Friday, August 11, 2006

indications of creeping corporate fascism

from today's NY Times article (Dillon) about the federal approval of a final report from a commission on high education:

--universities "should measure student learning" with standardized tests
--increasing access for poor students
--holding schools accountable for drop outs and graduating students with poor skills

18 of 19 members signed the proposal.

My interest in the article focused on who got to set the agenda for the panel and who got to sit on the panel.

Spellings gave the panel its goals which were to examine access, affordability and accountability to determine whether higher education was TURNING OUT students qualified to compete in the global economy.

Appointed to the commission were corporate business executives (IBM, Boeing, Microsoft etc) and representatives from higher education, themselves having close connections to corporate business executives.

notice how the GOALS and the MEMBERSHIP of the commission are closely related.

The LAST sentence of the article (and I was surprised to see this mentioned at all) was: "several groups said the report spent much ink discussing increases in students' work skills, while slighting the mission of colleges and universities to educate students as CITIZENS." mmmmm, citizenship skills, knowledge and dispositions....what's that??? just watching a debate, some TV ads and voting once a year, right?

The description of policy development and implementation that this article desribes is exactly the same as what happened to the transformation of k-12 education during the last 15 years.

Because corporate business is driving educational reform (and all other reform or non reform), the purpose of schooling is narrowed to TURNING out workers for the NEW ECONOMY -- which has become polarized between high paying and low paying jobs (middle paying jobs are being turned into low paying jobs)

[one of the most revealing comments ever made was by sophie maxwell during a subcomittee evaluation of dream schools a few years ago where she praised Ackerman's reforms because, since "teachers are manufacturers and students are products" dream schools seemed very appropriate.]

Notice that there are no representatives of labor unions (teachers, carpenters, lawyers, doctors, nurses, janitors, etc) or churches on education panels such as this federal one, panels that create the broad outlines of where our educational system is going and what it should be about.

Notice how even the inclusion of the university establishment is upsetting to a corporate investor who chaired the committee, Charles miller. He "seemed upset by what he characterized as wrangling with representatives of the status quo." He said it was ridiculuous to have to "get into all these battles." Yes, fascism is so much cleaner a decision making process. What is scary to me is that, while rich business leaders have ALWAYS ruled, they are, today, impatient with even having to APPEAR to go through a democratic decision making process.

hopefully such arrogance is coming before a fall.

To those who want to have schools that include the goals of teaching participatory democratic citizenship, you need to learn how to build a social movement. Lesson number one might be: a march is not a movement.


Ellen Weber said...

Thanks for the interesting post, and I agree with many of the points you make. What might education leaders do to foster more quality education, so that gaps are not open for others to interfere? I'd love to hear more of your ideas as I think you are onto something. Thanks for opening discussion on this key topic.

Ms. George said...

Well, the lack of diversity at the table for this event speaks volumes. Why not have the teachers present? Because they are not saying what the greedy-corporate-textbook-publishing-standardized-test-creating-beaurocrats want to hear. Thanks for your erudite post.