Is Common Core a Coordinated Effort to Mislead?

Some of my readers have started sending me articles and news stories asking me to respond. In this post and the next one, that is precisely what I am going to do. If you see something that appears to push a story about Common Core or any other issue in education that indicates to you somebody is spreading inaccurate information, send it on. We will talk about it.

In case you skipped some of my postings that are more focused on economics than education specifically, I am greatly concerned that the education policies and practices that have been adopted in the US (and globally for that matter) cost more overall than what is being produced of value. The emphasis we are just starting to chart where the school’s focus is to be more on desired values, attitudes, and amenable personality traits simply makes what is being spent potentially more destructive. Neither Professor Bode or his colleagues seemed to have any idea or appreciation for what personal characteristics drive prosperity or foster individual independence. And that is putting it kindly.

Long term education spending that does not add and preserve knowledge and skills and that actually seeks to undermine the values and beliefs and spirit that drove current levels of prosperity is a guaranteed prescription for social disaster. It will cause (or already has)  either economic stagnation, which is bad, or actual declines in average living standards. Even worse. I want to have the discussion of where these education policies and practices are actually taking us now. Before the momentum and amounts spent and decrease in actual relevant knowledge and marketable skills gets any worse. The typical policy maker has not spent anytime contemplating what creates genuine widespread wealth and prosperity in a society. Or what destroys it. Me? Thinking that way is reflexive so here we go. is a link to a recent story in a DC magazine pushing what I call the Common Core national standards. Interestingly enough the author, Robert Rothman, refers to standards with a small “s” and common core with two lower case “c’s”. Every reference in the article to standards works just as well if you substitute outcomes or objectives or even learning goals in its place. Gone is any sense of a body of knowledge or content each child should have nestled firmly within their own mind.  No Mr Rothman describes a world where facts are supplied or gathered up after a prompt, not embedded within each person’s every day functioning available for their own spontaneous use. Or available for sale to a potential employer.

It has never made any sense to me how one can be expected “to think critically and solve complex problems” without a tremendous amount of accumulated cultural knowledge. Or at least deep personal targeted knowledge relevant to someone’s particular commercial problems. If no one would voluntarily part with their own money to pay you for what you actually know or can do, that should be an alarm bell going off. What education and schools and higher ed are creating in the common core Outcomes Based Education/ Competency world has no real value to either private employers or potential customers. Continuing to spend if that’s the case is both mind arson at the level of the student and cultural arson at the level of the dollars, time, and other resources being spent. Taking out less than was put in. All this rhetoric about common just means that the ship will be long past its sinking point by the time anyone realizes where the hole is and what caused it.

Anyone looking at my picture of the serf’s collar and the name of this blog can tell I love a great metaphor. I also have very little patience for poor ones. Images and comparisons that simply do not fit the actual facts. Those kind of metaphors by education industry insiders do create the impression of an intent to mislead. In this situation the metaphor was the creation of a standardized transcontinental railroad in the US. The article is called “Transcontinental Education”. This is the tagline from the intro:

Soon, nearly every state in the union will have the same demanding standards for what students should know. If history is any guide, a burst of innovation won’t be far behind.”

I am not going back through my previous posts on innovation or why the standards are not in fact demanding since they must be accessible to ALL students using a variety of methods. I have also written already about how little factual knowledge there is to Common Core. The so-called knowledge is either how to do the desired generic skills like communicate or problem solve or be part of a team. Other knowledge is presupplied politically useful issues or topics or concepts. Past basic skills most of the real Common Core emphasis is once again on personal attributes of each student and not just looking for deficits. It’s more of a “this is the desired characteristics we want in each future voter and employee and citizen.” It is the approach a lord would have taken to his serfs or a king to his subjects. It is simply not the approach one takes in dealing with free independent human beings who will eventually need to make their own way and pay their own expenses as adults. Who may be capable of creating the Next Great Idea that benefits us all.

In the lower case world of “standards” and “common core”  where would the locomotives come from? What would propel them? Where would the ingenuity that created refrigeration cars and pressurized storage cars come from? Who will create ever swifter, more fuel efficient, engines in that world of uniform skills, values, knowledge, and attitudes?

Innovation is more than a marketing slogan or a PR campaign.




Is Common Core a Catalyst to Dramatically Alter System?

