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What Makes Teddy Run – Follow the Money…. April 5, 2007

Posted by Jim Booth in Domestic Policy, Education, educational reform, No Child Left Behind, No Child Left Untested, rich/poor gap.
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Dr. Slammy did a pretty good take-down on Teddy Kennedy in his recent post on Kennedy’s support of No Test Publisher Child Left Behind. But Kennedy is only a role player in the debacle that is our current education policy.

The truth of the matter is that Dubya’s education policy (remember, friends, he was going to be the “education president” before Andy Card whispered in his ear that terrorists had flown planes into the World Trade Center as he sat reading to 2nd graders in a Florida elementary school) is based primarily on family connection he has with the text and test publishing industry through his cousins the McGraws. And with brother Neil making a mint off NCLB with his software company that sells test prep materials to school districts across America, well, it’s just one big happy family, now isn’t it?

As Stephen Metcalf’s now well known article in The Nation illustrates, this is not some haphazard approach to education reform. It is a carefully planned strategy with a specific aim:

“The…Bush testing regime emphasizes minimal competence along a narrow range of skills, with an eye toward satisfying the low end of the labor market. All this sits well with a business community whose first preoccupation is ‘global competitiveness’: a community most comfortable thinking in terms of inputs (dollars spent on public schools) in relation to outputs (test scores). No one disputes that schools must inculcate the skills necessary for economic survival. But does it follow that the theory behind public schooling should be overwhelmingly economic? One of the reform movement’s founding documents is Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America’s Public Schools, by Lou Gerstner, chairman of IBM. Gerstner describes schoolchildren as human capital, teachers as sellers in a marketplace and the public school system as a monopoly. Predictably, CEOs bring to education reform CEO rhetoric: stringent, intolerant of failure, even punitive–hence the word ‘sanction,’ as if some schools had been turning away weapons inspectors.”

This kind of approach to the problem shows clearly that economic self-interest is perhaps the only ideology driving what seems clearly to be this administration’s anti-“educated citizenry” agenda.Ted Kennedy may be a renowned Dem. But he’s a rich guy first. That “loose confederation of millionaires and billionaires, baby” that Paul Simon refers to is not a fiction. His support of NCLB, given his background as a champion of the less fortunate in American society, should raise red flags for thinking Americans….

I refer you to Deep Throat’s famous directive to Woodward and Bernstein (back when they were journalists and not bobbing their heads in the laps of the power brokers) – “Follow the money….”

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Comments»

1. drslammy - April 6, 2007

As I tried to teach my students, “money” isn’t always the answer to a question about why people behave they way they do, but it’s a damned good first question to ask.

Your point about “rich guy first” is important. We have been encouraged to see America as a vast red/blue, left/right, retro/metro, coast/flyover divide where people who are almost exactly alike in every meaningful way are somehow mortally opposed. An old-guard elite who was born with a silver spoon up his ass is somehow more like Joe Average than than he is another old-guard elite born with a silver spoon up his ass.

It’s a marvel of propaganda, really – and perhaps the greatest swindle in the history of the world. It’s true that there is a great divide in America, but it isn’t left vs. right, it’s over vs. under.

Let me remind people one more time that our presidential election pitted two stupendously rich and connected brothers from the most elite university social fraternity in America against each other. Brother George and Brother John were a year apart in Skull & Bones, I think, although I’m not sure off the top of my head which one was the paddler and which the paddlee.

That means something. And America’s appalling inability to parse that meaning, well, that means something too. Specifically, it means something about the efficacy of our educational system.

2. antonio - April 6, 2007

I was a High School teacher for 23 years. Professional idiots would sweep through the school, several a month, charging high speaker’s fees, and talk utter nonsense. They would brook no disagreement-they had the Masters’. Tons of ghastly food (fat and sugar and starch)would sweep through the cafeteria periodically, at a great expense to the taxpayer. Millions of computers nationwide would adorn classroom after classroom, raking up super profits. Tons of useless books with pretty pictures and little information would make the publishers go from millionaires to billionaires, with a guaranteed captive audience. Candies and cookies of the Girl Scout type, Coke machine soft drinks, varsity sweaters, etc.,on sale daily in an endless parade of items which would even be advertised in the hallways. Teachers would be required (yes, required) to take Seminars disguised as professional advancement, paying for them themselves, ranging from 300 to 800 dollars, sometimes involving flight, hotel and restaurant as additional expenses. Teachers from the first day started scheming how to get into administration where the big bucks were. Everybody looked down on the teachers as “losers” while paying lip service to the “wonderful job they were doing”. Every few months the programs we were implementing would be scrapped as a new team of highly paid “experts” made us implement new methods, when in reality we just went ahead and taught as we had always done. (plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose). Ah, but the experts made money. There were weekly mind-numbing meetings whose only purpose was to let the students out early. Schools in America are a business-they dont need to privatize- and students are efficiently trained to be consumers. On the rare occasion a young American goes abroad once he/she leaves the Hilton he/she has no idea where he/she is or what he/she is looking at. The natives wonder who this ignorant, silly person is.You get what you pay for, I guess.

3. drslammy - April 7, 2007

Antonio,

I’d love to at least occasionally hear how wrong I am. I mean, you crank up a campaign like this and you make a lot of noise about how bad things are and, well, there are feckin’ jillions of teachers in the country. I keep waiting to hear from a couple of them telling me how out of touch I am with reality.

But it doesn’t happen, does it? Everybody I hear from has a story to tell that, if anything, makes me wonder how badly I’m UNDERstating the problem.

Thanks for commenting.


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