WRONG TURN ON THE ROAD TO SCHOOL
March 16, 2013
If a “conservative movement” exists, it became lost on the way to school. What can explain its having become the cheering section for the euphemism, “School Choice”, masquerading as a means to escape deliberately dumbed down government t schools? The promotion of charter schools, vouchers, opportunity scholarships, etc. on the part of conservatives is a contradiction in terms coming from folks who distribute copies of the Constitution, participate in and cheer T-Party activities, register Republican or Libertarian.
This writer has contended elsewhere that the post WWII generation assumed institutions would continue as they were known before their lives were interrupted by WWII followed by the Korean War. The assumption was wrong, but they went about their private lives oblivious to forces at work with an agenda to systematically “Unfreeze” existing systems. Post WWII conservatives didn’t question their heroes or political idols and with a few exceptions, failed to look beneath the surface of the rhetoric.
One wrong turn on the “road to school” issues, was embodied by Milton Friedman’s idea of government funded school vouchers as free market enterprise to ostensibly create competition for government funded schools. Why advocates for private free market enterprise would not/could not grasp that no reasonable entity, whether private or government, ever funds its own demise through competition with itself, unless private schools were the target to be usurped by government control and regulation, is a question of the era. The idea of competitive free market enterprise has no conceptual room for funding with government funds which are obtained by virtue of government “power of the sword” to compel. There is simply no way to synthesize the two concepts except to confound the principles of free market and government funding. That is currently in high gear as well with what is called “public-private partnerships”. The dichotomy of charter schools as “competition” in real terms being the darling of the “right” is equally as mystifying.
Not possessing the ability to read minds, one can only wonder at the contradictions. The definition of political principles is becoming blurred as political parties become more meaningless with every election, labels for “Conservative” or “Liberal are also rapidly becoming obfuscated.
The exposure to two things was the catalyst for this article. One was a written document, the other a live panel discussion. The written document, another of the never ending strategy papers spilling from government instigation, prepared by a commission made possible by legislation by Congressman, Mike Honda (D-California). The fifty page document submitted as advice to Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education carries the title: FOR EACH AND EVERY CHILD, A STRATEGY FOR EDUCATION EQUITY AND EXCELLENCE”, prepared by a commission of twenty eight commission member and six ex officio members. It acknowledges the support of the Broad Foundation, The Ford Foundation, Bill and Melina Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and others.
The report is a lot of nothing new, but with emphasis on schools to be more concerned with “social and education equity,” technology’s role in that agenda and the necessity for increased Federal role to achieve it. Ideas familiar to education researchers are all there…Common Core Standards, charter schools, early learning (Birth to Post Secondary oversight). Interested parties can access the fifty page report by accessing the U.S. Department of Education web site or typing the title of the report into a search engine.
The second event was attending a panel discussion on “Improving Education” (3/5/2013) sponsored by a large and influential Conservative Forum in Silicon Valley. Four speakers were, Dr. Terry Moe from Stanford Hoover Institute; Gloria Romero, former CA Assemblywoman (D),founder of Parent Revolution and author of California’s Parent Trigger Law; Larry Sand, former teacher and school choice advocate; and Dean Vogel, President of the California Teachers Association. This writer had heard Moe, Romero and Sand appearing together in a previous year during School Choice Week at a different venue. The MC preempted what came to mind when he joked about the names on stage including, “Terry, Larry and Moe”….audience laughter.
Sand’s message was true to form, “the need for choice,” “getting away from education by zip code,” “more vouchers for money to follow the students,” etc. Sand’s memorable comment was, “Even if charter schools are not doing a better job, we need more because they cost less money.” So much for improving education.
Gloria Romero stressed the “urgency for more funding for education.” Her mantra is that schools are the “Civil rights Issue of our time…we can’t nibble around the edges.” “Power To The Parents.” She mentioned having just been in Texas and predicted “we will get it (Parent Trigger Law) in Texas next.” “NCLB was imperfect but needed” according Romero, who closed with urging to join hands with President Obama whom she says she supports.
Next was Dr. Terry Moe. It was the second speaking engagement with the “Conservative Forum.” He lamented about trying to get “things done for 30 years.” “Teacher evolution, charter schools (Applause) are doing things unions don’t like.” “Things are improving but why didn’t we do it 30 years ago. Making incremental progress is good, but not enough.” “I’m here to talk about Revolution! Revolution K-12 as well as higher education and nothing will stop it.” “On-line learning is a beautiful thing. Think what will be possible"…. "Huge for social equity.” “Can computers make up for some family atmospheres? Computers can overcome some disadvantages…kids are treated equally by computers.” “Schools are government agencies and teachers are government employers, so driven by politics, teachers unions are more interested in jobs than children.”
Moe’s prediction for the future is “that substituting technology for labor will still need teachers but not so many of them. The future will be blended learning”. Florida’s virtual schools are a beacon according to Moe. In his previous address to the same organization, he said the future was “Distance Learning”. But the most chilling statement this time was a conclusion that “Technology is cheap, labor is expensive”. That means you, Teachers. Be forewarned, your jobs are on the offshoring block. According to Dr. Moe, “Nothing will stop the Revolution.”
Dean Vogel, Pres. of the CTA addressed what would be expected…stressed thinking in terms of drawing a circle to determine common ground instead of “drawing lines in the sand,” but he did mention that he’s hearing from teachers asking why so much testing.
[Quotations of panelists are from this writer’s notes taken from front row seat at the event] Spontaneous applause of the audience in response to the presentations of the “Three Stooges,” at the mention of charter schools and vouchers was astonishing and clearly manifesting wrong turn taken on the road to school.
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Whether failure to do the investigative homework necessary to discern the created issues, dismissing or “dissing” the work of some who have done the homework which is available to access on line free for the reading, whether following prominent names who have become “idols” in the annuls of so called conservatism without questioning, somewhere along the road the battlegrounds have been misidentified. Regardless of an answer, the result is a phenomenon of self- identified conservatism applauding itself as it climbs into bed with admirers of Obama, Arne Duncan, and the Council on Foreign Relations all of whom have now come out as Pied Pipers for the very agenda a “conservative movement” followed by misreading the detour signs on the road to school. It was ingenious, for now a conservative movement is carrying the water for the left’s agenda which has placed the detour signs to confuse the issues for at least the past 50 years.