I know it is frustrating to live and work in a state where what used to be good schools have ceased to function well because of previous reforms or controversial math programs and variations of Whole Language reading and writing programs. Or urban schools that never seem to improve no matter how much money is made available. You hear about Common Core and you want to believe there is a way out. Because we all know education matters. Especially K-12. And then along comes someone annoyingly pesky like me who keeps insisting “No, Common Core will make things worse. The implementation materials and policies and mandated practices are quite clear.” If I am going to be so contrary and burst that bubble of hope, the least I can do is start explaining why.

Today’s title was taken from  a recent professional devt webinar on Common Core. It explained that Common Core would require a rejection of existing knowledge and skill sets. Common Core would be “second-order change” requiring “new paradigms for how you think and practice.” Now that seems quite a bit more radical than just getting everyone to common levels of knowledge and skills in the various states but then I have had the playbook for a while.

To really understand Common Core, we must appreciate why Outcomes-Based Education, OBE, always emphasizes physical activity like a performance instead of mental activity, and always insists that attitudes, values, and emotions MUST be targeted by the school. To gain that essential understanding we need to return to the 1930s again. This time we are going to listen to Boyd H Bode, the professor who recruited Ralph Tyler to come up with an alternative measure of the results of the 8 Year Study. Because colleges and universities wanting to measure actual knowledge was threatening the whole project.

Everyone I have ever tracked from the 8 Year Project was firmly committed to the idea of using education to change American society, its political structure, and its economy. I will be as gentle as possible when I say in 2012 that it may not have been obvious in the 1930s that a centrally planned, collectivist economy would produce horrific results for the average person. But we certainly know that now. Nevertheless, the architects of the policies and practices we now call OBE had substantial social plans and said so. Repeatedly. They understood that the students brought attitudes and beliefs from home that were usually inconsistent with their hoped for social, political, and economic vision and restructuring. They wanted to use school and the classroom experience to first break down and then build anew the “attitudes and appreciations which are appropriate” to their social theories. And they knew and described that the desired real changes would require involving a student’s “emotion and conduct if they are to be significant.”

Boyd referred to the beliefs, influences, and standards of value that surround students in their out-of-school life as an “enemy” to be “combatted”. He also though understood the need for stealth and discretion about such transformational goals. As he said:

“If the schools should start on a crusade for social reform, the irate citizen and parent would have reason for inquiring by what right the schoolmasters of this nation consider themselves commissioned to take the affairs of the whole country into their own hands.”

Irate we are and I suspect the anger is only starting to build. Right now most people are either unaware of an earth-shaking transformational paradigm shift in education or they still believe the PR push. But as Georgia Mom showed us yesterday in a comment to the previous post on standards=outcomes, the real implementation parents and teachers are seeing does not match the political sales campaign. And this difference between reality and the Common Core promotional sound bytes will only build with time. Plus the real rationale for such a paradigm shift isn’t hard to find. Professor Bode laid it all out. Reject the past. Create new values, patterns, attitudes, and beliefs. Reconstruct the student’s habits and then make sure the student is “governed by his habits and not by his intelligence.”

Use the school and classroom to construct an invisible serf’s collar would be an apt way to describe such aspirations. A collective serfs collar for the country and its economy. Published again in the 21st Century by a network of colleges of education determined to turn out graduates committed to fulfilling Bode’s vision. Which really does create a predicament. What do we as a society do when the credentials of a principal or a school superintendent or other administrators living at our expense on taxes we all pay turn out to be based on an agreement to use the schools to finally obtain Bode’s vision?

Are we and our children and ultimately our country really just to be victims of anyone with an education degree and a willingness to push radical social and political theories? Does it get a free pass just as long as it is called a learning theory? Or a standard on accreditation?


And Governments Must Facilitate Everything

That quote from someone who has headed more than one major research university was always going to be the topic of today’s post. After all, as you will see in a minute, it goes to the heart of where education thinks we are really headed. Politically. As a society. Our future financial expectations. And why I am standing up and shouting “but there is no widespread prosperity in that future. If we all follow or are shoved along that chosen path.” But real life machinations pop into my sight these days almost daily. The one this morning was a doozy. It wasn’t news to me. It’s consistent with where we are going in our post-book story during this summer of Common Core implementation. It was a reminder though of why I felt I had to step out and start talking about where education officials are actually taking us. And why I thought I had to describe related economic, social, and political terms and consequences that must have had some of you nominating me for a Major Nerd award.

