Letter to neighbor re Pioneer Institue piece on CC

I note the phrasing of the admonition to be sure not to do training of
educator personnel on the cheap: “Inadequate training, instructional
materials or necessary infrastructure can lead to teachers and
administrators disclaiming responsibility for failure because they did not
receive adequate support.” This is not poorly phrased at all; it displays
the real attitude toward teachers these people have: just a bunch of bloated
time-servers looking for excuses to fail. This falls in the same range as
“poverty is just an excuse”. It is too bad more of these people haven’t
worked in a public school watching what teachers do to make things work for
kids. This is truly saddening and angering.
And I truly can’t believe these people. They write on p. 7 that expanded
early childhood education and reduced class size have been proposed as ways
to get students to reach the goals, but these are expensive, so charter
schools and the “revision” (read ’doing away with’) teacher tenure policies
can be considered. That’s like a hospital saying it’s too expensive to cure
the patient and it’s cheaper to shoot him. Why do these idiots think tenure
was put in place? It was to keep teachers from jumping to higher paying
districts, for one thing, but to allow people like me, who are good teachers
but need some security, to cope with the lower salaries. The reason these
idiots do not realize this is that they think anyone who goes into a
low-paying profession is an idiot.
On the same page, they say the purpose of this paper is not to go into these
matters but just to look at the cost of implementing CC. How about seeing if
it works? That’s like building seven new battleships and then seeing if
there is any use for them against ISIS.
Lots of CC standards seem very good, but you cannot know until you’ve tried
them out. This paper says it was rushed into production, using the
bribes/incentives of federal money. I love the way people regard folks like
me as Obama worshippers; like a majority of Americans, I voted for him
(although the GOP thought that shouldn’t count and they are trying to do
away with voting for people who don’t vote the way they want) – I don’t
worship him. Obama is not a religion, he’s a leader who achieved the start
of universal health care, the lack of which put us on a level with sterling
examples of civic accountability as Uzbekistan and Somalia. What he’s done
in education is a disaster. But he went to private schools his whole life
(or terrorist training camps, as the right says) – what does he know?
So I’m not sure how this CC expenditure fits in with accountability and
fiscal responsibility. The organization’s, Pioneer’s, mission statement
refers to individual responsibility, code word for not using government
money if you make minimum wage and need food stamps, if you lose your job
and get unemployment compensation, if you get old and need medicare and
social security – you’re being lazy and are not practicing personal
accountability; but if your business needs a boost, then the hand goes out
and, as long as all this occurs at posh watering holes for the business
elite, it’s not welfare. A welfare cheat bribing a social worker to get a
welfare check is morally repugnant but bribing a congressman to get
favorable treatment for your company is just good business. Frankly, I can’t
stand these people. Pioneer is just another front for these short-sighted
people who think they can drain the money out of America because all their
customers are going to be in China and India. China and India will eat their
Page 14 addresses preparing teachers and is quite frank in saying that not
all teachers will get that training, at least not in time for their
evaluations. 🙂
It’s only fair to say that most teachers saw right away who benefits from
CC: not students but the companies (p. 17) who provide the IT infrastructure
and testing, along with textbooks aligned to CC, and so on. Sorry, Brian,
but, regardless of party, and lots of Democrats suport ed reform, that’s
what this whole reform movement is about: making lots of money for a handful
of people. They are very smart and see “educating” every child as the
equivalent of the 19th century industrialist’s dream of “selling a needle to
every Chinaman”. It’s a treasure trove and the treasure is provided by the
American taxpayer. So much for the mantra of lower taxes. Oh yeah, the big
boys don’t pay taxes, that’s the rest of us that do.
I’m not knowledgeable enough about this field to look through the citations
and bibliography and bios to see who these people are; someone like Diane
Ravitch would recognize her old pals, former pals, I should say, on the
right who work in these think tanks. They have a tendency to quote only
items that agree with them to give the impression that everyone is on board.
However, I understand there are lots of concerned people, on both the right
and left and those many in the middle, but in so many cases their concerns
are misplaced. What ails American education is complex. We shine in many
areas and many school districts’ results are on par with Singapore’s and
South Korea’s and Finland’s, and so forth. Many school districts, like the
one my son-in-law was in last year and the ones my son is in now and was in
last year, are third world. That was the diagnosis I gave my son-in-law when
he was trying to describe the poverty in his new school in Apache Junction
and his old school in Stanfield – I said, yeah, AJ is poor and Standfield is
Third World poverty. Then we average in Stanfield’s scores with San Tan’s
scores and say, Oh, our ed system isn’t what it should be. The reason for
that is manipulation of public opinion.
But back to my point: a lot of these people are sincere in wanting American
ed to be better, even the public schools (remember, Al Shanker, founder of
the American Federation of Teachers, a union, started the charter school
concept). But they are hi-jacked. Obama is a prime example. He’s a smart guy
who wants the best for this country, his Kenyan birth right to jihadi
communist principles notwithstanding, but he has been turned every which way
but loose by good ol’ Arne and his crew.
So I will offer you some lists from Pasi Sahlins book, Finnish Lessons. If
you want to know how a country gets a good education system, read his book.
Hint: it’s hard work.
The drive in ed reform has been for “21st century skills, tougher curriculum
requirements, national standards, testing, competition between teachers, and
more hard work. After a couple of decades of this strategy, scores are down
in comparison with international standards. As Einstein said, the definition
of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

