Sometimes when I have to point out the problem with a proposed solution that everyone has become excited about I feel like Scrooge. The panacea for education is found at last and then I point out that charging up your credit cards for a delightful Christmas will be a terrible idea come December 26. First I was cautious on charters telling everyone to read the language carefully or you may be binding yourself to a unappreciated Transformational vision. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/what-happens-when-a-charter-pillages-minds-and-wallets/
Now I am urging caution on Parent Triggers highlighted in the emotional movie “Won’t Back Down” that opened last week. Parents and taxpayers do need choice but please be aware that the Turnaround literature coming out sees the Parent Trigger as a splendid opportunity for community organizing. First create problems in schools by refusing to teach reading and writing properly or providing rich content. Then use the deliberate dysfunction to provoke outrage and nurture a sense of grievance for political and social change. Organize the parents and subject the students to a non-academic social and emotional learning and values curricula like Purple America and Responsive Classroom from previous posts. You are well on your way to organizing at least two generations through schools that were deliberately made far worse for the political benefits. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/keep-urban-schools-weak-to-force-economic-and-social-justice-then-make-the-suburbs-close-the-gap/ is the post where I explained how Saul Alinsky’s community organizing practices have come to urban schools. And the desired outcomes are not academic.
After all, to quote from a Report released October 1, 2012 called “Democratic School Turnarounds: Pursuing Equity and Learning from Evidence” a test-score emphasis assumes “that education’s primary functions are economic.” (Isn’t that what taxpayers ARE being told?) The Obama Administration, in my opinion, and certainly the NEPC (National Education Policy Center based in Boulder, CO) and those Texas supers from our previous two posts and that duplicitous charter in Fulton County, Georgia described above that Ed Week heralded as a national model and Best Practices schools are all driven by what is being called the “democratic purposes of schooling.”
Instead of viewing schools as being instruction-centered and focused on the transmission of knowledge of the Best that has been written, thought, or imagined in the past, the democratic purpose of schools theory sees classrooms, schools, Districts, colleges, and universities as having powerful contextual roles to play as daily environments where the students are embedded for an extended period of time. Long term captives susceptible to political and social and psychological manipulation is a less stilted way to say it. Social, political, and economic change for the US and the world is the explicit goal of the democratic purposes of schools theory.
“The democratic approach creates opportunities for local communities to publicly deliberate and self-govern. Its goal is to provide all students with equitable opportunities to learn, participate in society, and further social change.”
How well does that aspiration work in Detroit or Stockton? So much of what is sought via educational reforms like Systems Thinking/Systems Dynamics and Transformational Outcomes Based Education and SEL and Reengaging Disconnected Students has always been about this desired Transformation. The true goals no one is honest about so this stealth push via education amounts to a political coup d’etat just as surely as any junta in a Banana Republic complete with military uniforms and jeeps. It is just not as visible to target personal Values, Attitudes, Feelings, and Beliefs in the classroom. But it sure is as effective. Probably more so because you are influencing the drivers of all future behavior and perceptions. No wonder no amount of parental or taxpayer outrage makes it go away.
Only a solid expose in the sunlight will have that effect. As the NEPC report acknowledges, the target is social, political, and normative realities. And Normative is just a nerdy word that means telling a person how they ought to behave in the future. So now the government, through its agents and vendors, has decided that the purpose of schools, colleges, and universities is to “foster the values and skills necessary for collective, democratic participation and civic engagement.”
Apparently john a powell http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/distributive-justice-is-not-enough-we-must-break-the-illusion-of-the-unitary-self/ and Paul Ehrlich http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/how-disabilities-law-is-already-being-used-to-gain-ehrlichs-new-mind-and-the-future-earth-economy/ and Peter Senge and Bill Ayers and Riane Eisler and the Texas Supers and all the others we have described over the summer are ALL determined to use education to erase individualism and promote a sense of community for the common good. Emphasize repeatedly the primacy of the collective and the student’s role as a mere part. An alien vision that likely would have left the Founding Fathers weeping and Benjamin Franklin nodding that perhaps 225 years or so was better than he anticipated.
Apparently federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan has begun campaigning actively for President Obama’s reelection. Asked to characterize the difference between the candidates, Duncan said Obama regarded education as an “investment.” And that the Romney-Ryan ticket regarded education as an “expense.” Given the acknowledged Transformation of these democratic purposes http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/priming-delicate-minds-for-a-desired-disruptive-revolution-what-is-the-real-damage/ , isn’t education now a pretty sorry investment for the students and taxpayers? It clearly works well for certain politicians, government employees, preferred vendors, and connected Big Business seeking to hold on to current revenue streams and avoid the Creative Destruction of markets and genuine innovation. They get nonmarket salaries and committed, dependent customers and voters and lessen the likelihood of real competition. But is education for collective social change really a good investment?
Likewise on the expense side, what could have been done with all the money that is being poured into education with a decisively nonacademic purpose once you pierce through the obscuring rhetoric? What about the nondischargeable debt for life for a college education that is little more than a paper credential http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/credential-inflation-how-reforming-higher-ed-with-learner-outcomes-can-damage-all-degrees/ and about to get much worse with the adoption of the Bologna Process and Lumina Diploma Qualifications Profile? What is a District Super or Principal worth who is committed to gutting academics in a high-performing suburban district or school in order to promote Equitable Education? What about all the expectations for middle-class jobs being created in students without any actual marketable knowledge or skills? Does it really seem possible that everyone can be made middle class by fiat? A Government edict that there will be well-paying jobs? In a Green Economy that emphasizes Quality of Life and Wellbeing instead of GDP?
It apparently works in school district central offices and government bureaucracies and university campuses but all of these employees live derivatively. At the expense of others. The expense of their services and what is actually being provided matters. If principals or administrators are committed to not teaching reading well, for example, and relying on digital devices to handle most of the burden of “communication,” every dollar spent for such a insidious education policy is a dollar gone forever. And it was a dollar used to weaken the host– the economy, our society, and the individual student and the future they could have had. Their Vision. Not Bela Banathy’s. Not a Scheming Super’s.
So a cavalier “We believe in education as an investment and the other candidate is being chintzy” just does not reflect the facts or the expressed goals or the reality of what could have been done with the dollar confiscated by the public sector or in tuition for a Paper Credential. This country is in too much debt and capitalism and economic freedom and genuine markets have always been the only way to prosperity for the masses. This democratic purpose of schools nonsense is a lit powder keg under the US economy and the health of our society and the future prospects of millions of our young people.
We have the information now of the reality in American and global education and the likely catastrophic consequences of continuing on this planned course. October 2012 is a magnificent and necessary time to commence a national dialogue in earnest of how to–Turn, Turn, Turn. There is literally not a moment to spare. At so many levels.