Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Mayors

by Paul Moore

Oh, they had such grand plans for public education. Homage was paid to their ideological godfather Milton Friedman. In his 1950 book Capitalism, Friedman wrote that "The privatization of schooling would produce a new highly active and profitable industry."

Fueled with the fire of the Reagan revolution they meticulously mapped out their campaign at the Business Roundtable education summit in 1989. Standardized testing would isolate urban schools and prepare them to be shuttered as failed. The vulture capitalists from Edison Schools and the others would move in to pick up the pieces and prove that the business model was superior. Vouchers and charter schools would even redirect public monies to their cause.

Toxic wastes, like incessant testing and mindless data collection and merit pay plans, would be pumped into the public school environment to sicken both teachers and students. And the masters of our new global economy would have their brave new education system.

And they were so close. They had their No Child Left Behind legislation. Billionaire Bloomberg and his CEO sidekick Klein were in control in New York City. Mayor Daley and Arne Duncan were strangling the Chicago Public Schools. Jeb Bush was calling the shots in Florida.

Gates had succeeded in winning Washington D.C. for Mayor Fenty and he in turn introduced the nation to new level of their ruthlessness in the person and policies of Michelle Rhee. Eli Broad's superintendents dotted the landscape from Vallas in New Orleans to Crew in Miami, chirping over the achievement gap and with grave voices declaring "the children of Singapore are eating our kids lunch." Many of those pesky democratically elected school boards had been eliminated.

Then their rationale for being, their precious global economy crashed!

Their pride and joy is burning as you read. It was never sustainable but they had us going for awhile, didn't they? It was immutable. It was eternal! It was a pig with lipstick in a poke!

Well it will take some time to clean up this mess, and we will suffer for their folly, but there is now some light ahead. Our corporate tormentors will slink away to lick their wounds and we will have the chance to rebuild the public schools, make them truly places of learning. Imagine there's no pacing guides, it's easy if you try.

Paul A. Moore

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