CEOs running our schools… what could possibly go wrong?

If you’ll recall, a couple of weeks ago I posted some video here of State Senator Rebekah Warren commenting on Governor Rick Snyder’s Emergency Financial Manager Act. Warren noted, among other things, that there was no requirement that those emergency financial managers deployed to take over our State’s failing school systems have any background in education whatsoever. She attempted to pass an amendment that would address this, but it was promptly shot down by the Republican majority. Well, as I was reading this new column by Chris Hedges, I couldn’t help but think back on it. Here’s a clip from the Hedges article:

A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.

Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers—those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential—and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point. The No Child Left Behind program, modeled on the “Texas Miracle,” is a fraud. It worked no better than our deregulated financial system. But when you shut out debate these dead ideas are self-perpetuating.

Passing bubble tests celebrates and rewards a peculiar form of analytical intelligence. This kind of intelligence is prized by money managers and corporations. They don’t want employees to ask uncomfortable questions or examine existing structures and assumptions. They want them to serve the system. These tests produce men and women who are just literate and numerate enough to perform basic functions and service jobs. The tests elevate those with the financial means to prepare for them. They reward those who obey the rules, memorize the formulas and pay deference to authority. Rebels, artists, independent thinkers, eccentrics and iconoclasts—those who march to the beat of their own drum—are weeded out.

“Imagine,” said a public school teacher in New York City, who asked that I not use his name, “going to work each day knowing a great deal of what you are doing is fraudulent, knowing in no way are you preparing your students for life in an ever more brutal world, knowing that if you don’t continue along your scripted test prep course and indeed get better at it you will be out of a job. Up until very recently, the principal of a school was something like the conductor of an orchestra: a person who had deep experience and knowledge of the part and place of every member and every instrument. In the past 10 years we’ve had the emergence of both [Mayor] Mike Bloomberg’s Leadership Academy and Eli Broad’s Superintendents Academy, both created exclusively to produce instant principals and superintendents who model themselves after CEOs. How is this kind of thing even legal? How are such ‘academies’ accredited? What quality of leader needs a ‘leadership academy’? What kind of society would allow such people to run their children’s schools? The high-stakes tests may be worthless as pedagogy but they are a brilliant mechanism for undermining the school systems, instilling fear and creating a rationale for corporate takeover. There is something grotesque about the fact the education reform is being led not by educators but by financers and speculators and billionaires”…

Oh, and by comparison, here’s a little bit of a firsthand account on the Finish education system that I’ve been meaning to share for some time.

…Our teachers are really good. One of the main reasons they are so good is because the teaching profession is one of the most famous careers in Finland, so young people want to become teachers. In Finland, we think that teachers are key for the future and it’s a very important profession — and that’s why all of the young, talented people want to become teachers. All of the teacher-training is run by universities in Finland and all students do a five-year master’s degree. Because they are studying at the university, teacher education is research-based. Students have a lot of supervised teacher-training during their studies. We have something called “training schools” — normally next to universities — where the student teaches and gets feedback from a trained supervisor…

Teachers in Finland can choose their own teaching methods and materials. They are experts of their own work and they test their own pupils. I think this is also one of the reasons why teaching is such an attractive profession in Finland because teachers are working like academic experts with their own pupils in schools…

The kids of Finland, by they way, are kicking ass right now according to every educational measure there is.

But, we’d rather have our teachers reading from scripts and administering standardized tests… ensuring a never-ending supply of non-critical, flag-waving consume-o-bot drones.

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  1. Posted April 11, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    It’s probably also worth noting that, over the last decade, U.S. military spending has increased by more than 80%. Last year alone, we spent $698 billion. So, it’s not that we just don’t have the money to spend on education. We have the money. We just choose to spend it on new weapons systems.

