Many “business types” are in the education reform business now. That they bring no education background is a little troubling to me . . . that they bring poor business backgrounds is quite troubling. Consider one of the most prominent “eduformers” Bill Gates. Because he is a multi-, multi-billionaire he is considered fabulously successful (wealth = success). But if you look at his business record, it isn’t particularly good. The basis for most of his wealth is the disk operating system Windows. When Gates got into the operating system business, he sold his first operating system without having one (he purchased DOS and then developed it). Similarly, when Gates was announcing Windows, he didn’t have a working program (for one presentation he used a series of still images, displayed in such a way as to appear to be a functioning operating system (nothing up this sleeve . . . really!)). He followed that act with ruthless business practices that lost him several landmark court cases and by creating a few good versions of Windows (Windows 3.1 worked, Windows NT kind of did, Windows XP worked) but there were examples of really bad software thrown in (remember “Bob”). By focusing on the “business market” vacated by IBM (remember OS2) and Apple (which focused on serving creatives rather than number crunchers), Gates cornered his market. Then through aggressive (and according to the Europeans illegal) marketing he made a great deal of money. This qualifies him to reform . . . what?
Part of the education reformer’s agenda is that teachers aren’t good enough. (Gosh, if the teachers were good enough, then the students wouldn’t be doing so poorly.) Of course, they offer no data for their claim that schools are doing poorly, merely anecdotes. They also offer no data for their claim that it is the teacher’s fault that students are doing “poorly,” merely anecdotes. Please, dear reader, realize that in any large endeavor, such as student performance you will get a fairly wide range of performance: some of the students will have an average performance, some above and below average, and some way above and way below average. To make a political argument, it is easy to find some way below average students or even way below average schools and claim they are indicative of the entire system. This has been done by the “eduformers.” Bill Gates was a Harvard College drop out, wasn’t he? That is not a slur. College is not for all people. Gates, reported got a 1590 out 1600 score on his SAT; he is very bright. He went to college to get what he wanted and left. In other words, his college experience was one where he just took what he needed and ignored the rest. His prep education was at an exclusive preparatory school. In other words he really had no public school education.
Now, consider the argument that the teachers aren’t good enough. It goes so far that there is a claim that if a student got “four excellent teachers in a row” that they would be guaranteed to have a good education. Such stupidity sets my hair on fire. What absolute nonsense. Apparently the coiner of that phrase wants a system in which all teachers would be “excellent” (only way to guarantee “four in a row”) which is an impossibility and supposedly these miracle workers would overcome the negative effects of poverty, drugs, racial discrimination, disabilities, not knowing English, etc., which is another impossibility. I was a teacher for 35 years and I saw a few truly excellent teachers, of whom I was in awe. But the majority of us were hard-working and quite competent (Journeymen, not Masters). There were a few really poor teachers, but only a few.
“The sooner you realize that the current business-lead education reforms are all about driving down the sizes of teachers salaries and pensions,
attacking teacher’s unions, and creating private schools where “business-types” can make really good money, the sooner you will understand
that these reformers are not interested in the lives of our children, so much as they are in a set of conservative memes that they believe are good for one and all.”
Now, if you really believe it is a lack of teacher quality undermining the academic success of our children, you would be pushing for higher standards (and corresponding higher pay) for teachers, no? Enter “Teach for America.” Teach for America has been labeled a “teaching Peace Corps for America.” What they do is take bright, young, idealistic college graduates, train them as teachers and provide them to poor school districts that struggle with finding enough teachers (often paid for by grants from rich business types). Good idea, no? I thought it was a great idea when it began. But now TFA teachers are showing up in classrooms where there are large numbers of laid off teachers looking for jobs, in Chicago, for example. Chicago recently laid off many hundreds of teachers yet is going to spend a bigger amount of money on TFA teachers. If you are laying off teachers, you have too many, no? So, why would you need any TFA teachers?
Bill Gates is a big supporter of Teach for America. He has donated many millions of dollars to TFA through the Gates Foundation.
Teach for America teachers get five weeks of teacher training . . . five weeks. So much for wanting better trained teachers. And it takes quite a few years for a teacher to gain the experience to achieve excellence (as it does in any other endeavor, Yasil Puig didn’t play his first baseball game for the L.A. Dodgers, he’s been playing and refining his skills for decades). TFA teachers last 2-3 years before moving on to the career they actually prepared for. TFA teachers may be enthusiastic, may even bring something unique to the table, but teaching excellence isn’t one of those things.
The sooner you realize that the current business-lead education reforms are all about driving down the sizes of teachers salaries and pensions, attacking teacher’s unions, and creating private schools where “business-types” can make really good money, the sooner you will understand that these reformers are not interested in the lives of our children, so much as they are in a set of conservative memes that they believe are good for one and all. They have neither any experience at what they are doing (only money) nor have they any sort of generalized excellence that they can argue from. (What has Bill Gates done other than computer software?)
And the results of their reforms are starting to come in . . . and they are dismal, which is okay by them because they have more examples of how poor public school performance is. They don’t think they have failed, at all.
These folks want to gamble our children’s futures at the altar of conservative ideology, reality be damned.