Vampires, McKinsey & Co., and the Future of Public Education: It’s All Connected.

The Battle for Public Education

There’s a telling scenario in the greatly under-appreciated cult vampire film classic called The Addiction. In it, the main character (soon to be vampire) named Kathleen in cornered in a dark alley by another vampire named Casanova. The dialogue goes like this:

Kathleen: “Please” (begging)

Casanova: “You think that’s gonna stop me?”

Kathleen (again): “Please?”

Casanova bites her, steps back and chuckles, calling Kathleen a “collaborator.”

Casanova then begins walking away.

Casanova: “Wanna know what’s going to happen? Just wait and see.”

Watch clip at:

I find this to a very apt introduction to this article about education reformers. Why? Because in this era of reform and our use of language to describe its effects, we have moved from metaphor to mytonymy. To my way of thinking, corporate reformers are not like vampires. They are vampires. Let’s look at the evidence. They are nearly impossible to destroy, they live forever, they use very attractive appearances and alluring words to lure in their prey, and in order to survive themselves they must find victims whom they suck dry of their vital life force. OK, we’re not literally talking about blood here…but we are draining children of their life force, killing them with high stakes tests, and the blood in this instance is the data. Corporations feed off the data they drain from children, and use it to reap billions of dollars of profits and gain control. What vampires crave more than anything is power.

It’s the words “You think you know what’s gonna happen? Wait and see,” that resonate for me.

Let me share with you what I think is going to happen to public education.

It’s apparent to most of us by now that privatization is their goal. But I wish to explore some of these details more specifically. Right now, the federal and state departments of education are (at least on paper) the “providers” of public education and they (to the tune of billions of dollars) contract with private corporations (i.e. Achieve, Pearson, Wireless Generation to name a few of the big ones) to serve as delivery vehicles.  The state depts. of education contract out nearly every service: teachers do not create curriculum they deliver curriculum (privately owned and created by NCCS developers), schools contract out for professional development (to teach the NCCS and the new PARRC/SBAC tests), they contract out the test developers (aka Pearson), they even contract out for the test evaluators (aka Pearson),  districts contract out to McCharter schools to provide the physical space (stolen in a colonizing fashion from the public schools), and to TFA to provide the teachers. CHA CHING. $$$$$

The only thing State Departments of Education provide anymore is the money (our tax dollars) and the bodies (our children).  I call it the victims-delivery-system (VDS).

State Departments of Education will be the vehicle through which corporations can be handed millions of children. If the latest corporate brain child, the e-learning craze, is any indicator, teachers and schools will no longer even be needed– just a child with a corporate-owned product or service in their hands, spitting back endless streams of personal data which the corporations can then use to sell the children even more of their products, and sell their personal information to other corporate entities who can use that data to serve their own ends.

Such third party groups are not only the makers of learning products. Other interested parties in “big data” include the Department of Defense (note their direct influence on overseeing the national common core standards, discipline records, and drop-out rates), insurance companies (ever wondered what State Farm’s interest was in contributing huge sums to promote the Common Core? It’s big data baby), and the prison pipeline (hell, they already anticipate how many prisons to build based on the test scores of third graders, so is this really a stretch to imagine?).

For example a Task Force launched by a report called   Schools Report: Failing to Prepare Students Hurts National Security, Prosperity:

“(B)elieves the annual audit should be aggressively publicized to help all members of society understand educational challenges and opportunities facing the country. This public awareness campaign should be managed by a coalition of government, business, and military leaders. It should aim to keep everyone in the country focused on the national goal of improving education to safeguard America’s security today and in the future.”

The evidence for corporate interest and surveillance is most telling. Cities around the country like Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, and New Orleans are closing down scores of public schools (they don’t even pretend to use the false premise of “poor performing” anymore, they just let the McCharters take what they like). And for the public schools that don’t become charter school fodder? Well, they’re owned in part and whole by the corporations that have been contracted through the state departments of education anyway.

And when the funding for RtTT runs out, who will pay for these services? This is what I predict: the corporations will now own the rights to every facet of public education. So if you wish for your child to have an education of any kind, well you’ll have to pay for it out of pocket. It will become a service for which we, the public, must pay out of pocket because the public system will have been eviscerated like a body at the feet of a vampire.

By now most people following the charade of education reform know the names of the vampire coven elite (aka Billionaire’s boys club) like Rhee, Murdoch, Broad, Walton, and Gates. But there is another BIG key player: McKinsey and Company. They’re the most powerful “behind the scenes” operation you’ve most likely never heard of. But their stake in the game of education reform is huge.

Their names can frequently be seen in the white papers of non-profits and other institutions with a statement like, “According a study done by McKinsey and Co. …” Their “studies” have laid the groundwork for perpetuating the greatest heist of our generation: the theft of childhood and public education. And they have enormous financial interests as well.

Former McKinsey partners can be seen cast across the constellation of education reform efforts. David Coleman, developer of the NCCS and now head of the College Board was a former partner at McKinsey. Sir Michael Barber, Chief Education Advisor for Pearson is a former McKinsey and Co partner. So is Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal.