There is an international conference coming up in late June in Rio de Janeiro that none of us are invited to and all of us are paying for. We will be talking about it later because much of what is really going on in education, K-12 and higher ed, relates to Future Plans the Bureaucrats have for us. So I read the reports and related videos that feed that different set of facts that makes me analyze things differently from the official talking points. Last week, a Norwegian, Jorgen Sanders, was challenged on why he called his report on what the world was going to be like in 2052 a forecast. Surely he must acknowledge there was great uncertainty and his report was only a possible scenario. His answer was that he could be so arrogant (his words) and definite  because there were processes in place now to keep these decisions on a political path. His desired political path.

What’s really going on in education is part of that stealth political path he thinks he has finally got covered. Which is why we are talking about it now and why the following public declaration by a veteran university administrator was so telling. I call these my tape recorder disclosures because someone is revealing unconsciously what was said and believed in executive industry meetings that neither you or I would ever be invited to. Probably in yet another lovely location it would be enchanting to visit sometime.

The meeting (about a year ago) was on how to make the US competitive and the given answer was that it would require a partnership of the federal government, Business, and research universities. Now you can see why I wanted to talk about what has happened historically in the mercantilist economy where government ensures special privileges for its chosen ones. There’s no widespread prosperity there. That’s also a dirigiste economy where none of those officials are likely to be in a position to have the information required to drive genuine innovation. I do believe he honestly thought universities could be models of future innovation. Which is a tell that he and probably many of his other higher ed leadership colleagues see innovation as politically directed change, not a better good or service or idea desired by consumers. The kind of innovation that creates wealth and benefits everyone.

So here’s what is apparently a classic higher ed leadership vision of our economic future in the US. I may be paraphrasing slightly. My hands were flying when I realized what I was hearing but this is close to an exact quote.– Government has to facilitate flow. But it cannot do everything needed so the business community has to help too. We also need regional cooperation. But government and big companies can’t hire everyone who needs employment. Some hiring has to come from entrepreneurial activity.

That vision is such a backwards, false understanding of what would allow for a prosperous future it is hard to know where to start. Except we already have in earlier posts and we will keep developing ways to describe and reject this apparently widespread error. There are two points that must be made now though. First, that’s the vision that most higher ed and K-12 administrators seem to have. It is an essential component of where they plan to take our students and how they intend to spend our tax dollars and the remainder of their revenue. Secondly, that kind of misguided view of a possible economic future could only come from someone whose working life has consisted of others paying his or her way merely for showing up, having certain credentials, and being willing to push someone else’s desired policies. People who get to live off of OPM, Other People’s Money, seem to be blissfully blind to what it took to create that money. It’s not a unique vision at all unfortunately.

And they are in positions as presidents and chancellors and deans and superintendents and principals to push education policies and practices that are going to make it that much harder in the future for anyone to have the knowledge and skills to produce that next dollar for someone to confiscate as OPM. Static or declining economies just don’t produce the desired levels of OPM. All medieval serfs found that out the hard way when virtually all their crops were taken. With winter coming.

We 21st Century serfs in that dirigiste education vision for the future would like to avoid that future pathway where we become both the victims and financiers. Of Those with Political Power. In an economy where political power determines individual choices.






If the Leaders of Higher Ed Think They are a Cartel, How Can it ever Drive Innovation?

I don’t think any of us who lived through OPEC suddenly raising its prices for oil in the 1970s needs an explanation of how a cartel works. A Group controls a greatly desired or necessary product and gets to set the terms of purchase. Anyone younger has watched enough movies featuring references to drug cartels to immediately catch my point. The expectation that to get a Good Job you must have a college degree or a certificate on competency in an area gives higher ed cartel powers. The Qualifications Frameworks recently put in place in Europe, UK, South Africa, and Australia for starters formalize that relationship between education and the workplace. No big deal for a large company, these frameworks create another layer of expenses for smaller companies. Creating a classic barrier to Starting Up and then Growing for smaller businesses which is the last thing the US or any of the countries I mentioned should want to be doing. Discouraging economic growth and job growth by people following a good idea and providing desired services or products. Just because they are not yet big enough to have lobbyists in state capitols and DC.

