Outsmarting the Matrix: Transforming the Privatization Trend in Public Higher Ed.

Outsmarting the Matrix: Transforming the Privatization Trend in Public Higher Ed

          Teri Shaffer Yamada, Prof. of Asian Studies, CSU Long Beach

Student march on the capitol — Sacramento, CA — in support of public higher education (March 4, 2012)

There is a window of opportunity for constructive change over the next six months during the build-up to the November national election.  But this change requires engaged faculty working together in innovative ways.  And it requires a new strategy eschewing a “university business as usual” mentality.  That reality is gone: there is no business as usual at the public university.

So our current moment in history demands we organize around commonalities and develop different forms of more effective action.  If we act strategically, we have an opportunity to alter the privatization momentum that threatens the survival of meaningful public education for the 99%.

We could start by unabashedly embracing and valorizing the greatness of “our values.”  We transform and enrich the lives of our students because we care (1). We live in a media culture that foregrounds violence and cruelty, where selfless concern isn’t typically newsworthy unless it is driven by anger or hyperbole.  Yet everyday kindness happens and without it we would be much diminished.  And our “story” is compelling across ideological lines simply because we base it on shared values of  “American democracy”: opportunity for all.   Framed in the context of education, it is access to quality instruction that develops an educated demos.  In turn, our students provide the citizen power to run a government and economic system that reflects the needs and talents of the 99%. That may sound quaint, but imagine the outcomes if our current Hobbesian trajectory of consolidating power remains unchecked.

So what defines this matrix?  We are now confronted with a mirror reality of the dismantling of K-12 public education.   We have been out-organized and out- financed as reflected in Steven Brills’ reportage “The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand” from the New York Times (May 17, 2010):

….Schnur, who runs a Manhattan-based school-reform group called New Leaders for New Schools, sits informally at the center of a network of self-styled reformers dedicated to overhauling public education in the United States. They have been building in strength and numbers over the last two decades and now seem to be planted everywhere that counts. They are working in key positions in school districts and charter-school networks, legislating in state capitals, staffing city halls and statehouses for reform-minded mayors and governors, writing papers for policy groups and dispensing grants from billion-dollar philanthropies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates, along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Teach for America’s founder, Wendy Kopp; and the New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein could be considered the patron saints of the network.

This is the matrix: a network of well-placed and well-funded powerful individuals with shared values, who can impact state and federal agencies and legislators through influential friends or lobbyists, media and foundation access, and  sponsored think-tank publications. We have allowed this to happen: “power abhors a vacuum.”

We can begin by changing our approach.   We can shift to “motivated reasoning” as we seek to change hearts and minds (2).   And we can message our values based upon the target audience.

As we learn from the impressive successes of the for-profit education matrix, we recognize the importance of shared values.  It forms the foundational connectivity of the network of relationships required to establish a power base.   Thoughtful leadership throughout a wide network is necessary to accomplish the change we do believe in: re-democratizing public education.  Several important meetings will take place under the auspices of AAUP, NEA and CFHE over the next few months (3).    What is an effective strategy these three can develop together and communicate to the grassroots to deflect further damage to public higher ed?  Can we move quickly enough?

One possibility for promoting change is to emulate the strategy of ALEC.  We could start by developing one piece of legislation that most faculty unions could promote to their state legislators.   The California Faculty Association (CFA) worked for several years to pass a transparency bill  so that the public could have access to the financial records of the “for-profit” side of the California State University system.    CFA is currently sponsoring a bill to democratize the CSU Board of Trustees  as part of an action plan published in its recent white paper “For-Profit Higher Education & the CSU: A Cautionary Tale” .   Are other faculty unions sponsoring bills?  What is the most beneficial bill we could introduce in a range of states to protect public higher ed?  What is the most “elegant” strategic plan at the federal level?  The  “outcomes-assessment” obsessed federal Department of Education often disappoints but there may be some leverage there as well.

