Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Time to call bullshit on the Bipartisan War on Public Education

Both Barack Obama and his secretary of education have praised a Rhode Island district for firing all their teachers to supposedly help the school's performance.

But in what other endeavor in life is wholesale firing of the frontline troops considered the solution to the problem?

When Abraham Lincoln had a general who wouldn't pursue the enemy, did he tell him to discharge all his troops and assemble a new army?

When American car companies lost market share to Japan for decades, could they have turned that around by firing all the workers?

When we lost the Vietnam War, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and Alexander the Great lost Afghanistan, was it because each empire needed to fire their troops and recruit fresh ones to win?

In the first two cases, the problem was clearly incompetence at the top: a general who refused to do his job, and executives who didn't think their primary job was building the best cars on the market but instead, maximizing profits by cutting corners on quality.

In the case of Vietnam and Afghanistan where multiple generals and empires failed equally, it was clearly not a failure of the generals but of the enterprise itself: occupying people who didn't want to be occupied.

The problem with public education is at the top. Politicians, tax cut advocates, and privatizers who have no interest in seeing schools succeed are setting the agenda.

First taxes were cut or kept from growing with the need to fund our schools, then that was used as an excuse to cut the enrichment programs like art and music that might have kept some marginal students engaged and class sizes increased just as more and more students were coming to school with chaotic home lives that don't prepare them for the discipline of school.

Then we allowed politicians to micromanage curriculum down to what lesson teachers will do on which day and exactly which words and exercises they will use, robbing teachers of the ability create lessons that will engage their students. Most teachers create their own materials and lessons anyway, but at the risk of their job if they have a particularly authoritarian and bureaucratic principal.

Then we let testing companies sell our politicians on endless testing instead of once or twice a year, which enriches the test companies but helps our kids no more than a doctor would who took your temperature every ten minutes but did nothing with the information except tell you how quickly you're dying.

Finally, private education companies and real estate moguls pay politicians to privatize public education under the euphemism ''charter schools,'' which skim off the students with engaged parents and oddly don't have to follow all the same rules as regular public schools, accelerating the death spiral of public education. And we all know from the Blackwater, Halliburton, and KBR examples that there are NEVER costs overruns or failure, or such close connections to certain elected officials who get campaign donations and lobbyist or CEO jobs when they leave office, which gives them incentives to overlook any failings.

And to the extent that those charter schools do work, the rewards will go to the stockholders and executives, not the teachers who are usually not unionized.

and that union business is the only other time I can think of mass firings being used, like when Ronald Reagan fired all the air traffic controllers rather than negotiating with them even though it put the flying public at risk as military air traffic controllers tried to step in handle much busier and more complex civilian traffic.

Is there any chance that's what this is about? Giving unionized workers who have some measure of control of their work environment and some foothold in a middle class income a beat down, to send a message to other unionized public workers?

Would you take a job that required a college degree but people with no training in your field could dictate exactly how you do your job, measure your success, and fire you because the teachers in other classrooms might not be doing as good a job as you? Don't we usually require college degrees for jobs that require some creativity and initiative rather than just reciting a script like a tour guide?

This is rot and corruption at the top, strip mining our kids futures for profit.

Here in LA, in addition to turning some schools over to charter companies, some have been given to teachers to run with less top down and more cooperative management, with teachers even making decisions about hiring and firing on equal terms with other stakeholders like parents instead of being treated like day laborers.

I will be curious to see how that turns out, though I suspect it's a token bone thrown to teachers, that will eventually be taken away regardless of the outcome.

1 comment:

Alabama Boyngboyng said...

The "average" American is already as dumb as a sack full of hammers. (Just look at the average tea bagger protest.) All the more easily to be duped by the unseen hands controlling the public media for the benefit of corporate America. Also all the easier to create a permanent and inescapable underclass of service worker/debt peon drones with zero critical thinking skills. Most Americans are stupid donkeys perpetually chasing a carrot they will never catch and running from a stick they will never escape. Thomas Jefferson said "A nation that expects to remain free in a state of ignorance expects what never was and what can never be." Educate yourself America and educate your kids; the public education system has been hamstrung by privatetizers with corporate interests in mind. Throw off your riders and kick the manure out of them and take their carrots away.