  2. TeacherPatti
    Posted April 11, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again–NCLB was created to destroy the public school system. Here’s how it goes…under NCLB and other federal mandates, our special needs children are mainstreamed or, the more politically correct term these days, “included” with regular ed students. Despite being many grade levels behind or having disabilities that make it very difficult to compete with non-disabled kids, most sped kids HAVE to take the MEAP. Only moderately or severely cognitively impaired kids don’t have to take it and then only a certain percentage of them can be “excused”. My job as the special ed teacher is to choose one or more of these options–a) Pull out (I know how that sounds) where you let the kid listen to the “highly qualified” teacher’s lecture and then pull him out to offer support, b) push in (I know) where kid sits in class the entire time with me there to break things down and modify. Now how do I teach to the sped kids while the teacher is teaching? Yeah, good question. No one has ever really given me a good method so I end up whispering frantically, jumping on the braille machine, scribbling in dark marker so the kids can see. The latter method is the preferred method, btw. Or, you can do traditional resource where the kid is in regular class all day and comes to me for extra help as needed. Great idea in theory except when there are five kids at four different grade levels all needing help this hour on different things. So our special needs kids deal with this all day (in addition to some very hostile general ed teachers…the gamut I’ve seen runs from indifferent to “I’m not teaching them–it’s YOUR job to teach them” to “I didn’t go to school for special ed and I don’t want them in my room”) and then get to take and fail the MEAP. Their scores count just the same, often dragging down the average and making it impossible to pass “adequate yearly progress”. Consequently, you get schools that don’t want special ed programs or “testing” schools that require a “test” to get in…and guess who usually can’t pass?
    Now this is not to say that I favor the “little special ed” room of back in the day–not at all. I “inherited” 5 kids from a teacher who did little curriculum with them, preferring instead to take field trips to the mall, make breakfast every morning, play with dolls, have nap time, play dress up, take them home on the weekends…they are all at least 3 years behind with little hope of catching up without serious intervention that I hope I can provide. So the “little room” doesn’t work either…I don’t really have an answer, other than my usual call for 2 teachers per room.
    Okay, off my soapbox.

  3. dragon
    Posted April 11, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Any student scores less than 70% spends a night in the box. There’s no playing grab-ass or fighting on school grounds . You got a grudge against another student, you fight him Saturday afternoon. Any student playing grab-ass or fighting on school grounds spends a night in the box.

  4. Steve Swan
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    I made a move called A Night in the Box once.

  5. Posted April 12, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    “It’s probably also worth noting that, over the last decade, U.S. military spending has increased by more than 80%. Last year alone, we spent $698 billion. So, it’s not that we just don’t have the money to spend on education. We have the money. We just choose to spend it on new weapons systems.”

    I love that mantra recently about how we can’t afford discretionary programs because the US government is “broke.”

  6. Edward
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Let’s remember that these EMFs can also make more than $177,000 a year. The Republicans made sure there was no cap. And they’ll no doubt get bonuses is they can boost class size and reduce services, such as after school programs, and art and music programs.

  7. TeacherPatti
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Edward, our EFM makes over $400k….although some of that supposedly comes from private grants….

  8. Kim
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Instead of running our schools like they were factories, why not just turn them into factories? It would put kids to work, earning money for their families, and teach them valuable life skills. Just imagine the advantage a 7 year old tool and die man would have over a costly, old 40 year old.

  9. Ypsilanti Public Sch
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Ypsilanti Public Schools is hosting a Budget Public Forum, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, 2011 in the Ypsilanti High School Media Center (located in the lower level) 2095 Packard Rd. The presentation will include an overview of the current budget and projections for the coming fiscal year. Details: (734) 714-1202.

  10. Chairman Meow
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Is this one of those Ypsi Public School forums where the audience is encouraged to not speak, Sarah Devaney gets angry with people of color, and David Bates gives the Superintendent symbolic blowjobs?

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] and ratcheting up class size as much as humanly possibly. As we’ve discussed here before, there is no guarantee that financial managers assigned to take over Michigan school districts have e…, let alone relevant degrees. And, to make matters worse, these people are rarely from the […]

  2. […] necessary to keep public education alive. Snyder will talk about all of the money saved by our well-paid and unelected Emergency Financial Managers, who have been given free reign to break union contracts and impose their brand of business […]

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