There are also global trends we need to consider: the ubiquitous embrace of “common core standards,” including our own Department of Education.  This trend has filtered down to the accreditation commissions in the United States.

The Lumina Foundation has funded a pilot program on “degree qualifications”  at the college level—common  outcomes for AA, BA, MA degrees across the United States— through the Western Association of Colleges and Universities (WASC).  The first set of “volunteer” institutions will be reporting in April on their progress in implementing and assessing the Lumina “degree qualification profile.”

Beyond the new trend to measure graduation and retention rates, we can be restructured internally through changed accreditation standards that demand we measure “value-added degrees” through common-core standards assessments or track the type of jobs our graduates acquire after leaving the institution.   The for-profit higher ed sector is being nudged in this direction to make it more accountable to the federal government for its voracious consumption of public funds through PELL grants and military initiatives that fund education.  Some for-profit providers can fund their entire operation through these two sources alone.  Their lobbyists insist that public higher ed be subjected to the same assessments.

Every faculty member should pay attention to new directives imposed by their institutional accreditation agency.    If the end result is a diminished capacity to offer a wide range of degrees since programs must justify their existence through proof of job placement as an outcome, we may become a different kind of vocational training institution that has lost the soul of a liberal arts education.

Be sure to track the forthcoming reports on the 2012 Bologna Ministerial Conference on the GlobalHigherEd blog.  There will be further discussion there on common international standards which would impact us nationally.

EXCERPT FROM GlobalHigherEd  The European Higher Education Area: Retrospect and Prospect (Posted: 22 Mar 2012 07:24 PM PDT)

First, the 2012 Bologna Ministerial Conference:is expected to bring together 47 European Higher Education Area ministerial delegations, the European Commission, as well as the Bologna Process consultative members and Bologna Follow-Up Group partners.  The meeting will be an opportunity to take stock of progress of the Bologna Process and set out the key policy issues for the future. The EHEA ministers will jointly adopt the Bucharest Ministerial Communiqué, committing to further the Bologna goals until 2020.

Second, The 2012 Bologna Policy Forum:organised in conjunction with the Ministerial Conference is aimed to intensify policy dialogue and cooperation with partners across the world. The theme of the third Bologna Policy forum is “Beyond the Bologna process: Creating and connecting national, regional and global higher education spaces”. The Policy forum has four sub-themes, which will be addressed during the parallel sessions, namely: “Global academic mobility: Incentives and barriers, balances and imbalances”; “Global and regional approaches to quality enhancement of Higher Education”; “Public responsibility for and of HE within national and regional context”; “The contribution of Higher Education reforms to enhancing graduate employability”. This year’s edition of the Bologna Policy Forum will be finalised with the adoption of the 2012 Bologna Policy Forum Statement.

Notes:

1) Those of us who participated in the feminist philosophy movement of the 1980s know this as the “ethics of care.”  See “Ethics of Care” in “Online Guide to Ethics and Moral Philosophy.” March 24, 2012.

2)   See Dan Kahan’s definition based upon “motivated cognition” which refers to “the unconscious tendency of individuals to fit their processing of information to conclusions that suit some end or goal” in “What Is Motivated Reasoning and How Does It Work?”  See also a great video clip with a discussion of this concept “Dan Kahan — The Great Ideological Asymmetry Debate.”  Kahan is the Elizabeth K. Dollar Professor Law and Professor of Psychology at the Yale Law School.  His research focuses on “cultural cognition” (how social and political group affiliations affect our views of contested areas of ‘reality’) and motivated reasoning.

3)   CFHE (Campaign for the Future of Higher Education) is having its Third National Gathering in Ann Arbor on May 18, 2012, hosted by the Michigan Conference AAUP. Contact CFHE.conference@gmail.com for further information. Registration is free.

References:

California Faculty Association. “For-Profit Higher Education & the CSU: A Cautionary Tale” March 19, 2012

Brills, Steve.  The Teachers’ Unions’ Last StandNew York Times.  May 17, 2010.

