Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Amazon Jungle Culture is Ed Deform Ideal for Schools

For The Wave, August 21, 2015: www.rockawave.com

The August 16 Sunday Times article (Inside Amazon: Wrestling BigIdeas in a Bruising Workplace) on the vicious backstabbing culture at Amazon where people who are ill and devote time to their children are often degraded, demoted and discriminated against, is a macro version of what has been happening in the schools as an outcome of the education reform (deform) movement.
It is no surprise that the free market concept of a non-unionized school system is supported by Amazon's founder and chairman Jeff Bezos and many other tech titans like Bill Gates and Netflix' Reed Hastings. They are joined by billionaire hedge fund leaders who are using charter schools as a wedge to undermine the public school system. Eva Moskowitz' Success Charter Network, aiming to control 70 schools in NYC, is the leading force of this movement. When de Blasio challenged her he was savaged and gave up in a heartbeat (yes he is France in WWII).

One of the leading early voices for devastating school deform was former General Electric chairman Jack Welch, who was tapped by former Chancellor Joel Klein to head the principal training "Leadership Academy where candidates, often people who had little or no teaching experience, were required to kill and maim small animals as prep for taking over a NYC school. Welch advocated a harsh dog-eat-dog school culture where the so-called "bottom" 20% of the staff would be fired and replaced every year. Welchite disciples were then turned loose on our schools to create mayhem.

Data, data, data is what helps drive the culture at Amazon and we can see how that is being applied to the schools. The culture demands a number in order to rate people - and things like relationships to students and parents and kindness to children - horrors - cannot be parsed into data. Thus the use of test scores is the easiest method. But there is a revolt brewing in parents opting out of this type of culture and threatening to bring it all down by denying them their data. Of course the NY Times doesn't make the connection between what is going on at Amazon is paralleled in the schools and while reporting a 20% opt in NY State, laments about the movement in its editorials, whining that opting out will undermine the data.

Opt out so threatens the ed deform establishment that they are resorting to pulling the race and poverty card. You know the drill: Opt-outers are white and wealthy and don't care if poor kids of color don't get rated. Civil rights leaders have jumped on that bandwagon even though poor kids of  color have been the major victims of the testing movement over the past generation. Applied to ed deform, it has led to the closing of their neighborhood schools and a massive influx of untrained and inexperienced teachers from another ed deform group, Teach for America. It is true that most of the opt out movement in New York is lead by Long Island and upstate parents. Here in NYC I helped found and work with Change the Stakes, the leading opt-out organization and we have begun to reach into areas of the city that have not had many opt outs. And that is the biggest threat to the deformers. That one day massive numbers of parents in poor communities get the message that their kids are being harmed in the same way as the wealthier kids, only worse: that their kids are worh more than a number.

NY State recently replaced state education commissioner John King, who was blamed for his failure to sell the common core, with Maryellen Elia who was brought in from Hillsborough Florida, where she had some awful stuff in her record. to tame the opt out movement, using a combination of threats to withhold money and some sugar. Elia is an ally of the UFT/NYSUT/AFT and Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew and she would not have gotten the job without their support. Which goes to show which side the union is on: Not ours.

The leader of the NY State opt out parents movement is New York Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE): http://www.nysape.org and in NYC, Change the Stakes (CTS): https://changethestakes.wordpress.com/.


  1. I read this article through the Curmudgucation website, http://www.tampabay.com/projects/2015/investigations/pinellas-failure-factories/5-schools-segregation/ I think it shows how difficult conditions are in the most troubled schools. Anyone who says that helping schools, that are struggling so much, will be quick, easy or cheap is only fooling themselves.

  2. You have connected all the dots here Norm with your insightful analysis.

    Abigail Shure


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.