Archive for the ‘Public education in the US’ Category

Social Networking for Great Public Education

Allow me to share with you, dear readers of this blog, the journey we are on together.  My life as a blogger began with a suggestion from my son, Jeff (the Monster.com founder guy): “Write a blog and drive it through social networking sites to promote your book.”  The name of my new book, Seeds of Freedom: Liberating Education in Guatemala, implies a lot of what my adult life has been about.  My blog site URL is on message with that: www.seeds-of-freedom.org.   But if you are new to it, I want to share with you what you will find as you explore it now.

As a non-native to the world of blogging and social networking, I thought it best to explore the medium and to find my public voice in a related topic.  My topic of choice was to analyze public education in the U.S.  A couple of insightful articles came my way and I found myself falling into a rabbit hole of scary threats to public education, including serious efforts to privatize it entirely.  Continue reading

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Sinking Democracy by Selling Education

One stream of the current education reform movement seeks to “unbundle” public schools.   Arguing that the “one size fits all” model of public education doesn’t fit all, its reformers seek school choice, not only as choices between schools, but also as options for commercially supplied curriculum products within schools.

The approach of the “unbundlers” is spelled out in a series of articles in a book edited by Frederick Hess and Bruno Manno: Customized Schooling: Beyond Whole-Group Reform.[1]  Hess is an education scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, while Manno is an official of the Walton Family Foundation, which is known for its advocacy of the privatization of public schools in this country.[2]

Their goal is to pave the way for commercial providers to sell curricular products in response to parental consumer demand. Continue reading

Children Failed by Society’s Neglect

“Class size is soaring in the poorest schools.  I walk into classes with 35, 40, 42 children packed into a single room.  Originality?  Forget it.  Creativity?  Forget it.  Critical thinking, asking questions?  There’s no time for children to ask questions.”  These observations are from Jonathan Kozol, one of the nation’s sharpest critics of the U.S. neglect of its public schools in low-income urban areas.  (AlterNet transcript of “Democracy Now” program) Continue reading

Seeds of Freedom in Fertile Soil

Take heart in knowing that the arc of history is long, as [Martin Luther] King noted, but it bends toward justice.  Take courage in knowing that where a community of hands comes together to work toward justice, a freedom seed will grow.  And take pride in knowing, when the work is challenging and setbacks come—as they must when anything important is happening—that you are building a better future for every child and family and community you touch (emphasis added).

Linda Darling-Hammond (pictured above) spoke these words at a ceremony where she was awarded the Columbia University Teachers College medal for distinguished service.  The Nation introduction to a transcription of her acceptance speech described her as “a nationally renowned leader in education reform.”  She was considered for the post of Secretary of Education in the Obama administration, but lost out to a member of the high-stakes-testing coalition of a different kind of reformers.

Critics of the latter, President Obama-supported reformers, agree that public schools, particularly those in low-income urban areas, need deep-rooted improvement. Continue reading

Billionaire-Powered Education

Once, back in the late sixties, I studied the interlocking boards of directors of major corporations, banks, hospitals and cultural institutions in a small mid-western city.  The power elite of the metropolitan area came sharply into view.  With that “power map” in hand I could follow the values and money shaping the community where I lived—and become a more effective community organizer.

In previous posts I have been following the values and money that shape the current “education reform” movement in the U.S.  Billionaire funders of the movement may not be represented on a formal set of interlocking directorates, but their goals overlap to serve interests of the corporate sector and the ideological right wing.  Continue reading

ALEC: Planting Seeds of Domination

A secretive alliance has been percolating for years between representatives of major US-based corporations and far right Republican state legislators.  Its real purpose is to stack the legislative deck in favor of corporate-agenda profits and against the interests of the voting public.  Its members meet off-the-record to develop ideas and model language for legislation that weakens democratic government by promoting the privatizing of public services such as education and prisons.  The bills then flood state legislatures throughout the country.  Continue reading

Education “Reform” that Deforms

Teachers are on the “firing line” for everything from failure with students in impoverished neighborhoods, the decline of schools generally, and even the decline of the United States in the global economy.  A broad coalition of “education reform” actors, spanning the political spectrum and extending to the editorial pages of the mainstream media, has come to believe that ineffective teachers, protected by their unions, are responsible for the decline.  The “reformers” are determined to right the listing educational ship.

Joanne Barkan, in a compelling article, analyzes the powerful campaign that promotes such reform, the billionaires that fund it, and the anti-union bias that fuels it.  The implied logic of the coalition is clear: “If we can just get the right kinds of teachers, with the proper teaching strategy in union-free schools, all will be well with education and the U.S.”  Its reform strategy involves universal standardized testing and using student test results to evaluate teachers.  And, if the reformers have their way, teachers can be fired if their students do not raise their test scores to an acceptable level.

Continue reading