Kahan, Dan. “What is Motivated Reasoning and How Does it Work?”   May 4, 2011.

———. “Dan Kahan- The Great Ideological Asymmetry Debate”   February 13, 2012.

Lederman, Doug. “What’s ‘Good Enough’?”  Inside Higher Ed. April 14, 2011.

———. “What Degrees Should Mean.” Inside Higher Ed. January 25, 2011.

Lumina Foundation.  “The Degree Qualifications Profile: Defining degrees: A new direction for American higher education to be tested and developed in partnership with faculty, students, leaders and stakeholders.” 


Selling Water By the River: Reflections on AAUP and NEA’s national leadership strategy

Earl Warren Japanese Garden, CSU Long Beach

Selling Water By the River:  Reflections on AAUP and NEA’s national leadership strategy

Teri Yamada, Professor of Asian Studies, CSU Long Beach

In our current gilded age where all politics is business, we educators yearn for ethical leaders to admire.   Under assault in the trenches, our faculty unions are undermined at the local level, often by both political parties who are using this bad economy to privatize public education.  It is depressing as we fight the good fight against multibillionaires.   Therefore, we can at least hope that our national education associations will have our backs, effectively lobbying for us at both the federal and state levels to stop this wildcat privatization.  As associations who represent us, we expect NEA (National Education Association) and AAUP (American Association of University Professors) to model the highest standards of ethical conduct and leadership as we struggle daily on our campuses to organize against faculty apathy, and as we lobby our state legislatures to act responsibly for the public good. In our local fights for equity and access to public higher education for every qualified student in our respective states, in our struggle to maintain quality education and academic freedom, in our efforts to preserve secure jobs with benefits, we need help!  We need effective ethical help.

Our expectation of ethical and effective leadership holds true for both AAUP and NEA.  Both serve the public higher education sector as our national representatives to the media and the Department of Education in Washington D.C.  How our AAUP and NEA leaders comport themselves, what they say to the media, to Arnie Duncan and President Obama, reflects back on the entire higher education sector.  It is time for some self-reflection.

In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education commentary, former AAUP general secretary Gary Rhoades made a number of points about leadership and the difficult questions that AAUP must face if it is to survive as a respected and effective association.  The challenges are great.  But we all will be diminished if AAUP is unable or unwilling to embrace constructive criticism and prove by its actions that transformation is possible.  The United University Professions  (SUNY), have demonstrated the consequences of unresponsiveness by their February vote to end affiliation with AAUP after twelve years of relationship, citing a number of complaints including poor communication and lack of responsiveness.

NEA has also challenged patience.  Several years ago, NEA decided to establish or form a relationship with a proprietary affiliate called the NEA Academy (1) .  This Academy’s purpose it to serve as a portal to “online professional development products,” which means it provides a link to other providers’ online courses for teacher continuing education and Master’s Degrees.  Claiming to have a Content Quality and Review Board, the NEA Academy has published its Requirements for Inclusion in its products list.    These requirements include such standards as “content that aligns with NEA policy.”   One of the top three providers for NEA Academy’s courses is Western Governors University (WGU)

NEA stipulates that its vision is “a great public school for every student” and that its mission is “to advocate for education professionals.”  It promotes public education as a core value: “We believe public education is the cornerstone of our republic. Public education provides individuals with the skills to be involved, informed and engaged in our representative democracy.”   The question then is why does NEA embrace Western Governors University, a private, anti-faculty union provider of online courses?  How does this fit with NEA’s mission to advocate for “education professionals” when WGU is an institution that eschews teacher-based instruction; it has no teachers.  Why do this when so many excellent public universities and community colleges across the nation have online programs of the highest quality which adhere to the philosophy that teachers form the core of education?  Shouldn’t educators also deserve “a great public school” for their continuing education?

When our national associations fail to serve us well —as we battle on the ground to protect faculty jobs and save collective bargaining, to preserve adjunct positions with benefits and job security, to ensure quality control over curriculum, to save public education and academic freedom—we must wonder whom AAUP and NEA are serving.