The first time I heard a state university system head insisting that colleges and universities were to be The core drivers of innovation in the 21st Century, I was surprised. I wondered where he heard such a silly idea that contradicted common sense. It also did not fit with the sorry math curricula I knew the colleges of education were accepting federal grants to then push on state or local school district students all over the country. I had been worrying for several years about the likely impact of poor math and science instruction of the particularly able students when they got to college. It just seemed likely that the well-functioning higher ed programs themselves would have to change to reflect the created ignorance coming out of K-12. My reference to mind arson is not just an attempt to grab attention with a catchy phrase. If someone set an orchard of fruit trees ablaze or a forest of centuries old oaks was on fire, we could see and smell what we were losing. When bad policies and practices are foisted on any part of our K-12 system, the future productive capacities and abilities lost harm our economic and social well-being and prosperity just as much. It’s just harder to see and easier to deny.

When I decide I am hearing a bogus explanation for what I know to be a bad policy or practice, I go looking for proper refutation. And boy did I find it-Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist. The entire book is about what drives innovation and what diminishes it. Bureaucratic institutions of any kind-government or Big Business are a death blow to innovation. They simply aren’t in a position to know what is needed or to react quickly. Matt has also developed the best definition of the kind of genuine innovation that drives wealth creation and job growth. Innovation is “ideas having sex”. Since my mother will likely be horrified I even raised that particular metaphor in a public forum and Matt states his own ideas so ably, here’s a link to a video where he does just that

The key to the relationship between higher ed and innovation then is to protect the productive departments and institutions from the anti-productive elements of higher ed world. I would list the colleges of education and any Directors of Sustainability or Diversity in the list of potential predators of real economic value scholarship. No I am not maligning teachers but I have tracked the history of pedagogy and I know exactly what is driving the typical school of education. Like reading the minutes of a January 2009 national presentation in Washington DC that recommended telling higher ed presidents they would be evaluated based on their ability to bring in outside grants. Then it went on to recommend telling them how education grants to push particular K-12 curricula and instructional practices are the easiest to obtain. That is a prescription for turning all of higher ed into a very expensive paper credentialling, wealth and knowledge destroying factory. And using the monopoly over what can happen in K-12 as an additional source of funds.

Likewise the requirement that successful Race to the Top (the $4.2 billion program created by the Stimulus Act of 2009) state applicants for K-12 federal funding needed to obtain written commitments from their state higher ed systems. They agreed to accept Common Core adoption as proof that high school graduates must know and be able to do what is needed to enroll in credit bearing classes from the beginning. No more remediation. That may increase the graduation rate but it will do nothing but increase the pressure to dumb down all coursework. And as I have pointed out from the moment I first read those higher ed agreements, if Common Core was what it has claimed to be-higher national content for all, there would be no need to get that type of blind commitment in advance.

Now we recognize that the PR campaign to make higher ed the primary source of economic innovation is inconsistent with our known facts. And we have started to see how the push to view Kindergarten through college as a continuous System (ed insiders abbreviate this idea as P-16 or P-20 if they want post-grad as well) threatens the most productive people, departments, and institutions. Next we will talk about one of the biggest problems. What higher ed intends to sell and what taxpayers, parents, and students think they are buying are not the same. Not even close.


How Can Ed Reform Lead to Innovation if it is Really Mind Arson?

The need for innovation in new products and technology and useful practices is one of the primary parts of the sales campaign for adopting Common Core at the K-12 state and local levels. It is also the rationale for everyone needing to go to college. If the stated goal is in fact an impossible goal, we better be discussing it now. Before full implementation starts in a few months. I heard the innovation explanation Monday at Education Nation as the reason for why career pathways should now be an integrated component of ALL students high school coursework. Every time I hear Career Pathways I keep wondering why the US would want to adopt the Soviet polytech system for all its students. But a new name in education seems to usually be more than enough to avoid much scrutiny of an offered idea. Worthy sounding goals and creating the Common Belief that Everybody that Matters is for doing this is generally enough to set off another expensive stampede.

