I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

07 November 2010

Ad Hominem: Latin for "I don't want to deal with reality."

There is this attitude that we are supposed to take big dollar donations to education at face value. "It's about the children!", you see. And that's true enough, I suppose - although whenever I hear "It's about the children" I cringe, because if someone feels the need to distinguish their input into education by its child-centricity, they must assume that all other stakeholders are not all about the children.*

Any discussion about the values that these individuals and groups appear to espouse in their work is verboten.  Don't like how Deformer X makes money?  Think their industry is antithetical to free, public education?  Prepare to be accused of arguing against straw men.

What nonsense!  The ideals that underlie business interests that engage in education projects are obvious.  Indeed, they regularly state that schools should be like businesses.  They bring in business titles (CEOs, not principals, etc.).  They yammer about free markets and choice, about the power of competition.

These are corporate, capitalist business ideas.  It's what the deformers know, and what they believe needs to happen in education.  So why can't we also look at the actuality of their thought, the base of their ideas?

I think we have to.  Free markets may be wonderful things.  Alas, I'm afraid that John Arnold and his merry band of traders at Enron preferred market manipulation to real competition.  Although no one has ever linked performance bonuses to improved performance, I'm sure nice fat extra checks are quite exciting.  But I note that the performance that required multi-million dollar bonuses was so short-sighted and built on such false premises that we are in a financial crisis.  A long view suggests that these performance bonuses were not justified by objective data.

Going deeper, I think it's fair to ask if the corporate culture in which the deformers thrive is appropriate for our schools.  I'd say it's not.  PRCs and similar employee evaluation systems support the survival of the few and competition over teamwork.  I am obligated to teach all of my students and to ensure that each one masters Kindergarten standards.  I don't get to "fire" or refuse to teach the ones who "just don't get it".  My students need to learn to support each other, to work together and to be active participants.  These are key values for a cohesive, civil democratic society.  They are not the skills prized at hedge funds.

It's a cultural mismatch, and one with very clear outcomes.  We can run our schools like businesses to the detriment of communities and most kids.  A few superstar learners will come out just fine, though.  Or we can run our schools like schools and provide good outcomes for the vast majority of students.

*As I understand deformer talk, they are all about the children.  The dread unions are all about the big big cash dollars and child-destroying that due process rights bring.  The public education system as a whole is about destroying society through low standards, corruption and liberal ideals.  How it is that I am all about the money while hedge funds are all about the children seems factually invalid, but I'm sure they have some quantitative analysis to explain how I am actually becoming extremely rich while they are toiling away on pennies, all FOR THE CHILDREN.

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