Notes:

(1) This relationship needs further clarification.  NEA Academy charges a course fee for its portal services.

References

Rhoades, Gary. “Forget Executives the AAUP Should Turn to Grass-Roots Leaders” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, 8 January 2012.

Schmidt, Peter.  “AAUP Loses Major Affiliate at SUNY” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 February 2012.

2/19/12

DISCLAIMER:  Restructuring Public Hi Ed is curated solely by me.  All editorial decisions as to what is posted are based upon my interest and concern about restructuring in the public higher education sector.  These blog posts should in no way reflect upon any other person or organization since this is a “personal blog.”   Please send your blog posts and comments on restructuring in public higher education for consideration to me at teri.yamada@gmail.com.


Blood Money: Pearson’s Profit

The Obama administration’s recent, modest change in policy toward No Child Left Behind (NCLB), indicates some response to years of activism and a statistically-based critique of the inadequacies and injustices of NCLB.  One recent critique is Diane Ravitch’s “School ‘Reform’: A Failing Grade.”

It appears that the momentum of the public relations campaign that has been waged against the “positive image” of the public school teacher may be changing.  National Public Radio has started a StoryCorps project “National Teacher,” which will foreground the transformational impact of  educators  on their students.  A new documentary “American Teacher” portrays the real lives of four teachers in the classroom.  Forty-six percent of all teachers quit before the fifth year of teaching; many need to find a second or third job to survive.  Meanwhile, nearly 15 million children in the United States live below the federal poverty level; one-third of all Hispanic children now live in poverty here.  Shouldn’t the cultural focus of the Gates Foundation and friends be a war against poverty instead of a war against teachers and public education?  In the meantime, it is the educator’s selfless act of conscience and  integrity  that makes a difference as we see in “Blood Money” below.

The damage done to the public education system through NCLB and the standardized test movement will take many years to repair.  We now find the same failed standards-based management ideology, which fueled NCLB, making an impact on the rush to  restructure public higher education.  Perhaps, if we are able to articulate the lessons learned from K-12, we may better fight the transformation now underway to cheapen the quality of public higher education through assessment regimes and quick fixes such as charter universities and  for-profit online education schemes.  Texas is well on its way down this path of devolution with Florida racing to catch up.   Texas’ Gov. Perry has cut $4 bil from the state’s health and education budget this year, leading to the potential  firing of 49,000 teachers. Thom Hartmann reports that “43,00 students will lose at least part or all of their financial aid — including 28,000 low-income college hopefuls who will  their entire scholarships” in a state that ranks dead last in the number of residents with college degrees.  Moreover, Eugenie Reich reports in “Texas Holds Firm on Physics Closures” that Texas plans to phase out nearly half of its physics programs at state funded universities this year if they have failed to graduate at least 25 students every five years.  This may seem reasonable but many low performing programs “are in areas with predominantly black, Hispanic or disadvantaged populations. Statistics provided to ‘Nature’ by the American Institute of Physics suggest that some 35% of the undergraduate physics degrees awarded in the United States go to students in programmes that would not meet the Texas board’s requirements for staying open.”  I guess science and engineering degrees will  be just for the children of wealthy Texans.

And as much as we want to support our president, his quote from the Department of Education’s  latest report “Our Future, Our Teachers”  gets it just plain wrong.  He states,  “From the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents, it’s the person standing at the front of the classroom… America’s future depends on its teachers”.  According to physics professor Michael Marder, based on his extensive data analysis of students’ standardized text  results in Texas, what matters most is not just the teacher, or whether the school is public or charter.  What matters in improving higher student test scores  is also the socioeconomic and ethnic status of the student.  He invites EVERYONE to check his data.


