Thursday, March 12, 2009

More Fallout From Obama Ed Speech

Reality Based Educator lays it on President Merit Pay over at NYC Educator. And it's about a lot more than education. President Merit Pay Or How I Have Come To Despise Barack Obama

Below are comments from Leonie Haimson (Obama ed advisors are nudniks), San Francisco Examiner Caroline Grannan (Obama gets a lot of it wrong about public education) and Bob Somerby's Daily Howler on Obama's misguided education speech. But it's always fun to see the Chicago so-called reformer crowd making excuses – the Obama was just throwing a bone to the Republicat Democrats on charters theory of pulling the wool over your own eyes.

A lot of this tripe is repeated over and over by the Bill Gates crowd as well as the Inside the beltway think-tanks (or non-think-tanks), many of whom are now leading the charge inside the Obama administration.

My biggest problem w/ Obama’s speech is not his description of how bad things are -- because I do think they are pretty bad in our large urban school systems where most poor kids get educated, as opposed to the nation as a whole – but his so-called solutions: Higher standards, more testing, merit pay, charter schools, and getting rid of bad teachers.

This is the Bloom/Klein agenda writ large and is both foolish and counterproductive. Unfortunately, it is also the agenda of the Center for American Progress –the home of our friend Robert Gordon, who is now one of Obama’s top education advisers.

Too bad the Dept. of Treasury is not making education policy. Not only would they be more skeptical of the line that unregulated competition will lift all boats –and cognizant of the huge risks involved in relying on simplistic statistical measures to gauge success and bonuses – as they have seen the disastrous results of these assumptions in our financial markets.

But also, two actual experts on the benefits of smaller classes and skeptics of the benefits of allowing the proliferation of charter schools have been appointed to top positions in the Treasury Dept.: Alan Krueger, as Treasury’s chief economist and Cecelia Rouse, one of three people appointed to the Council of Economic Advisers. Both of them are currently at Princeton and have done excellent research showing the economic benefits of class size reduction.

It is very unfortunate that in comparison, Obama’s education advisers seem to be free-market nudniks.


Yes, we can check our facts next time.

Boy, is President Obama confused. That was my reaction to his recent speech on education to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

And what’s with the praise of charter schools, President Obama? Charter schools have been around for 16 years now. Some are great, some are disasters and the rest are all along the range in between – just like traditional public schools. As has been amply documented, charter schools overall do not outperform traditional public schools, despite having numerous advantages over them (including massive financial bounty from billionaire private philanthropists and the avid support of a series of public-school-disparaging presidents).

More and more voices are talking about the way the charter school movement started as a “progressive” and “grassroots” way to allow parents a full voice in how their children are educated – and has now been largely hijacked by the pro-privatization, anti-public-education free-market right. You’d think those folks would be hiding in a corner right now, with their philosophy so obviously discredited -- I'm one of the millions of Americans suffering direct economic harm from their gleeful experiment with unregulated free markets – but they’re still out there waving the flag for charter schools. (A growing legion of resisters among real-life urban parents around the nation is rising up to decry the “stranglehold of the billionaire eduphilanthropreneurs,” as Oakland’s Perimeter Primate blog puts it.)

Caroline's entire piece is here.

Why do politicians paint this Gloomy Portrait of American schools? In some cases, they may not know what they’re talking about; everyone has heard these Standard Claims, and people tend to believe them. But yes, there can be political uses for such gloomy misstatements. As Bracey has noted, gloomy claims have long been used by educational “conservatives” to undermine faith in the public schools; vouchers and charters are more appealing if you believe that the public schools are a wreck. On the other hand, a president can set himself up to be a star if he overstates the mess which predates him.

The Daily Howler will be writing more about Obama's speech today.

All of the above refer to the Gerald Bracey refutation of most of Obama's "facts." We posted on Bracey yesterday. Bracey: On Education, Obama Blows It

Jim Horn at School Matters lays it on Arne: Oh yes, Arne, the Great Incenter

Oh, and we must include the UFT Pathetic Response to Obama Speech

1 comment:

andrew said...

How reactionary and retrograde was President Obama's education address? Well, it got an "A" from the poster boy for neoliberalism Jeb Bush. The former privatizer-in-chief of the state of Florida gave it his stamp of approval saying, "It is great that the president supported accountability, charter schools and pay for teacher performance. . . The president has the potential of leading the country to meaningful education reform."

Jeb Bush rose to power and the NCLB appeared on the scene because and when the "global economy" was riding herd on this planet. Globalization is at the very foundation of business model for schools, charters, vouchers, data driven instruction, merit pay, standardized testing, and most perversely of all, paying students to consume their version of education. It was the reason the Business Roundtable and Bill Gates were interested in public education at all. The CEO's wanted a profit making private school system and Gates wanted visas for Indians and Taiwanese who will do Microsoft's high tech work for less than MIT grads. There is a data collection frenzy over public schools nowadays simply to serve the interests of Bill Gates computer software company and Michael Dell's computer hardware company. America's children are irrelevant to these people.

But something happened on the way to a global economy and a privatized education system to serve it. The whole thing fell apart. Opps, AIG needs its fourth taxpayer bailout. Opps, Freddie Mac needs another $30 billion from the government. Opps, the FDIC needs another $500 billion to cover impending bank failures. Opps, GE's credit worthiness is downgraded by S&P. Opps, the governments of Iceland and Latvia have fallen and they can't get up.

When a massive systemic planetary force like globalization dies its like a Hummer that has run out of gas. It will continue rolling down the road awhile longer. And that accounts for the absurdities that are coming out of the President's mouth now. His tune will soon change though.

Because soon it will be every private school and charter school investor for himself. Bill Gates, the primary funder of the KIPP charters, lost $18 billion of his personal fortune this past year. Private school students are being moved to the public schools by their debt ridden parents in significant numbers already. The President's own inability to yet grasp that the world he used to live in is about to evaporate is dangerous. He himself will soon be fighting off the coup makers in the midst of the greatest economic dislocation the American people have ever experienced.