"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Choosing an Education President

Politicians running for president nearly always claim that their education platform is based on concern and care for the children of America. They claim, using the language of their choice, that they want to be the "Education President" (See George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush) and speak about "education for a global economy."

President Obama and Governor Romney are no exception. What are their platforms for education and what can we expect to see in a second Obama administration or a Romney administration?

Obama's (Democratic) platform promises more of the same as the last 4 years.
The Democratic Party understands the importance of turning around struggling public schools. We will continue to strengthen all our schools and work to expand public school options for low-income youth, including magnet schools, charter schools, teacher-led schools, and career academies.
...includes raising standards for the programs that prepare our teachers, recognizing and rewarding good teaching...We also believe in carefully crafted evaluation systems that give struggling teachers a chance to succeed
During the Obama administration "turning around struggling public schools" has meant firing staffs, and/or selling off public educational institutions to private companies and expanding charter schools. "Carefully crafted evaluation systems" means evaluating teachers based on test scores. Neither of those "reforms" has a research base indicating success. Charters perform no better, on average, than public schools and VAM evaluation processes have been found to be invalid.

The Republican platform upon which Romney is running promises,
School choice – whether through charter schools, open enrollment requests, college lab schools, virtual schools, career and technical education programs, vouchers, or tax credits – is important for all children...

...We support legislation that will correct the current law provision which defines a “Highly Qualified Teacher” merely by his or her credentials, not results in the classroom. We urge school districts to make use of teaching talent in business, STEM fields, and in the military, especially among our returning veterans. Rigid tenure systems based on the “last in, first out” policy should be replaced with a merit-based approach...
Again, like the Democrats, we see turn-arounds leading to charters, and student test scores being used to evaluate teachers (merit pay). The Republicans add vouchers, and specifically denounce teachers unions.

Neither party has an interest in saving public education...both are intent on selling public education to the highest bidder through corporate charters and/or vouchers. Chris Hedges believes that it's system-wide, not just education.
We will all swallow our cup of corporate poison. We can take it from nurse Romney, who will tell us not to whine and play the victim, or we can take it from nurse Obama, who will assure us that this hurts him even more than it hurts us, but one way or another the corporate hemlock will be shoved down our throats. The choice before us is how it will be administered. Corporate power, no matter who is running the ward after January 2013, is poised to carry out U.S. history’s most savage assault against the poor and the working class, not to mention the Earth’s ecosystem. And no one in power, no matter what the bedside manner, has any intention or ability to stop it.
NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel is currently traveling the campaign trail with Arne Duncan, the Obama's "reformer" Secretary of Education. Duncan's Race to the Top is nothing more than a plan to charterize public schools and de-professionalize public school teachers.

The Democrats will continue to throw money into the Race to the Top, while the Republicans will let public education starve. In either case, the privatization will continue. Van Roekel, the president of America's largest teachers union, is following one of the prime destroyers of public education in order to get more money for corporate charters and privatization.

You might choose another reason to vote for Obama or Romney, but either way the privatization of public education (and the rest of the country's public institutions as well) will likely continue. The country will be led by the same people who gave us the second highest level of child poverty in the advanced world (nearly 25% of our children), the housing crash and the ever-increasing income gap between rich and poor.

Who owns public institutions such as public schools? In the past public education belonged to its communities, municipalities and states. Now it's the Koch brothers, the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and an ever increasing number of "edupreneurs" like K-12 Online Learning and Pearson.

We're letting it get away...and it will, if we don't stop it. Tell the next president that the attack on public education must stop. Tell him that we need to fix our public schools, not sell them. We can
allocate more resources for public schools — to improve technology, to expand professional-development opportunities for teachers, to buy classroom supplies, up-to-date textbooks and all the other materials that come with a good education. Perhaps one of the best ways to improve public education would be to loosen the strictures that tie student and school evaluations to test preparation and instead to allow teachers to instruct students in the sort of project-based units supported by educational research and the sort of critical-thinking skills that cannot be measured by filling in bubbles — the sort of academic freedom that is praised in charter schools but restricted in traditional public schools.
We can give our children the kind of schools they deserve.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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