“Joseph K. is a 24-year veteran of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), a former mentor teacher twice named a Johns Hopkins University Teaching Fellow, who now teaches poor, inner-city children who wake up every morning in their gang-ridden, drug-infested neighborhoods at five a.m. to catch the bus by six.  He teachers the old-fashioned way —by ignoring standardized test scores. Instead of teaching bubbling, he tries to instill a love of knowledge and learning in his students and for this reason will probably be allowed to continue teaching for fifteen more minutes.”  He blogs at The Trials of Joseph K. (http://thetrialsofjosephk.blogspot.com/)/

BLOOD MONEY

Dear Teachers,

We are being asked (key word “asked”) to be trained (key word “trained”, like dogs) by Pearson “Learning” August 29th and 30th. Pearson is going to pay us. Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, the money they are going to pay us is blood money. And the blood money they are going to pay us with is our own blood. It is the blood we bled when the Los Angles Unified School District (LAUSD) cuts our pay. It is the blood we will bleed every day when we struggle with larger and larger class sizes. It is the blood Jenny, Isabel, Jared, River, Susan, Summer and all the rest are bleeding right now as they sit home BLEEDING because they no longer have jobs.

It is blood money.

Pearson “Learning” was once a nice publishing house. They printed books under names like Penguin and a number of textbooks primarily in England. They made a tidy profit in the millions of dollars each year. In 2000, as NCLB was being written and discussed, they bought their first testing company. That may or may not have been a coincidence. After passage of NCLB, they bought another testing company. Then they bought another and another and another and another. That was no coincidence. Today they are a conglomerate of testing companies, seven by my count. They have created a vast, powerful TESTING INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. Their profits are not a few million each year, but a few billion each year and they are growing exponentially.

They employ legions of well-paid lobbyists who infest Washington, D.C., every state capital, and many local school boards. I would love to know how much they contribute to reelection campaigns. They have infested LAUSD which I will explain in a minute. They have one agenda: Profits. Until recently, they had one means to their agenda: Testing. More standardized testing means more profits for Pearson. NCLB is Pearson’s business model. Teachers are laid off, their salaries cut, class size increased, and curriculum narrowed as Pearson lines its pockets with gold.

Consider this regarding standardized testing:

  • high scores often signify relatively superficial thinking
  • many of the leading tests were never intended to measure teaching or learning
  • a school that improves its test results may well have lowered its standards to do so
  • far from helping to “close the gap,” the use of standardized testing is most damaging for low-income and minority students
  • as much as 90 percent of the variations in test scores among schools or states have nothing to do with the quality of instruction
  • far more meaningful measures of student learning – or school quality – are available.

-Alfie Kohn’s  The Case Against Standardized Testing

Standardized tests are DEMONIZING all of us in the inner city, demonizing our union, and being used by almost infinitely powerful economic and political forces in this country to dismantle public education.

And the situation is only going to get worse. [LAUSD Superintendent John] Deasy and [Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan both are pushing value-added standardized testing measures to evaluate teachers. The “LA Times” slanders all of us on a daily basis with its value-added measure on its website. Deasy calls it AGT.

Slander is slander. This year he is bribing teachers with $1,250 (after cutting their pay) to “volunteer” in a pilot project for AGT. “If you volunteer, we will pay you (after cutting your pay.)” To measure “improvement” you need baseline scores (pretests), probably at least one or two interim assessments, and a post test. These tests will be maximally time consuming and VERY expensive. All teachers need to be evaluated, so multiple tests will be given in every subject of every grade multiple times every year. You can bet that Pearson is using its vast influence to get to the front of the line to write (and sell) those tests. As far as I know, they may well have already elbowed out the competition. Their profits will be enormous. And guess where those profits will come from. They will come from you and our students. Your job, if you have one left, will rely on these tests, so you can be damn sure you are going to teach to them and probably teach little, if anything else.

Read this: The Test Generation.

Pearson “Learning” has now figured out a way to “double down” its billions in annual profits, its rape of public education. They are using their publishing arm to sell “Teaching Guides”, “Lesson Books”, etc. so teachers can “better” teach its own tests. Genius. They have created a mobius strip of profit production. We are pawns in their game and they are going to move you two spaces ahead August 29th and 30th.  Don’t think you are getting paid very much for being a pawn. Pawns, if you don’t play chess, are the first things sacrificed.

