I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The REAL Status Quo

Once again, Gary Rubinstein makes a great point:

Again, NOBODY thinks nothing should be changed and NOBODY thinks everything should be changed.  Imagine some new billionaire comes along and starts saying that the next big school reform is that schools will no longer meet in buildings, but instead out on the street.  This will save money as the real estate can be sold and used to pay for iPads.  Now the old ‘reformers’ say that this is a bad idea, that having schools indoors is a good thing and the new ‘reformers’ can now accuse the old ‘reformers’ of ‘defending the status quo’ just because the changes that the old ‘reformers’ believe will be helpful do not coincide with the changes that the new ‘reformers’ believe will be helpful.  

So it is not fair to label a group of people who include me, Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, Katie Osgood, Jersey Jazzman, EduShyster, and so many others as ‘status quo defenders’ just because the changes that we think would improve the education system are not the exact same changes that people who know nothing about schools including Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Arne Duncan, Whitney Tilson, and many others think would improve the education system.

Every ‘status quo defender’ that I know thinks that education in this country would be improved if class sizes were capped at lower numbers.  But ‘reformers’ think that reducing class size is not a good use of limited resources.  Aren’t then the reformers ‘defending the status quo’ on this issue while the status quo defenders are looking to ‘reform’ things?  Doesn’t everyone defend some things in the status quo and want to reform other things?

I could easily make a list of things that I’d like to change.  I could bore you for hours about how I feel the math curriculum in this country and this world has evolved into something that leaves out the thing that makes math great — beauty.  I could also very easily pick places where money is wasted on consultants and bad education software, and also places where not enough money is spent to do things right.  But I’m called a status quo defender, still, just because I think that certain things should not be changed and that other things should not be changed, just for the sake of changing them, but until something that won’t make things worse is devised. [emphasis mine]
I have an addendum to this:

Three of the four people on Gary's list of "reformers" are very wealthy people (and I would argue the fourth has shown himself to be a vassal to power). The money that fuels the education "reform" movement overwhelmingly comes not from grass-roots fundraising or unions, but from a relatively small group of extremely wealthy families and individuals: Gates, Bloomberg, Tilson and the Wall Street hedge fund crowd, Eli Broad, the Waltons, Mark Zuckerberg, Rupert Murdoch, Mike Milken, David Tepper, Alan Fournier, Arthur Rock, Sheryl Sandberg and David Goldberg, Jeb! Bush [sic], the DeVos family, the Koch brothers, Michael Dell, and a few others.

These people have poured millions of dollars into advocacy groups and think tanks and political campaigns to promote an educational agenda that can be pretty much summed up as follows:
  • Shifting the task of education away from public institutions and toward private contractors: charter schools and voucher-accepting private schools.
  • Diluting the power of teachers unions, gutting teacher workplace protections, reneging on promised teacher compensation through pensions, and deprofessionalizing teaching through policies that include stripping accredited universities and colleges of the task of training teachers.
  • Removing local control of education and replacing it with centralized policies that require an expensive, invasive testing regime.
  • Shifting the national focus away from the issues of poverty, inequality, and institutional racism and toward the largely non-existent "problems" of teacher quality.
Does anyone else find it curious that all of these extremely wealthy people just happen to believe the same thing? That they all have the same education agenda? That there is little to no dissension among the moneyed classes as to how our public schools should be "reformed"?

The real status quo in this country is a system that transfers wealth, through government policy, from the working poor and middle class to the wealthy, ruling classes. America's national security, health care, campaign financing, media, financial, fiscal, and environmental policies have been based almost entirely on this status quo for years. And there is no question that the education "reforms" promoted by this ruling class are designed to align public education with this entrenched system.

We spend trillions of dollars on weapons systems our military commanders (the ones who haven't been corrupted) tell us we don't need, simply to enrich contractors. We have a private, for-profit health care system that spends double what nearly every other country spends per person, yet we have worse outcomes and not everyone is covered.

Our political campaigns have become little more than exercises in money grubbing, and our national politicians increasingly are either servants of wealth or wealthy themselves:

Our media has become almost entirely corporatized and pretty much ignores the opinions of those who would challenge the status quo. Our central bank has made it clear that it values keeping interest rates low for debt holders - the wealthy - more than pursuing a program of full employment. We have highly regressive taxes and a code full of hidden gifts to corporate interests, leading to income inequity not seen in this country since the Gilded Age.

Our planet is burning up, yet we have done almost nothing to reduce our addiction to fossil fuel, even as energy companies make obscene profits.

Some "liberals" take comfort in the fact that we have made some progress in social issues. I'll leave aside for the moment the notion that Trayvon Martin's family or women in Texas seeking medical care may disagree that we've come far enough fast enough, and simply ask this: do the social issue crumbs the ruling classes have tossed at our feet make up for the vast, destructive policies they are imposing on this country?

The last part of our public life these people have not yet commandeered or corrupted is public education. But once they have the schools, they'll have pretty much taken over everything. The real status quo - that the rich take what they want and the rest of us get whatever little is left over - will have invaded every part of our society, and its establishment will be taught as doctrine to all children starting at the youngest ages.

The corporate "reformers" pretend they are an engine for societal change that will bring about a new era of economic prosperity for all Americans. But nothing could be further from the truth: the policies these people have supported in every other area of American life have made our country and our people less safe, less secure, less prosperous, and less free. Why in the world would we ever trust the ruling classes to "reform" education when they have screwed up the rest of our country so badly?

The debate about education "reform" is a proxy battle about whether this nation can continue on a course that enriches a scant few at the expense of many. Our current plutocratic system is the true status quo; "reformers" merely seek to embed it into our schools. To pretend otherwise is to be willingly obtuse.

One more time - preach it, George:

They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying -- lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want -- they want MORE for themselves and less for everybody else. But I'll tell you what they don't want. They DON'T want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that, that doesn't help them. That's against their interests. That's right. They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting ****** by system that threw them overboard 30 ******' years ago. They don't want that. You know what they want? They want OBEDIENT WORKERS. OBEDIENT WORKERS. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly ******** jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime, and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. 

"It's a big club, and you ain't in it!" - George Carlin


jcg said...

You are so right about the corporate reformers. They've depleted all of our assets and now they want our minds. A few years ago, Margaret Spellings said she was thrilled about edu-reforms since now we can teach all kids about the "free market."

How ironic that The Great Gatsby is popular again. Tom & Daisy could just as easily be Bill & Melinda. Destroy everything in their paths and leave the rest of us to clean up their mess. For minimum wage, of course.

Deb said...

Superb post that is spot on about what is the status quo and who really defends that vision and how education is a microcosm of the much broader socio-economic values this country chooses to embrace. Thanks Duke. You rock.

Geo Karo said...

Fantastic research. Thanks for sharing!