It is a reality of life that only a few people have the individual initiative, enterprise, and depth of expertise to create innovation. Innovation requires that the most able mentally or in eagerness to apply themselves be allowed to develop fully. Yet Common Core’s philosophy is that most of the learning is to be behavioral and changes to values and attitudes and emotional dispositions. That’s the focus when you get beyond the PR campaign and into the realities of what is coming to a classroom near you. There is very little knowledge in the traditional meaning of the term available under Common Core. What knowledge there is comes as pre-supplied concepts. Not the concepts an individual develops in the privacy of their own mind after considering the linkages among the relevant facts she knows on a given topic.

Common Core has a dominant skill emphasis. Why anyone reasonable would believe that a dynamic, prosperous economy would come from making the focus on an ability to communicate or to be part of a team or to Problem Solve is beyond me. The reality is that Common Core is designed to make genuine innovation very unlikely if not impossible. We as a society certainly will not benefit if innovation becomes unlikely. Who does?

When you go back to a list of Big Business actively pushing the earlier attempt to implement Outcomes Based Education and a skills emphasis and a vocational focus in the 1990s many of the names make you feel like you have entered a Time Machine. Either the formerly big names are gone or their industries are now in decline. “I haven’t heard that name in a while” immediately comes to mind. Many of the surviving names are multinationals who have openly or quietly embraced their connections to governments all over the world as customers, clients, and allies. As various governments seek to regulate more areas of society and dictate what is acceptable behavior, they apparently need a whole lot of consulting services and a great deal of computing power.

When the same companies who seek to be the vendors for dirigiste economies all over the world are the strongest advocates for education reform that makes it unlikely that anyone will invent or design superior technology in the future we have every right to be skeptical. These modern day Mercantilists actually benefit twice from their ed reform advocacy and funding. First by limiting the amount of knowledge the most able students can obtain from K-12 or, unfortunately, from a higher ed rapidly evolving towards a Competency-approach. And justifying it by reporting it is being used in various US federal agencies and the BBC. Not a winning argument there.

By insisting all must learn the same material and have comparable experiences we make what is accessible to our least able and interested students the ceiling for what our most able students can know or do.  That does close gaps but it means we all end up in the gutter together. Widespread mental impoverishment in the name of equality and equity. We are officially refusing to let our smart or brilliant or just plain industrious students be the productive people we will need in the 21st Century.

The 2nd boon goes beyond disabling the Creative Destruction power that fuels free markets when individuals can exchange knowledge and ideas and have incentives to experiment. It is in fact that other favorite tactic of Mercantilist companies apart from shutting down innovation. “You must buy my product”. In this case, these computer companies  behind the global 21st century thinking skills movement in education are simultaneously getting governments and accreditors at every level to insist that digital literacy and the use of technology has to be at the core of what goes on in schools and classrooms.

How lucrative. How vocational. How convenient.

What a boondoggle. See how a Mercantilist approach stifles innovation, benefits the politically connected, but impoverishes the rest of us picking up the bill as our children know less and less? But are to be emotionally manipulated more and more through the schools? Is this any way to approach the 21st Century if we really want to preserve and improve on widespread prosperity?



Why the World Makes Far More Sense if You Add Dirigiste to the Things You Understand

I must admit I made it to my 6th Decade in this world before encountering the term -“Dirigisme” or the more common use–a dirigiste economy.  It means essentially a state directed economy. It is when the government sees it as its job to try to look out for the business interests of established companies. Or to try and create new industries.  Historically that protection stifles innovation. In the name of the desirable goal of Economic Growth, stagnancy occurs. Plus there is the cost of supporting all those planners and regulators. Less prosperity, More expense=Bad Deal for the Unconnected Picking Up the Bill.

We are much more likely though to have encountered and recognize the opposite philosophy, even if our definition is probably a bit skewed from its historical use. “Laissez Faire, Laissez Passer” is the philosophic opposite of the Mercantilist, Dirigiste approach to how an economy works and prospers. It sees the economy not as something almost tangible like a pie-“Here’s your slice.” But as a series of spontaneous transactions among lots of different people pursuing what they Know and what they Need and Who can best provide it. The idea of “Let Us Do It. Let Us Make It” goes back to the contrasting philosophies between Britain and France in the 1600s and 1700s. It’s not a matter of not wanting any government. It recognizes that the central planner or regulator cannot know what we Know. And what we Know and Can See Matters Most to developing the kinds of new technology or unique business practices (like a corporation that can now survive any individual human life or letters of credit that allow investment abroad without guards for your gold) that generate local or regional or even mass prosperity. It’s what moves the masses beyond the poverty of subsistence hand to mouth, barely getting by living that was the historic norm for centuries. That remains the norm in too many 3rd world countries even today where Those in Charge want to manage and control everything. No prosperity there as you will learn when I tell you about the real history of the IB Middle Years Programme in a different post later.