I reject Pearson and their blood money. I reject everything that they stand for. I reject their endless bubbling. I reject their process of elimination universe. I refuse to be trained like a dog to teach my students how to bark like seals. So should you.

I am drawing my own line in the sand. Public education is going up in flames in this country because of profiteers like Pearson and teachers are going down. I intend at least to have a say in my own demise.

I may show up on August 29th. I will not sign in. I will not touch their food. I will go nowhere near their blood money. If I do show up, it will only be to stand up before everyone and publicly denounce Pearson in much the same way I am doing now. My fantasy is to walk out and have everyone follow; but, alas, that will never happen. It would be nice if some of you would follow, though.

If I do not show up, it will be because I chickened out. Fear is something I understand. In an age of perpetual layoffs and teacher transfers, fear is not without merit. We are surrounded by fear. We are immersed in it. You all will make your own decision regarding the Pearson “training”. You all have your own lives, your own families, your own personal situations. You have to decide what is right for you. I will respect whatever decision you make. Count on that. But consider what is being done to you and our profession by Pearson, companies like it, and politicians who exploit their malevolence. Consider. Consider Jared, Jenny, Isabel, River, Susan, Summer and all the rest. Consider that you are next. We are next.

original post, Friday, August 26, 2011; reposted with permission of the author on October 1, 2011.


REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.: SOS

Teri Yamada reporting from Washington D.C.: Save our Schools (SOS) March and National Call to Action July 28-31, focus on Jonathan Kozol.

Two other important grassroots alliances, beside the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE), were formed this past academic year in response to the rapid dismantling of public education across the nation.  Both were inspired by Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (2010), who has become a tireless advocate for “meaningful” public education reform.   These two new alliances are Save Our Schools (SOS), with its focus on K-12 but inclusive of all public education rights, and Parents Across America (PAA) a new  activist group of powerful parents against the standardized test regime of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
The two-day conference at American University preceding the march on the White House in Washington D.C. today, has been packed with scores of panels and workshops focusing on successful action plans for change in public education.  Along with the panels is the SOS film festival of new documentaries that debunk current myths about the “total” failure of public education (1).   Author and educator Jonathan Kozol was keynote speaker on Thursday with education researcher  Diane Ravitch following on Friday.
The strongest theme that has emerged from this event is the need for a new civil rights movement that focuses on equity in public education: equity in the real quality of a deep and comprehensive curriculum in every public school, and equity in access to quality public education for every youth.   In his  keynote address, Jonathan Kozol reminded the audience that teachers were “warriors for justice working on the front lines of the struggle for democracy.”  The savage inequalities in public education that he wrote about decades ago are worse now, he said, as the charter and voucher movements have served to re-segregate the schools.  No Child Left Behind has lead to a flight of “wonderful” principals and educators from the public school system, which has become punitive and oppressive as the administration of public schools has been taken over by a business model run by “dry dreary technocrats in worship of data,” who act as “drill sergeants of the state…discouraged from promoting curiosity and originality in their students.”  Two-thirds of the school year has been consumed by a culture of  exams.  As the race gap grows wider, school systems are eliminating art, music, drama, science, social studies, geography and sports to focus on high-stakes testing out of fear of being shut down. And by the way, this testing industry has become a multi-billion-dollar-a-year business, lead by Pearson.  Kozol called for a new civil rights movement that must depend on the “energy, participation and persistence of our youth.”  And for the rest of us, a “passionate impatience” for change.

(To be continued…)
(1) Two recommendations from the SOS Film Festival:  “August to June”  tracks the intellectual and emotional development of third and fourth graders in a remarkable  school “The Open Classroom” in the Lagunitas School District in northern California, which focuses on deep learning for the “whole child.”  The second is “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman”  which debunks the anti-public-school documentary “Waiting for Superman” that got so much press this past year.  This documentary also illuminates the corruption behind the “co-location” charter movement that Mayor Bloomberg imposed upon the New York public school system after he abolished the local governance structure of the public schools and replaced it with a board of superintendents he could control through political appointments.


