Want to Destroy Public Schools? Education Nation’s Got an App for That!

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Everybody. Stop the presses! It’s here!

The solution to all of the social, economic, and pedagogical ills that have been plaguing our “failing” schools for decades! What is it you ask? Why Common Core apps, silly!

Yes, now we can re mediate for the needs of ALL learners, especially those in schools with crumbling infrastructures, haunted by racist school- to- prison pipelines, failing economies, high unemployment rates, and rampant dropout rates. Who knew it could be accessed all in the palm of your hand? Or the latest iPad, I should say.

Don’t believe me? Just join me the next riveting round of Education Nation coming soon to a neighborhood near you, where you can listen to the greatest scholarly and educational minds of our century (millionaires and movie stars) expound upon their deep knowledge of “what works best” for school children. Here, they will dazzle you with tales of their own teaching experiences working with the most challenging students, their independent scholarly findings about how to motivate and inspire children to reach their highest potential, and their selfless hands-on efforts to fight the problems of institutional racism, poverty, and social problems that affect how children learn and grow.

And of course they’ll be on hand to share with you how their own latest technological and testing innovations will solve all these problems without the messy trouble of having done all the other things I just mentioned.

Or, maybe they’re just trying to sell us something

Ever flip through a magazine and stumble across a full page glossy image that expounds on some problem, like how a bad diet can lead to split ends? It’s laid out like a real article. It offers serious looking information given by “research” and “experts” and follows this with, of course, “just the solution you’ve been waiting for!”– Shampoo X, with all the dietary nutrients your hair is missing! And down at the bottom in small print it says “advertisement.”

Education Nation is little more than an extravagant advertisement disguising itself as substance. How else can they explain the cast of characters being paraded on stage as presenters, in the guise of “helping transform education”?  Although there are few speakers of real merit… most ought to raise an eyebrow.

And what are they selling exactly? Ideology and products.

If one examines the ideological perspectives of nearly everyone on that presenters list one will find  that nearly all of them embrace a free-market corporate-driven approach to education reform.

Never mind that such an approach has never been proven to work … yet there’s an abundance of research, findings, and personal experiences documenting how it is harming school, communities, teachers and children. We do have concrete evidence that such reform measures lead to record profits for the companies and persons who wielded the political and financial power to pass the necessary legislation in the first place.

But never let the truth get in the way of advertising. It hurts your profit shares.

A large portion of the presenters  (or the organizations they represent)  have self-serving economic and political motives in promoting reform legislation which includes, but is not limited to: New “improved” tests, an unproven but already problematic and largely despised Common Core standards (hey, but at least they’ve got cool apps!), increased tax dollars toward charter schools (never mind that they fail), and new teacher evaluations systems (which force out experienced teachers, in favor of “Great White Savior” TFA Harvard grads who use teaching as a hazing process to earn their entrance into some high powered corporate position).

Here a few of the Education Nation panelists:

Joel Klein is now serving as CEO of Amplify (part of Wireless Generation) which has a lion’s share of million dollar contracts across the nation to collect and stores 400 points of student data.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has championed Wall Street millionaires with his attack on public education and offering hedge funders a new form of high yield investments in charter schools.

Lloyd Blankfein is the chairman of Goldman Sachs (so of course you can see his logical connections with curriculum and pedagogy). According to Ravitch, “In late 2010, Goldman Sachs announced it would lend $25 million to develop 16 charter schools in New York and New Jersey. The news release said the loans would be “credit-enhanced by funds awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.”

Jeb Bush, founder of the Foundation for Excellent Education, is a member of American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) whose education policy goals include privatizing public education.

Robert Wrubel is Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Vice President, Apollo Group whose flagship institution is University of Phoenix. The policy push for online learning won’t hurt him will it?

Jonah Edelman is Co-Founder and CEO, Stand for Children. One article begs the question, “Could Stand for Children be training former Teach for America corps members to write ALEC policy for state legislatures?” 

Dr. John E. Deasy is Superintendent, Los Angeles Unified School District who supports charter schools, teacher evaluations based on student test scores, and “parent trigger” laws . Meanwhile, in spring 2013, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp  has spent a whopping $250,000 on the Los Angeles school board race, just as the corporation focuses on making money off of public education. News Corp and its for-profit education subsidiaries are also members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the education initiatives promoted by News Corp’s preferred candidates track the ALEC agenda.

