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, August 6, 2011

Halliburton High - 'Cross the Pond

I'd have to say that the most important investigative journalist working on American education today is Leonie Haimson. Where she finds this stuff from the UK, I don't know, but thank heaven she does:
Meanwhile, at News Corp, things weren't looking quite so rosy. The internet was rendering many of Mr Murdoch's business interests less and less profitable. Information was indeed turning out to be free, and an attempt to monetise his high-cost acquisition of the once-popular MySpace demonstrated that he did not understand this brave new world. So he and his son James concentrated on lobbying for tighter controls on media "piracy", buildingpaywalls to hide behind (and ensuring I can't link to the sources I want to), and searching for a new revenue stream.
Late in 2009, he found it. Educational technology. Moving quickly, he bought anumber of existing companies in the area, and brought in former head of the New York Public Schools System, Joel Klein, to lead this new initiative. Joel had left his previous job under something of a cloud, having sacked Columbia University academic Rashid Khalidi from his teacher training programme because he didn't like his views on Israel and Palestine. However Rupert (much like his friend David Cameron) believed in giving people a second chance.
Joel Klein became friends with Michael Gove, and in January 2011 Gove invited Klein to speak at his conference about "free schools" in UK education. Klein's also found time to give an interview to News International's "Sunday Times" during this visit - and this interview included the dynamic assertion that"It's easier to prosecute a capital-punishment case in the US than terminate an incompetent teacher." [JJ: He must watch Reason TV]
But speaking at the inaugral New Schools conference, he was clearer about his aims for education.
"Last, to shake up the system, we must change how we use technology to deliver instruction. (This is what I’m now seeking to do at News Corporation.)… [O]ne of the best things we could do is hire fewer teachers and pay more to the ones we hire. And, as in any other field, technology can help get us there. If you have 5,000 math teachers, many of whom are underperforming, significantly improving overall quality is nearly impossible. But if you get the best math professors in the world—who are great teachers and who deeply understand math—and match them with great software developers, they can create sophisticated interactive programs that engage kids and empower teachers."
Happily, Michael Gove and David Cameron displayed the foresight to abolish BECTA in 2010, BECTA being the organisation charged with supporting schools in using ICT to ensure that they don't get ripped off by unscrupulous vendors making over-egged claims about the power of educational software. This was a controversial and unexpected decision, later criticised by the Public Administration Committee, and by experts in secure IT provision.
Parallel to this, Gove had set up the facility for parents to set up "their own" schools, with the support of the fine services offered by the growing private sector. So Joel's delightful dreams of breaking teacher union power and selling schools expensive software could come true here in the UK, and his friends David Cameron and Michael Gove had managed independently to do the exact things that he needed to move this dream forward - just like in New York!
You know, the people of the US and the UK have a history of uniting against a common threat. Time to join up again, I think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

She's not an investigative journalist, just an activist with access to Google.