Administrative Oppositional Behavior Disorder: An Epidemic

Confession: I rarely watch T.V.  But on a recent Friday night while channel surfing, I stumbled across Jaime Oliver’s “Food Revolution” and was stunned.  The Superintendent and Board of Supervisors for the Los Angeles Unified School District ( LAUSD) have declared war on this crusader chef, who just wants to analyze the quality of the school district’s cafeteria food.  They banned Jaime from visiting any school kitchen or cafeteria in any Los Angeles public school upon penalty of arrest for trespassing, with the excuse that cafeteria food in the LAUSD is just fine.  Jaime, an impressive organizer, had secured some media coverage over his school lockout experience.  Using a radio interview, he asked parents to bring their children with samples of  cafeteria food to his kitchen studio so he could analyze its nutritional value. You can guess the results: overly processed and carbo heavy.  Undefeated, Jaime politely presented himself to the LAUSD Board of Supervisors during their public testimony period. Looking disinterested and chewing gum, some of the board members made a distinctly bad impression as he eloquently requested access to just one Los Angeles public school cafeteria.   Denied. Will they ever let him in?

In the face of an obesity epidemic (14.9%) among children in L.A. combined with more than 30% of L.A.’s children coming to school hungry, you would think that the Superintendent and his Board would leap at the opportunity for “free” consultation with an expert who knows how to improve the quality of food in a cost effective way. Their pride is apparently more important than our children’s health.

I have testified in front of the CSU Board of Trustees and Chancellor about their poorly planned policies implemented without faculty consultation. The most recent one is Mandatory Early Start.   Rarely do they look up from text messaging or email during anyone’s public testimony.  I know exactly how Jaime Oliver feels: the disbelief and despair at non-experts shunning your own knowledge as irrelevant.

We have so many administrators and “managers” now in the public education business who refuse to listen to faculty expert advice.  They dismiss the input of talented teachers with experience in the classroom; consequently, they  make bad policy decisions that impact the lives of millions of children across the country.  We have so many politicians like this with power to dismantle and privatize public education.  They simply refuse to listen.

This type of destructive policy implementation appears to have gone viral.  It is a specific managerial behavior pattern: the inability to admit that you might be wrong, to openly consider a wide range of opinions in order to solve a complex problem, to adhere to ethics, to consider evidence that may contradict one’s ideology or beliefs.  This behavior reflects a lack of empathy.  It leads to superficial, data driven, education experimentation on other people’s children. Let’s label it  “administrative oppositional behavior disorder” (AOBD).

This personality disorder, now found among politicians and education managers, fosters the implementation  of  bad policy.  It is Governor Scott Walker‘s behavior in Wisconsin, sneaking a bill to dismantle collective bargaining rights for teachers through his legislature by overriding the state constitutional process for open discussion. It appears in the form of the New York State Board of Regents and Governor Cuomo’s decision to increase the percentage of student test scores required for teacher evaluations to 40% in the face of significant, quality evidence proving that type of data misjudges teacher effectiveness.  Did they do it for Race to the Top money?  Does that make it okay?

AOBD appears in Washington DC in the form of Arnie Duncan who commissions a NCEE and OECD study — “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform”– and then dismisses its criticism of No Child Left Behind. To dismiss constructive criticism, especially when one has asked for it,  is a weakness of character.  Yet we see this disorder everywhere, with the aim of slash-and-burn dismantling and privatization of the  country’s public education infrastructure. Some people are making off like bandits through the redistribution of public funds provided by this opportunity of privatization.  It will take our entire global village of empathetic teachers, parents, and allies working together to turn this juggernaut around.

COLLEAGUES:  PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR GUEST BLOG  FOR POSTING TO TERI.YAMADA@GMAIL.COM


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