This is a critical point that every educator must understand: we are being used by politicians to advance an agenda that has very little to do with education.Results on National Asessment of Educational Progress and Programme for International Student Assessments have caused policymakers, elected officials and corporate donors to present current economic decline and standing in the world community as an educational problem. Consequently, public schools have been generally mislabeled as ineffective because of perceptions over student outputs. Policymakers and elected officials have continued to develop policy proposals that underline that the stakes are huge not only for children, but for the nation. As previous educational reform movements have been largely unsuccessful, public schools have been dubbed as inflexible. As a result, the characteristics specific to education and schools like unions and salary packages have been treated as primary reasons why schools are not efficient as organizations.The overwhelming attention placed on public education to counter a perceived national crisis has put extraordinary onus on public schools and the members who are responsible to respond to macro and micro needs. As student achievement and outputs define public perceptions of how schools function as organizations, the swift stroke of painting public education as broken, wasteful and ineffective puts all public schools, suburban and urban, under a tremendous amount of stress. Schools that house lower socioeconomic or disadvantaged students have been crippled during decline as the need to cutback services have left schools with fragmented academic programs and social services for kids and families who need it most. Teaching cultures have also been obliterated. Unfortunately, these schools face the harshest realities of potential dissolution.
And there is really no better example of this situation than right here in New Jersey. Chris Christie is pushing education "reforms" - revoking tenure, VAM, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay - that have no evidence of working; in fact, all respected researchers tell us NOT to implement them. Scroll through this blog or many of the blogs at the left to find example after example of why anyone who knows anything about education policy is, at best, lukewarm about any of these programs.
So why push these things? Well, charter schools and vouchers open the door to the increasing privatization of public education. VAM will introduce a new testing regime that will bring huge increases to the bottom lines of the testing contractors. And merit pay and revoking tenure is all about slashing teacher pay and busting unions.
But there's more. All the blame placed on public education as the source of persistent poverty and the cause of the eroding middle class diverts the public from the real issue: we are living in a kleptocracy.
The wealthiest Americans have taken all of the wealth gains of the last 20 years, and the middle class have actually seen a decline in real income. Our health care system spends more than twice the amount per person as nearly every other industrialized country, and we have worse outcomes and fewer covered citizens; the extra money pads the pockets of an entire industry devoted to doing little more than pushing papers. Our financial sector took the country to the brink of economic collapse while CEOs and hedge fund managers made off with billions, all while shipping decent jobs oversees. We have both a government and media that has been bought and paid for by plutocrats; they are this close to shutting down any dissent against the new aristocracy.
And yet, absurdly, the members of our political and media elite swear up and down that the problems in our society basically boil down to teachers earning health care that keeps them from running up their credit cards when they need to take their kids to the doctor.
I know a lot of you, my fellow teachers, don't like politics. Believe me, I share your disdain. Nothing would please me more than shutting down this blog and spending my evening writing music.
But we can't afford to stay disengaged any more. You've seen what they are capable of: here in New Jersey, in Wisconsin, in DC, and everywhere else. They are going to do everything in their power to bust us down, slash our pay, take our modest pensions, force us to pay for outrageously expensive health care, and still continue to demonize us in the eyes of the public.
I don't know about you, but I'm not taking it lying down. They've gone too far. Enough is enough. It's time to push back - hard.