Education Establishment headquartered in the federal Department of Education and staffed by the National Education Association (NEA).
These forces have combined with psychologists, huge textbook publishers, teacher colleges, the healthcare profession, government bureaucrats, big corporations, pharmaceutical companies and social workers to invade local school boards, classrooms and private homes in the name of "fixing" education.
The record shows that each of these entities has benefited from this alliance through enriched coffers and increased political power. In fact, the new education restructuring is working wonders for everyone involved except for the children and their parents. As a result of this combined invasion force, today's classroom is a very different place from only a few years ago.
A brief history of education subversion
The entire history of education restructuring and transformation would fill a book. It dates back to the early efforts by psychologists like John Dewey whose work began to change how teachers were taught in the nation's teacher colleges. The changes were drastic. Education moved away from an age-old system that taught teachers how to motivate students to accept the whole scope of academic information available.
Instead the new system explored methods to manipulate students through psychological behavior modification processes. Once this power was established, the education process became less of a method to instill knowledge and more of a method to instill specific political and social agendas into the minds of children.
The entire history of the education restructuring effort is carefully and thoroughly documented in a book called The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. The book was written by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, a former official at the Department of Education in the Reagan Administration. While there in 1981-1982, Charlotte found the "mother lode" hidden away at the Department.
She found all of the education establishment's plans for restructuring America's classrooms. Not only did she find the plans for what they intended to do, she discovered how they were going to do it and most importantly why.
Since uncovering this monstrous plan, Charlotte Iserbyt has dedicated her life to getting that information into the hands of parents, politicians and the news media. Iserbyt's book details how several wealthy families and their foundations began to implement a goal for a seamless non-competitive global system for commerce and trade.
Schools were transformed from institutions that produced well-educated individuals into training centers to produce compliant workers for a collectivist society. The wealthy families and foundations included The Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefellers. Their foundations today continue to lead the way in the development and funding of programs that are at the center of America's education system.
The process to restructure America's education system began in the opening years of the twentieth century and slowly picked up speed over the decades. The new system used psychology-based curriculum to slowly change the attitudes, values and beliefs of the students from those of earlier generations that identified strongly with liberty, patriotism, the work ethic, and comparable American values.
The new school agenda was very different from most peoples' understanding of the purpose of American education. National Education Association leader William Carr, secretary of the Educational Policies Commission, clearly stated that new agenda in 1947. Writing the NEA Journal, he said,
"The teaching profession prepares the leaders of the future…The statesmen, the industrialists, the lawyers, the newspapermen…all the leaders of tomorrow are in schools today.Professor Benjamin Bloom, known as the father of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) said: "The purpose of education and the schools is to change the thoughts, feelings and actions of students."
"The psychological foundations for wider loyalties must be laid…(to) teach those attitudes which will result ultimately in the creation of a world citizenship and world government…we can and should teach those skills and attitudes which will help to create a society in which world citizenship is possible."
B.F. Skinner determined that applied psychology in the class curriculum was the means to bring about such changes in the students' values and beliefs simply by relentlessly inputting specific programmed messages. The education system is now a captive of the Skinner model of behavior modification programming.
In 1990, Dr. M. Donald Thomas outlined the new education system in an article that appeared in The Effective School Report entitled "Education 90: A Framework for the Future."
"From Washington to modern times, literacy has meant the ability to read and write, the ability to understand numbers, and the capacity to appreciate factual material. The world, however, has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. The introduction of technology in information processing, the compression of the world into a single economic system, and the revolution in political organizations are influences never imagined to be possible in our lifetime.
Dr. Thomas provided the blueprint for today's education system that is designed to:
- De-emphasize academic knowledge;
- Establish the one-world agenda with the United Nations as its center, moving students away from a belief in national sovereignty, i.e., patriotism;
- Replace individual achievement with collectivist group-think ideology;
- And invade the family authority with an "It takes a village" mind-set.
Without a strong basic education, today's children are mere pawns in the hands of those who have a far different world in mind than the one in which the first generations of Americans set the nation on its path to high achievement. It is not for nothing they are called Gen-X'rs, the tenth generation of Americans and, for those setting educational policy, perhaps the last to pledge allegiance to one nation, under God, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all.
Originally Published on October 27, 2003
...Relativism is currently rife within the field of social studies. We now teach students to respect diversity even in regards to unconscionable acts. The book's treatment of tolerance is one of the strongest in the entire work:
Tolerance is an admirable quality. But if it is our sole universal value, are we not then called upon to tolerate the intolerable? And if so called upon, are we even capable of performing such an act of mental jujitsu? In fact, the pressure not to apply moral standards is more likely to produce an ethic of "indifference" than one of true tolerance—as young people learn not to pass judgment on all kinds of horrendous practices, especially when they are non-Western. In trying to suppress what is probably a natural human tendency (to judge), these students are more likely to become morally numb, certainly not "sensitive" to the "Other."
