Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Insidious Education-Industrial Complex - And How It May Ruin Your School

The Insidious Education-Industrial Complex - And How It May Ruin Your School

by: David Sirota

Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 12:00

Most of us fundamentally understand that our political system is deeply corrupt. Our politicians are bought and sold. Our capital city teems with corporate lobbyists and our government legislates "greed is good" at every chance it gets. This is not news. What is news is just how deep the corruption and moneyed influence goes. It reaches not just into federal tax and trade and financial policies - it's most likely right in the school house in your neighborhood (if you are lucky enough to still have a school in your neighborhood). That's the overpowering conclusion to be drawn from Dissent magazine's mind-blowingly devastating piece about the corruptive effects of huge corporate forces like the Gates and Broad Foundations, and the rise of the pernicious Education-Industrial Complex. Here's an excerpt:
A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed to define the national debate on education; sustain a crusade for a set of mostly ill-conceived reforms; and determine public policy at the local, state, and national levels. In the domain of venture philanthropy-where donors decide what social transformation they want to engineer and then design and fund projects to implement their vision-investing in education yields great bang for the buck... To justify their campaign, ed reformers repeat, mantra-like, that U.S. students are trailing far behind their peers in other nations, that U.S. public schools are failing. The claims are specious. Two of the three major international tests-the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and the Trends in International Math and Science Study-break down student scores according to the poverty rate in each school. The tests are given every five years. The most recent results (2006) showed the following: students in U.S. schools where the poverty rate was less than 10 percent ranked first in reading, first in science, and third in math. When the poverty rate was 10 percent to 25 percent, U.S. students still ranked first in reading and science. But as the poverty rate rose still higher, students ranked lower and lower. Twenty percent of all U.S. schools have poverty rates over 75 percent. The average ranking of American students reflects this. The problem is not public schools; it is poverty. And as dozens of studies have shown, the gap in cognitive, physical, and social development between children in poverty and middle-class children is set by age three.
The article, by Joann Barkan, is an absolute tour de force - and a must-read. It shows how a small handful of super-wealthy elites are using their money and political connections to hijack education policy. This might be OK if the heist was delivering tangible results - but it isn't. In fact, it's causing serious destruction in communities all over America.
What's so troubling about this story is not just the ideologies that are being pushed by the corporate forces - it's their hostile takeover of both the government that is supposed to be making dispassionate policy, and the media that is supposed to be objectively reporting on education. This is as sophisticated a campaign as we've ever seen in American public life, utilizing every instrument of control, from subsidized media outlets to policymakers regularly going through a corporate-government revolving door. And this is all being done under the auspices of seemingly altruistic philanthropic endeavors.
Again, this piece is a must-read - and it is that because the story has been so ignored by the rest of the media. It reminds us of just how aggressive Big Money is these days, how central in our lives it has become, and how the death of real journalism threatens to keep huge issues like this from public scrutiny.
David Sirota :: The Insidious Education-Industrial Complex - And How It May Ruin Your School

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