Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fiorillo on Free Marketeers Invasion of Schools

The response to Diana Senechal's article at Gotham Schools, "Why Teaching Experience Matters" has been intense. There's been a some back and forth between Michael Firoillo, myself and Ken Hirsch. This comment by Fiorillo is worth sharing, but you should get on over there and check out the debates.

Fiorillo responds to Hirsch

1) It has much less to do with "market participants" who behave badly, than with a system that enables,encourages and enriches them, and with the encroachment into realms where its hold was not previously absolute. Over the past thirty years, as finance has become an ever-greater percentage of the economy, we've seen a corresponding polarization of incomes, and a increasing degree of capture of government by financial interests.

The issue isn't that these are Bad People - although the are MANY bad actors out there - but that, rather than functioning in its legitimate role as tightly controlled mid-wife to productive investment, finance instead extracts an ever-increasing amount of the national income by means of interest, fees, royalties, rents, on ever-more abstruse financial vehicles, many of which are of
negative social utility (except, of course, for their issuers and traders).

It may sound strident to use words like "parasitic" and "predatory," to describe the so-called "free market" financial system, but can anyone who reads this site contest the fact that the most outlandish paranoia of the most vulgar Marxist has been confirmed and exceeded by the pillaging that we learn more about every day? This isn't just some bad apples, but a system based on many levels of deception, self-deception included. The financial industry is increasingly
sociopathic, and enriches itself at the expense of other sectors of the economy and society at large. It needs to shrink, and we should start by putting it on a very short leash in the schools.

It is my contention that the deepest, tectonic forces at work in so-called education reform are part of that same tendency to loot and pillage, and that in fact public education and Social Security are seen as El Dorado by many. That's not a personal attack on any one individual, but an observation about how the system has been set up to work, and how people have been "incentivized" to benefit from what history will show to be an era of social vandalism.

2) You and other venture capitalists are of course free to comment and become involved with issues regarding public education. You're free to open your own schools, although I don't see why the public should subsidize them. The problem is your implied equivalence between the involvement of average citizens and the likes of Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and others further down the food chain. Let's speak openly about this, and like adults: there's absolutely nothing comparable between them, and let's not pretend there is.

Ed deform malanthropists do more than just comment: they use their immense wealth, augmented by decades of tax cuts and deregulation, to establish a corporate/philanthropic/academic/PR complex that is able to train cadre, fund friendly research and set the terms of debate. That's a significant difference. In fact, they are now insinuating themselves deeper into the day-to-day running of school systems, as cash starved cities and localities rely on them. We are seeing private interests becoming directly involved in the finance of education, as in Washington DC.

It's my contention this is not a healthy thing, as it turns children's education into a commodity, reduces possibilities for democratic engagement and shrinks the public sector.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo Micheal! Very well said!

Check out The Big Short if you haven't read it yet.