Many people are asking themselves, what is happening that would lead elected officials from all over the country to create, and/or vote for, such harmful and anti-public school legislation?
To understand it, I feel we need to take a step back and look at the larger machine at work. For a moment we need to stop debating charters, vouchers, tenure, merit pay, test scores and data collection, and instead look at the current education reform movement as a whole.
In doing so I realized that the same ideals, methods, and hidden agendas that are driving the current education policies have already left a big ugly scar on the American people. We all know it as the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
Simply change a few of the player’s names, substitute the word education for housing, and everything becomes clear.
Let’s start with the housing bubble:
In 1977 Lewis Ranieri worked with members of the Federal Government to create a system that would make far more money available for home mortgages, hoping to give every American an opportunity to own a home.
For 30 years, through both Republican and Democrat leadership, the concept put in place by Ranieri and our Federal Government continued to morph. Under influence of the traders, mortgage companies, the banks and our Government, this program went from a well-intentioned thought to one of the worse financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Believing that the ‘housing bubble’ would never pop, these financial entities became increasingly bold in their efforts to amass wealth by granting riskier mortgages and eventually crossing the line into illegal activities. The Government was complicit in the finance world’s actions by creating policies to expand home ownership that had no regard for proper lending principles.
Under these risky loans, made possible by American businesses and our Federal Government, we, the American people, were being set up for failure. No one seemed too concerned however, fortunes were being made and the government looked great under the high home ownership numbers.
Eventually seven men, who worked inside the world of finance, realized that the housing bubble could, and would, burst. They understood the plan that began in the 70’s no longer existed. In its place was an unsustainable web of CDO’s and bonds and high risk mortgages.
Seeing this these 7 men embarked on plans of their own to profit once the bubble burst. They were literally betting against the success of fellow Americans, mostly poor and middle class, to maintain their mortgages in an effort to increase their own wealth.
In 2008 it happened, the bubble burst and the subprime mortgage crisis began.
Some banks closed, many were bailed out, and people were arrested but worst of all, the American people suffered greatly, foreclosing on over 5 million homes.
Now let’s compare it to what is currently happening in education:
In 1983 the Federal Government, believing that all children deserve a high quality public education, released the report ‘A Nation at Risk’ detailing weaknesses in our educational system. This quickly leads to corporate partners coming to the aid of our struggling school.
In the 30 years since ‘A Nation At Risk’, and through Democrat and Republican led Government, the concept of partnering with businesses to raise the quality of education has continued to morph. Under the influence of billionaires, Corporate CEOs, non-profits, and our Government, educating our children has turned into a money making venture, raking in huge portions of our 500 billion dollar education market.
Just like our Government’s concept of ‘Everyone deserves an opportunity to own a home’ ended up looking little like the original due to greed and a desire to create a false narrative about our country’s financial strength, the intent of ‘All children deserve a high quality public education’ has been lost due to the desire to amass wealth by creating a false narrative about our under-performing schools.
The Government has been complicit in these efforts through the creation of legislation that allows these CEOs, billionaires, and non-profits easier and wider access to our public schools, and a greater influence in policy making. No better example than our Congress amending NCLB in 2010 to state: “the term ‘highly qualified teacher’ in NCLB includes a teacher who meets the requirements of [the Department of Education regulation]. Section 163thus provides that an alternative-route teacher who merely ‘demonstrates satisfactory progress toward full certification’ is ‘highly qualified’ within the meaning of NCLB” In layman’s terms: They lowered the qualifications of teachers in our high poverty schools to allow a corporation, Teach For America, easier and broader access.
Just as the mortgage companies and traders became bolder in their methods, so have the corporations, non-profits, and elected officials efforts in education. The false narrative being created by them often conflicts strongly with what we know beyond a doubt is right, yet they are able to boldly make statements without hardly a challenge.
For instance, we have the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, telling us that standardized testing kindergartners is ok because we want to be able to tell them by third grade if they are, or are not, college material. We are even being told that a highly standardized education can serve all individual children, yet we look at our child and we see a uniqueness that we do not want squelched. And we are told by Sen. Del Marsh that a bill that attacks teachers will attract higher quality teachers to our state.
Yet these comments are, largely, met with silence.
How can this happen? We’ll find out tomorrow in Part 3.