Why Privatizing Public Education Will Result in Failure

My post on Jim Galloway’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution blog on September 28, 2013:

(Link: http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/political-insider/2013/sep/28/why-gop-rift-over-common-core-deeper-it-looks/  )

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Excerpts from Galloway’s article:  “Big Business is part of the alleged cabal, you see. Bill Gates, even. . . . Advocates were represented by state Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody. . . . Millar laid out the basic case for Common Core. In an increasingly global and mobile society, businesses want well-trained workers. . . .”

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My response: State senator Fran Millar is a member of ALEC, an organization that forms alliances between business interests and state legislators.

Education is more than a means to serve business interests, although that is part of what education should be about. I find it disconcerting that politicians, in their arrogance, believe that they know more about how to improve education than educators, themselves.

Below is part of a review by educator Jonathan Kozol in ‘The New York Times,’ Book Review Section, September 29, 2013, of educational scholar and historian Diane Ravitch’s newly released book, ‘Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools’:

‘In her new book, ‘Reign of Error,’ she arrows in more directly, and polemically, on the privatization movement, which she calls a ‘hoax’ and a ‘danger’ that has fed on the myth that schools are failing. Scores go up an down from year to year – usually, as she explains, because the testing instruments are changed and vary in their dfficulty. But, pointing to the National Assessment of Education Progress, which has sampled math and reading scores every two years since 1992 and, in an alternate version, every four years since the early 1970s, Ravitch demonstrates that levels of achievement have been rising, incrementally but steadily, from one decade to the next. And – surprise! – these scores are now ‘at their highest point ever recorded.’ Graduation rates are also at their highest level, with more young people entering college than at any time before. . . .

Ravitch has her own ideas about how to elevate the quality of education. Among her proposals: vastly expanded prekindergarten programs introducing children to ‘the joyful pursuit of play and learning’; more comprehensive medical and mental-health provisions (‘every school should have a nurse, a psychologist, a guidance counselor’); smaller classes (like those in costly private schools); and diagnostic testing that, unlike a standardized exam, shows us where a child needs specific help – but, because it’s not judgmental, casts no cloud of anxiety over learning.
In the long run, she puts her faith in teachers but wants to strengthen the profession with higher entry standards. We can’t rely on ‘enthusiastic amateurs’ who teach short term, any more than we’d rely on amateur physicians. She rejects stick-and-carrot incentives like merit pay – ‘the idea that never works and never dies,’ and that undermines the spirit of collaboration by pitting teacher against teacher. . . .

Again and again, she returns to this: ‘Our urban schools are in trouble because of concentrated poverty and racial segregation,’ which make for a ‘toxic mix.’ Public schooling in itself, she emphasizes, is ‘in a crisis only so far as society is and only so far as this new narrative of crisis has destabilized it.’

In her zeal to deconstruct that narrative, Ravitch takes on almost all the well-known private-sector leaders and political officials – among them Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, Bill Gates, Wendy Kopp and Michelle Rhee – who have given their encouragement, or barrels of their money, to the privatizing drive. It isn’t likely they’ll be sending her bouquets. Those, on the other hand, who have grown increasingly alarmed at seeing public education bartered off piece by piece, and seeing schools and teachers thrown into a state of siege, will be grateful for this ‘cri de coeur’  –  a fearless book, a manifesto and a call to battle.’ “

 

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