Diane Ravitch today:
Suppose you wanted to destroy public education.
Suppose you wanted to make it so unpleasant to be a teacher or a student in a public school that everyone began to long for a way out. What would you do?
Let’s see. You would subject kids to tests repeatedly to the point that their parents complained bitterly. You would take away art and music, maybe physical education too, to make more time for testing. You would open a few charters, which would scoop up the best students, the strivers, and exclude the troublemakers. You would leave the public schools as refuges for the kids rejected or unwanted by the charters. Wouldn’t it be likely that all the motivated parents would clamor for a way to get their kids out too? Then there would be charters for the “good” kids and the public schools would be the dumping grounds.
Do the same for teachers but in different ways. Threaten them with termination if they don’t comply. Tell them their experience and education don’t count. Tell them their quality will depend on their students’ test scores. Watch their spirits droop as their best students leave for charter schools. Be sure to put non-educators in charge and lecture them regularly about how they are responsible if any child should fail. Snap the whip to keep them on their toes. Never treat them as professionals but as lazy time-servers who need constant reminders of their inadequacy.
In time, public education would be stigmatized and avoided by all who could get away. Is this where Race to the Top is going?
So you might say, why would anyone want to do that? What's the motivation? I don't know, why would anybody want to destroy Medicare or Social Security?
Corporate education reform is brought to you by the same people who are telling you that everything "public" is bad for you. It's brought to you by libertarian and neoliberal market ideologues who think that the only voting with one pocketbook is the only voting that has any real legitimacy, and that the democratic process is bunk. And as we've seen in the Senate, these people are doing whatever it takes to make their fantasy of ineffective government a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I understand that issues surrounding public education are complex and confusing. If you're not paying a lot of attention, it's easy to accept the basic media narrative about "failing schools" and "ineffective teachers", many of the so-called reform ideas might seem reasonable. What's wrong with charters? Why shouldn't parents have a choice? What's wrong with holding teacher's accountable? What's wrong with testing kids. How else are we going to find out if they are learning?
Well, of course, there's nothing wrong with choice, accountability, and assessments, but there are ways to promote those that also support the basic health of public education, and there are ways to do it that profoundly undermine public education. And corporate reform--as it is embodied in Race to the Top and its Republican predecessor, No Child Left Behind, are clearly designed to undermine it.
I think that the irony of neoliberal market ideology is that it presents itself as 21st century thinking when in fact it is 19th century thinking. It's not Liberalism 5.0; it's Liberalism 3.0. The corporate reformers are trying to turn our schools into industrial age factories, not into the kind of place that prepare kids for the world that will require them to be nimble and adaptive learners.