Stop Chasing Shiny Objects!

At least I get their motives. They’re unpleasant, and I am outraged, but they’re pretty obvious. What I understand less is why we, as a general society, allow this to happen. Are we so beguiled by money and fame that they stand as the only criteria for being able to gain “legitimacy” about a deeply human concern?  We are a society that likes “shiny” and “sexy.” The Kardashians get more traction in the public sphere than does the NSA. We like our latest gadgets and toys.

And to those reformers who hark on the overused and inaccurate sound bite: “Our opposition (like me) has no solutions,” I say “Kiss my assYou just haven’t been paying attention.” I would tell them what I tell my own college students, “A failure to listen on your part does not constitute a problem on mine.”

The truth is, the real solutions to educational and societal issues aren’t “shiny” or “sexy.” They don’t make for ridiculous made- for- Lifetime TV crap like “Won’t Back Down.”  

But, how much TV ratings would be garnered from Jonothan Kozol sharing about the “savage inequalities” of our nation, or Sonia Nieto documenting powerful stories of Latino children engaged in culturally relevant classrooms? Not as much as athletes, politicians, millionaires, and movie producers.

No. Sadly, society would rather see millionaires and famous politicians strut their performance and sell us “new and improved education 2.0.” I’m sure that Allyson FelixOlympic Gold Medalist is an outstanding athlete and she’s probably a very nice person, but what does she know about education?

Hey, it makes for better viewing.

But it doesn’t make for better education. Real solutions can’t be reproduced as a glossy one-page ad.

But they’re real solutions. In fact, not only have reformers blatantly ignored the decades and volumes and volumes of evidence of what has been PROVEN to help children. Reformers now go out of their way to eliminate these programs, as if to wash away any of the evidence. How else does one explain the closing down of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson which raised the graduation rates and class grades for some of the most challenged students?

How else to explain the persistent elimination of art, music, sports, PE and other extracurricular programs that have proven to increase school attendance and aid in the overall process of  learning (including ironically, test scores) especially in those schools where kids need it the most.

For decades market-driven corporate-minded money-making policy leaders have been ignoring real research, real evidence, real role models, real classroom examples of what works. Why aren’t true leaders of education presenting at Education Nation? You know. The ones who actually teach or have taught for decades, the ones who have dedicated their professional lives to real research, or devoted themselves to fighting for others? Many have been around even before NCLB. They’ve been promoting WHAT WORKS for decades.

Rethinking Schools has been publishing real stories from real classrooms that work, since 1986!

Fair Test has been providing research, resources, and facts for the public ever since 1985.

And there are too many educators to name who I call my heroes who have been fighting for children ever since I began by Masters degree in teaching in 1991. Today I am grateful to be able to call many of them my friends.

it’s not like we haven’t been shouting from the roof tops for years and years.

We have had real solutions for decades. And they’re rather simple. A small classroom size doesn’t come on an iPad app. A new “common” curriculum doesn’t provide needed infrastructure and equitable funding to our poorest schools and communities. New PARCC tests won’t feed hungry and developing minds in communities with food deserts. Bio metric galvanic bracelets and eye tracking systems will never replace meaningful relationships between caring experienced teachers and their students. No test can measure the life changing qualities of a culturally relevant and hands-on learning experience that empowers students.

Brought to you by…

And what about the Education Nation “supporters”? They are listed locally by city on the webpage. It’s paid-for advertising, while the speakers sit on stage and promote policies and agenda that profit and benefit the corporations that sponsored this. However, key ones that I keep finding in each city’s “sponsor” link include:

Kellogg– The Foundation invested 6$ million dollars through its mission driven investing arm to support financing of charter school facility expansion.  

University of Phoenix— Did Rubel buy himself a seat at the table?

And who can forget the giant head behind the curtain, Bill Gates? His corporation is a chief sponsor of Education Nation and is one who “supports effective teaching and teacher development, tools and supports for teachers aligned to the Common Core State Standards, and learning and teaching innovations, including education technology.”

I wonder whose gonna sell all that new technology to all those schools?

Is there an app for greed?


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.

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