While educators and politicians throughout the land are recoiling at the notion of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, Democrats created her. Or someone like her. The Democratic Party’s embrace of corporate education, corporate textbooks, corporate testing and corporate-sponsored ‘education reform’ is what led to this. Along with the Party’s uncritical support of charter schools. Hell, we even helped fill Charles ‘Bouvier des Flanders’ Copeland’s silk pockets with even more filthy lucre. All in the name of ‘education reform’. Betsy DeVos is the inevitable result of the corporatization of education.
If you read only one article today, read this one from Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post. What will shock you is likely the recognition that we know all this already. Does any of this sound familiar?:
Democrats have in recent years sounded — and acted — a lot like Republicans in advancing corporate education reform, which seeks to operate public schools as if they were businesses, not civic institutions. (This dynamic isn’t limited to education, but this post is.) By embracing many of the tenets of corporate reform — including the notion of “school choice” and the targeting of teachers and their unions as being blind to the needs of children — they helped make DeVos’s education views, once seen as extreme, seem less so.
…The Democratic Party was undergoing structural changes as their traditional bastion of support, labor, was diminished by the changing economy. Democrats began looking more to Wall Street and the superwealthy for funding. During the past three decades, as this PostEverything article explains, the wealthiest Americans have shifted their donations, giving more to Democrats than Republicans — with young technology moguls leading the way.
These tech leaders believed in big data — and the notion that just about everything can be measured — and that love for data took hold in education policy. Economists offered up “value-added measurement” models to evaluate a teacher’s impact on student’s academic achievement by using a complex mathematical formula to tease out every other factor on a child, including how violence in their community affects their test scores. And the Obama administration loved it.
Although Jeb Bush was largely the person who pioneered ‘corporate education’ in Florida, a disastrous decision by the Obama Administration helped to make it mainstream:
By the time Barack Obama was elected in 2008, it was clear to many that NCLB had been poorly written and had goals that were impossible for states to meet. During the transition between winning the 2008 election and taking office in January 2009, Obama’s education team had been led by Linda Darling-Hammond, then a Stanford University professor who is an expert in teacher preparation and educational equity. Many in the education world thought she would be named education secretary and that Obama would continue in the Democratic tradition of supporting unions and making educational equity for all students a key goal.
But Obama was intrigued by elements of the corporate reformers’ tool kit…(i)nstead of picking Darling-Hammond, he selected Arne Duncan. Duncan, a former head of Chicago Public Schools, talked about improving public schools to help every child, as traditional Democrats did, but his approach was in the corporate reformer model.
Under Duncan and Obama, the Education Department pushed the federal education agenda even further toward market-based reforms than (George W.) Bush had. They used the promise of federal funds to push states to expand charter schools — paying more attention to growth than oversight — and to tie teacher evaluations to test scores, even though assessment experts said it was an unreliable method of evaluation.
They also pushed the Common Core State Standards, with the help and influence of people like Bill Gates, a movement initially embraced by members of both parties but that eventually became the object of scorn from all parts of the political spectrum, for a variety of reasons.
I’m already pushing ‘Fair Use’ standards, so I’ll leave it to you to read the entire article. It’s worth it, as a subscription to the Washington Post. Regardless of its editorial page, the Post, along with NYTimes , are still essential reading for those who need to stay informed.
Here is my question to all of our education experts among our readers–How do we put the genie back in the bottle?
Drawing by DonkeyHotel. Used by permission.