Laissez Faire, properly understood, is all about how important diverse pieces of information and knowledge scattered among lots of different individuals are to what creates prosperity and wealth. It recognizes just how many earth reshaping inventions have been created by people who knew their trade well and saw a need. The Industrial Revolution did not ignite in the countries like France that funded scientific research and wanted that research to lead to economic growth. The Industrial Revolution took off in England where artisans with knowledge were looking for solutions to very particular problems that no one in London likely knew existed. Steam engines and cotton gins which shifted the way the world worked occurred because local engineers in the hands-on tinkering sense were trying to solve immediate problems. England had little wood for heating but lots of coal. The coal mines though flooded in the deeper veins and the shallow veins were tapped out. How’s that for a real life, authentic problem in need of a relevant solution?

Yesterday, in a review of Pasi Sahlberg’s Finnish Lessons:What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?, the former executive director of the NEA wrote of the need for the US to emulate “the power of linking education and the economy in an intentional manner”. Since that  review popped into my inbox several hours after I blogged about the connection between the current education vision being pushed in the US and mercantilism, it was tempting to try to teach one of my cats to High Five. Sweet vindication. The Finns have a dirigiste economy. Copying their education policies means adopting their economic and social policies. And those have a poor track record we are just starting to explore.

For today though I want to call your attention to the area of education where I think this dirigiste approach is the strongest. We are very expensively expanding a sector (new buildings! programs! campuses!) under the assumption that government, federal, state, and local, can use its legislative and regulatory powers to insist that the public must subsidize an industry. We are also quietly putting in place the elements of what is known in other countries as Qualifications Frameworks. The idea that employment in the future will require the right credentials and that only the institutions of higher ed can provide the requisite degrees and credentials. And that job changes require yet another stop pushing more of your money at higher ed to get that next required training or skill set.

College for all defies common sense. There’s a reason the research pushing this vacuous idea always seems to rely in the footnotes on previous papers by the same professors and groups baldly asserting this self-interested point without any evidence. We are caught in a classic Mercantilist “you must buy our product” dirigiste scheme. The student loan debt that now exceeds credit card debt in the US is only the tip of the iceberg on what these dirigiste higher ed policies are really costing us.

Tomorrow I will talk about what dirigisme and a mercantilist approach by a country or state has historically done to innovation. The great driver of future prosperity.


Didn’t Adam Smith write a Book explaining why this is a Bad Idea? Back in 1776?

The herd instinct can be in charge in many areas but few are more important than public policy in an area like education. Getting it wrong affects individual student’s life prospects as well as any region or country’s likely future prosperity. To bolster the public policy choice, the common strategy in education is to recruit business leaders and other politicians to vouch that what is desired is A Very Good Idea. Necessary in Fact. The Reform That Will Save Us All From Ruin.

Busy, well-intentioned, respected people make themselves available. Then someone pesky like me comes along and says not so fast. There are relevant facts you are not aware of or the reform does not actually work in the way you believe. I have joked my business cards should read “When You Want to Get Beyond the Echo Chamber”. I simply see things differently because I rely on reading the actual documents. I investigate past effects of comparable language. My opinions are never just based on what I have been told and that is frustrating to people. I suspect this will be a frustrating post to many important people. I wish their staffs knew their history better or thought more in terms of how does this business make its money before automatically using its support to validate an idea.

One of my frustrations is when Business support is the reason a bad policy is to be enacted. The Business support always seems to fit a certain profile. Vendors of the computer hardware and software and consulting expertise governments need if they have aspirations to plan and run a society or economy. Or maybe the Business support comes from a utility executive who operates in an industry where he or she provides a necessary service and then passes on all costs to rate holders plus a tacked on return. Or a defense contractor whose only customer is governments around the world. With few competing suppliers, if any. Or heavily regulated insurance companies or hospital executives. All good people. All needed services. None of those industries though involves the kind of innovations or prosperity that grow wealth or make a country more productive.