This is the perfect summation of the way in which relativism has corrupted our social fabric. People are no longer allowed to judge right from wrong because to do so would be to judge and to judge would be to embrace intolerance. This fosters in students a "who cares" attitude as nothing is better than anything else so why bother even thinking about it at all.
I have first-hand knowledge that many university instructors who are entrusted with the position of teaching teachers attempt to manufacture social activists as much as they attempt to graduate competent educators. I can still remember the time I walked into a classroom and was deflated to see that the instructor before me had left a recommendation for the students to read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Such a book obviously gels well with progressive views of capitalism and the free market economy.
Within many social studies classrooms across the land, students are asked to critically think about events about which they know little. Two chapters, "The Training of Idiots" and "Ignorant Activists" outline the dynamics of how rarely our students are asked to learn about events and facts before they asked to psychoanalyze them [my phrase-BC].
It may well be that social studies is the subject progressive education has damaged the most. Indeed, one has to wonder how thrilled early progressives would be had they lived to witness the equality inherent in every student knowing practically nothing. How titillated they'd be by the frenetic swinging of "the leveler's ax" in so many school houses.
We cannot always see the results of mis-education, but masses of citizens who are ignorant about our history and the nature of our democracy will, by definition, see little reason to defend it. In a future crisis, some may have cause to remember Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong? Although most likely, with the students we are rearing today, they will find little value in dwelling in the past or examining any lessons that history has to offer.
Originally Published on November 9, 2006
Sweeping victories in the midterm elections have put Democrats in charge of the 110th Congress. After twelve years out of power, what will Democrats seek to accomplish in federal education policy?
One common theme in their recommendations has been to increase spending on both K-12 and post-secondary education. The Democratic Party's 2004 National Platform criticized President Bush for "breaking his word" on No Child Left Behind and "providing schools $27 billion less than he promised, literally leaving millions of children behind." The platform also criticized the Bush administration for not providing enough federal funding for higher education and student loans, charging that "President Bush tried to charge more for student loans and eliminate Pell Grants for 84,000 students."
Actually, federal education spending has grown dramatically over the past six years under President Bush and the Republican Congress. But more importantly, whether it's Republicans or Democrats increasing federal funding, more federal dollars have not improved American education in recent decades.
Consider K-12 education spending. Annual U.S. Department of Education spending on elementary and secondary education has increased from $27.3 billion in 2001 to $38 billion in 2006, up by nearly 40 percent. According to the department, annual spending on the Title I program to assist disadvantaged children grew by 45 percent between 2001 and 2006. In 2007, the department will spend 59 percent more on special education programs than it did in 2001.
Unfortunately, there's little reason to believe even these dramatic funding increases will lead to improvements in student learning in American schools. Since the early 1970s, inflation-adjusted federal spending per pupil has doubled. Over that period, student performance has not markedly improved, according to the long-term National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is designed to measure historical trends.
Under a Republican-controlled Congress, federal spending on higher education has increased almost as dramatically as K-12 spending over the past six years. For example, annual Department of Education spending on federal Pell Grants grew from $8.7 billion in 2001 to $13 billion in 2006, nearly 50 percent growth. The federal government spends considerably more on higher education today than it did during the Clinton administration. According to the College Board, federal funding for higher education in 2004-2005 totaled $90 billion, a real increase of 103 percent over ten years.
An increasing number of students receive federal subsidies for higher education. For example, 5.3 million students received federal Pell Grants in 2005, an increase of 44 percent over ten years. In all, in 2006 more than 10 million Americans will receive various federal subsidies for higher education.
Unfortunately, as with K-12 spending, there's little evidence that federal spending on higher education is achieving its objective. Quite simply, college tuition is becoming more expensive each year. According to the College Board, the total cost of tuition and fees at four-year private and public colleges increased by 5.9 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively, during the 2005-06 school year.
According to economist Richard Vedder, college tuition costs increased by 295 percent between 1982 and 2003, a growth rate higher than health care costs (195 percent), housing (84 percent), and all items (83 percent). In his book, Going Broke By Degree: Why College Costs Too Much, Dr. Vedder argues that increased federal spending on higher education has contributed to rising tuition costs. In other words, federal subsidies are not making higher education more affordable because colleges and universities simply consume this additional source of revenue.