See The Hand That Holds the Data  for a full list

They are the Jedi knights of “big data” and have been trained by the best. And now they hold powerful positions where they can ensure that the distribution of data can be ensured. Their mantra is “big data.” The National Common Core Standards (NCCS) orchestrated by Coleman and new national testing (SBAC or PARCC) both managed in one way or another largely by Pearson (orchestrated by Barber) are the central vehicles needed for gathering this big data. In one McKinsey report it states: One proven approach is to combine customization and scale by offering a standard core curriculum complemented by employer-specific top-ups.”

The Common Core and the mandatory standardized tests, as profitable as they are, are not the ends. They are the means. The ends are much larger. The ends lie with owning personal student data. And this is their area of greatest expertise.

McKinsey and Co. have a direct partnership with Murdoch’s Shared Learning Collaborative.

According to Susan Ohanian (quoting another site):

In education reform, McKinsey & Company appears to be a kind of Skull and Bones club, with the McKinsey firm involved directly, or with former McKinsey employees in key roles. The McKinsey firm itself is an SLC partner. Double Line Partners, builder of the first SLC-style systems in Texas and Delaware, has two former McKinsey employees on its team. And Jack Markell, Governor of early-adopter state Delaware, is himself a former McKinsey consultant.

In their promotional flyer “Transforming Learning through mEducation”McKinsey and Co. promote the values of hand held and mobile devices so that they can now have direct access to children as the consumers of their learning products with no messy overhead or interference from a teacher, peers, or a community of learners. They state “the market for mEducation products and services today is worth 3.4 billion dollars.”  They add that, “By 2020, mEducation may address up to 70 billion” of the anticipated 8 trillion dollars spent globally.

There’s an entire section on how mobile operators can “tap the market.”

There’s lots of rhetoric and promises…and every one of the 36 pages mentions at least once how profitable this market can and will be for companies who jump on the band wagon. “Higher education and k-12 will represent the biggest mEducation opportunities across regions.”

And when the gravy train of RtTT funds dry up?

By then the corporations like McKinsey will own the education industry anyway.

In the state of Florida, according to a State Board of Education meeting held December 2012:

“McKinsey has been retained through Gates and Hewlett Foundation funding to develop the business model/establish governing entity to succeed PARCC.”

Let me rephrase that for you: McKinsey will serve as or supervise the GOVERNING ENTITY to deliver state-wide testing/data collection to (from) public school children. And Gates and Hewlett Foundations foot the bill to make this happen.

Additionally, on their docket was: FL involved in study to investigate tablet use in large-scale assessments.

But Florida is not alone. Back in Louisiana, where Bobby Jindal (fomer McKinsey consultant) reigns supreme, according to their RtTT Blueprint:

“The Trailblazer Initiative also affords the opportunity for LDOE and LEA capacity building through professional development and learning opportunities facilitated by national education leaders (i.e., McKinsey, Mass Insight, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) to effectively implement and sustain reforms beyond Race to the Top. Additionally, Participating LEAs will receive coaching and mentoring support from local and national high-performing district leaders.”

McKinsey and Co. was a key provider for research and support for the voucher model system in Ohio as early as 2008.

Now fast forward to the future where: Lumina Foundation has been asked to join two partner foundations (Hewlett and Gates) to create a series of scenarios dealing with governance, operations and funding concerning the two Common Core assessment consortia, PARCC and SBAC following the end of federal funding in 2014. This effort would be developed by McKinsey Consulting, with CCSSO serving as fiscal agent.”

So here we are. In a dark alley. The vampires are upon us. Are we collaborators? Or will we fight back? TELL THEM TO GO AWAY. And say it like you mean it.

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

12 thoughts on “Vampires, McKinsey & Co., and the Future of Public Education: It’s All Connected.

  1. Amazing work. Thanks for this. Notice also that the U.S. Department of Education’s 2009 modification of the The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. §1232g so that student records can be used for evaluation and other studies, without parental consent, including student test scores, health records, learning issues, disciplinary measures, and the like. This change enables, for example, real-time studies of student behavior during on-line activities, including tests The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. §1232g Federal Register, Vol. 73, No. 237 (Dec. 9, 2008), at 74824
    Also a 2012 issue brief makes explicit the U.S. Department of Education’s intent to facilitate data mining and “learning analytics” in partnership with commercial companies, under the banner of enhancing teaching and learning. The issue brief is infused with jargon perfected in hot houses where statistical expertise combines with programming savvy to create this following scenario.
    “Develop decision supports and recommendation engines that minimize the extent to which instructors need to actively analyze data. The teacher in a truly instrumented classroom would have much more than access to student scores on state and district tests. Diagnostic real-time assessment tools and decision support systems would enable the instructor to work with automated systems to make decisions “on the fly” to improve instruction for all students. … To support teachers in the act of instruction, we need decision supports and recommendation systems that link student learning profiles to recommended instructional actions and learning resources (USDE, 2012b, p. 29)” Bold face in the original. U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (2012). Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics: An Issue Brief. Retrieved from

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