If we want education to be about tomorrow’s jobs in a prosperous free market economy, we need to be talking to businesses that have created wealth and new technology. Not just those who manage what already exists or fear innovative products or ideas as the kind of dynamic destruction that could harm their business. If education reform is quietly premised on the idea that tomorrow’s economy will be centrally planned and managed, we need to address that now. That’s certainly a sorry record of nonachievement beyond the politically connected.

This past Monday, May 7, I had the opportunity to be in the audience for Education Nation: Job One Preparing America to Compete in the 21st Century. It was presented by NBC News and most of the ideas being pushed as the solutions are ideas I have spent a great deal of time tracking and pondering. That means I see things differently largely because I am working off a different set of facts. A huge part of the program’s emphasis was on the type of skills needed by all. The stressed point was on the need for education to be about workforce development and career pathways for all students. We had a major city’s mayor, the state’s Governor, and a US Senator all urging in a bipartisan manner that this was the solution to create jobs for tomorrow. Their plea was followed by a business panel:utility exec, defense contractor exec, execs with 3 multinational companies with backgrounds of seeking Industrial Policies.

Industrial Policy is when the government picks economic winners and losers and uses taxpayer money to play favorites. It is good if you get picked as a winner and are taken care of thereafter. Industrial Policy though has a very poor record of picking good ideas and a solid record of propping up bad ones. Not too good for the taxpayers footing the bill or overall prosperity and economic growth.

The validation that this was a correct policy came from a belief that if top civic and business leaders agree, it must be a good policy. Again, the fact that so many educators, media, business, and civic leaders were all on the same page on the need to put the emphasis on workforce readiness and skills for all was the rationale that the idea was sound. Then it hit me. That’s the classic Mercantilist argument for what must be done and what an economy needs.

Mercantilism-that alliance of business and politicians to plan and manage policies that benefit the producers. Current politicians and established large businesses over the centuries love this model because it offers power and stability. For them at least. Perfectly rational desire. But will it create Good Jobs in the future? The stated goal.

Basically education is now being used as the rationale to adopt a Mercantilist economic policy for the US in order to create the jobs of tomorrow. Except that’s not how Mercantilism has ever worked. That’s what The Wealth Of Nations was all about. Explaining the spontaneous economic practices that were allowing England to prosper and create wealth and opportunities and technology at an unprecedented rate in world history.

Adam Smith compared England’s free market, non-state directed approaches and individual activities with no one in charge that existed in fact to what was occurring in countries like France which used the government/Producer alliance known as Mercantilism. One generated widespread prosperity and the other did not. One produced the Industrial Revolution. The other frustrations at the special privileges and enormous tax burdens that financed all that planning and those perks. It produced the Terror of the French Revolution.

If the most prosperous America for as many people as possible is indeed the goal underlying what we need to be doing in education, we appear to be adopting practices that have never worked before. We need to once again slow down and talk about what is really being mandated in the worthy pursuit of education for all.





Why are We Talking About Serfs? There are no Castles Nearby

If you think of serfs as belonging to a time of moats, knights, and castles, using them to make a point in the 21st Century must seem a bit strange. And maybe strained. But serfdom lasted for centuries because it worked. Well, not for the poor serfs. Being told what to do, when to do it, and where for someone else’s benefit was a pretty miserable hand to mouth existence. It worked well though if you were born to the class that had serfs. Political power can be like that. Especially if it gets inherited automatically from generation to generation.

So why do I use the reference to a Serfs Collar now? I think it is hard for us to imagine just how rare the idea of an independent individual with rights to make his own decisions without interference from a king, lord of the manor, tribal chief,  or state regulators is. It has happened in only a few places over the course of the centuries. Political exploitation has been the norm for most people throughout history unless restrained somehow. The US Constitution used to do it and still should if OBE were better understood. Weak governance will work too. The Dutch prospered in the 1600s because faraway Spain had little day to day control. The English Civil War and beheading the KIng was enough to change the dynamic of who controlled England.

The Serfs Collar metaphor comes from reading politicians, professors, and administrators who see education as a weapon to enrich themselves while adopting instructional policies and practices that are designed and created to make the students easy to take advantage of and manipulate as adults. Why? I know you can already appreciate the ability to predict and control voters. But ineffective instruction also vastly grows the public payroll. Lots of dues and jobs there plus a voting bloc that usually votes based on the benefits available. That magic taxpayer money available through tax levies. Or borrowing.