These are important lessons that policymakers and taxpayers should keep in mind during the 110th Congress. Calls for more funding for public schools and subsidies for college tuition may be popular on the campaign trail, but simply increasing federal funding for education is not the answer. If it were, we should have seen better results by now.
Obama and Gates Are Planning a Corporate Takeover of Public Education: The Public Money Will Continue But Public Voice and Public Oversight Will Be a Thing of the PastBy The Perimeter Primate
July 13, 2010
If the teachers at the ATF convention on July 10, 2010, had any idea how much money Gates has put into developing non-unionized charter schools, and that his vision includes an extreme reduction in the membership -- and power -- of their union, they might not have been so willing to cheer for him. It appears to me that Weingarten is aiding and abetting Gates' undemocratic ways.
But like most Americans who aren't studying what is really going on, I'm sure 99.9% of the teachers were uninformed and clueless. They behaved like the people they are: typical Americans who were super-excited to see a famous celebrity. Seeing Bill Gates in person was the thrilling part of the convention that they later told their families about.
As an urban public school parent, supporter of teachers, and pro-public school activist, I believe that the larger concerns the resisters have are perfectly valid and deserve to be acknowledged and discussed -- at a venue other than in blogs. The opponents of today's "ed reform" desire to be heard but are constantly being ignored and shut out. They aren't wealthy enough to pay Charlie Rose to do a five-part series on their side of the story, like Eli Broad can.
Bill Gates is an unelected individual who has been manipulating public policy from behind the scenes by making use of his extreme wealth. His lack of willingness to engage in a transparent, public debate with people who oppose what he is doing -- and who do have legitimate opinions and concerns, as well as data and historical accounts to present -- is what makes it necessary for the resisters to react in a loud and angry way.
If Bill Gates is truly interested in doing what's best for America's public school future, he should purchase one hour of prime-time airtime and present a show featuring himself debate Diane Ravitch.
The Obama administration and Gates Foundation are orchestrating an effort to get every state to adopt a set of national standards for public elementary and secondary schools. These standards describe what students should learn in each subject in each grade. Eventually these standards can be used to develop national high-stakes tests, which will shape the curriculum in every school. National standards are a seductive but dangerous idea. People tend to support national standards because they imagine that they will be the ones deciding what everyone else should learn. Dictatorship always sounds more appealing when you fantasize that you will be the dictator. — Jay P. Greene, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, April 11, 2010
Bill Gates had the good fortune to attend private school, and he sends his children there, too. Yet the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist has a passion to fix America's public schools. Gates has been on a road show this year to promote the education documentary "Waiting for 'Superman,'" talking it up at its January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere, including the Toronto International Film Festival... Directed by Davis Guggenheim, an Academy Award winner for his Al Gore global-warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," "Waiting for `Superman'" catalogs the ills of public schools, particularly in inner-city areas: Bloated bureaucracies, high dropout rates, low percentages of graduates going on to college, teachers unions that can put the interests of adults ahead of the needs of children. - Microsoft's Gates joins 'Superman' school mission, The Associated Press, September 22, 2010
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Bill Gates and Eli Broad (and the Business and Governors' crew) feel qualified to dictate what we teachers should be doing with the children in our classrooms (none of whom any of the corporate-politicos have ever even seen). We are doomed if we allow this to happen. Shame on the media for not presenting a balanced view of the issue. People are fed the corporate line, and believe it since there exists a long history of denigrating teachers and the teaching profession in this country (just look at the pay scales!). I find it especially disturbing that Obama, whom I supported, is promoting what GW Bush began -- an attempt to dismantle the public system of education. - Sue Monaco, The Obama Version of Meritocracy, Huffington Post, February 23, 2010
What Arne Duncan prefers is revisionist history and this is useful to those in power, for they can often count on those who raise families and work for a living not to have a detailed historical understanding necessary to spot erroneous public-policy claims. With TV and corporate media devoted to celebrities and shallow commercial coverage of political and economic issues, those in power more than often get away with skillfully manipulating the public. Due to the lack of diverse voices and dissent, they are able to present historical reality from their myopic and self-serving perspectives as if their analysis was truth to be built on, when in fact it is an assemblage of rusty facts and pernicious assumptions cobbled together to present a counterfeit historical and contemporary reality they can then sell to the public while conjuring up solutions in the form of their own market-driven ideological agendas. - Danny Weil, Arne Duncan’s History Lesson to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT): Elevating the Teaching Profession?, Dissident Voice, January 3, 2010
Read more here, here, here and here on Bill Gates and Education