The last substantial benefit you may not have thought about though comes from the fact that politicians and the regulators hate innovation. It’s unpredictable and it may lead to an invention or superior product that undermines a beloved current campaign contributor. You know that nice one who always has tickets to the Masters and the Super Bowl and will make his jet available so traveling isn’t such a hassle? Dynamic free markets are idea machines. Much better then if you already have political power or established business power to try to rig the economy to make sure nobody changes the current rules and desired money flows.

What better weapon to do all of the above than through education? The control is not apparent. You simply limit what any student knows and is able to do. You change values and attitudes. You make reacting from emotion a habit. You teach students that their unsupported beliefs and opinions are every bit as important and entitled to respect as someone’s fact based analysis.

You create a future voter and worker who wears an invisible serfs collar.


What’s the Big Deal about Outcomes-Based Education? Why did it become Notorious?

If the desired outcome of OBE were the highest levels of knowledge and a demonstrated ability to think well in print and be adept at mathematics and science so that all these skills became useful tools as an adult, the answer would be-Nothing at all. OBE though is always a means to change the purpose of school and education from its traditionally understood (and highly useful!) role as the transmission of our civilization’s accumulated knowledge. The best products of our most able minds throughout history. Plus a treasure trove of spectacularly bad ideas and events from history we would do well to try to avoid in the future. Nay, I can almost hear you say. That’s ridiculous. Why would anyone want to do something so silly? Perhaps I have an overactive imagination you want to say?

Well perhaps but I would never put such an alarming accusation in print unless I had repeatedly encountered just such an aspiration. That’s part of what the book details and this summer I will give you some more juicy declarations by People Who Matter that have come my way since I finished the book. I told you it would be interesting. For now though let’s remember one hugely important thing about knowing many things and having a large  arsenal of facts within your own mind. You get to come up with your own narrative of what happened. No need to quietly accept someone else’s explanation. If someone offers an official explanation that’s not true or is illogical or is based on emotion, your own arsenal of knowledge stands ready to help you say-“Not so fast. That’s not true and this is why.”

By targeting behavior OBE not only keeps that pesky, meddling independent knowledge to a minimum. It also licenses government officials and others (which even the very nicest of teachers are in the end in case you were wondering why tenure is under attack by its former advocates) to go after the drivers and motivations for individual behaviors. OBE licenses targeting a student’s beliefs, values, attitudes, dispositions, and especially emotions and feelings. The essence of what makes each of us unique at the most fundamental level. In fact that’s the whole point of OBE as its designers say and each of us should know.

Forewarned is forearmed as they say. We will be talking about OBE a lot this summer because it is an essential component of the story of the Common Core Deception. It’s targeting and attempts to monitor and transform the private, affective, components of a person’s nature are also a big part of why the serfs collar cannot be seen by its wearer. Imagine being under the influence and limited by something you are not aware is there. But others are because they consciously and carefully created it.

Why? Told you it would be an interesting summer.




The Common Core Deception and the Invisible Nature of the Serf’s Collar

This morning I was greeted with a link to yet another story on the changes in content and grades of coverage that will become effective in next fall’s school classrooms in Georgia. All in the name of higher academic standards of course. To be internationally competitive in the new global knowledge economy of the 21st century.

That does sound wonderful, doesn’t it? Finally to have our schools and classrooms and teachers all moving towards a common vision of what American students need to know and be able to do in the 21st Century. Why am I so skeptical?

That’s what this blog will be about. Monitoring and describing this summer before the official rollout what’s really going to happen to your child and your community and your state in the name of Common Core. We are going to try to get a handle on which states are aggressively implementing outcomes based education (OBE) under the banner of Common Core. And which type of OBE. Yes, there is more than one. Thanks for asking. We are also going to talk about why OBE in its various forms just keeps coming back. New names but always the same dangerous function.

Dangerous to the student and his prospects as an adult. Dangerous to this country and the core assumptions that have served it well for more than two centuries. Absolutely lethal to our prosperity and our economy generally. Intentionally so. At least in the aims of the original designers of what has come to be known all over the world as OBE.

It’s going to be an interesting summer. Welcome aboard.