Force, pressure, shame, top-down intervention, markets, competition,
standardization, testing, easier & quicker paths into teaching, closure of
public schools, firing of ineffective teachers & principals with a fresh
start with new schools and staff – all having failed to improve ed systems,
are now being reimposed with greater vigor and rigor.

Performance-based pay and lifting limits on charter schools, strategies that
have not worked, are being pushed by the Obama administration. They fail b/c
they fail to develop the capacity of teachers and the system to improve.
This is b/c the whole enterprise is based on a failed management theory:
that pay incentives and everyone managing his own unit and accountable for
results and competing with others will result in higher achievement. What
results is fiefdoms & silos without the capacity or incentive to help each
Instead of correcting this, we are moving toward authoritarianism, with the
government dictating what students should learn and when and how (The Golden
Rule: he who dishes out the gold, makes the rules).
The reform movement has been characterized as mean-spirited, punitive, and
indifferent to the real problems teachers face. (Note the remark about
reduced class size and early childhood ed being too expensive so let’s get
tough on teachers that I mentioned above as coming from Pioneer). Where does
this come from? Some opine that the emphasis on bigger, harder, tougher,
faster and stronger in our business culture has resulted in a decrease in
public responsibility (hence the emphasis on personal responsibility) and
more greed, arrogance, hubris, and impatience. One example of the
impatience: the tests, central to reform, have not been validated, esp those
connected to CC. In this environment, companies cut corners on public
safety, practice unethical methods to achieve higher profits, incl amassing
unpayable debt resulting in financial collapse paid for by taxpayers, ravage
the environment and ecosystem (think water in AZ), and so on. Turn-around
specialists set arbitrary goals resulting in unadvisable practices to
achieve quick profits and force dismissals without regard for the
consequences for the company, the employees, the community, or the country.
These people have been characterized as psychiatrically disturbed
narcissists, sociopaths, and control freaks (not my words, but one time I
asked someone why some of our dept heads in the psychiatric (!) clinic I
worked in seemed to be sociopathic in their drive to control depts that had
4 employees and a budget barely big enough to afford lunch – the answer
was…….. control).
These tactics and strategies have been applied to ed: failures, firings,
closures and competition. The “improvements”, in both business and ed, have
not been sustainable. But we keep sustaining them because…………….
and here I depart from the above free-wheeling quoting from Finnish Lessons
(free-wheeling b/c I took it from a CD set the book is recorded on – the
book itself is available only at ASU library), to say that this critique of
the American model of change and reform fits my own world view and
politico-economic understanding of things. It is not partisan as I find
Obama as obtuse as I did Bush; in fact, Bush seemed to think NCLB would
work, but that’s b/c his Texas buddies were jigging (see mineral mining
devices definition – shaking back and forth till you get what you want) the
results. Obama had the evidence and ignored it – still is ignoring it.
But it is in the American character, this bigger, tougher, harder, faster,
stronger approach – just look at advertisements for cars, what do you see?
Fuel economy, safety, repair rate and costs? A little here and there, but
mainly, “You can beat anyone on the road and barrel through any obstacles –
like other people”. It is what I call the Marlboro Man myth – the lone
cowboy/gunslinger who gets his way by force and is a loner, needing no one
and ready to thrown down aka compete at any time. Now that attitude need not
be entirely discarded, but we might want to live in the world with other
people. Part of that is recognizing that other people included the children
of people we don’t ordinarily associate with, and that’s where the problem
is: we have the money, we just don’t want to spend it on “those people”: the
migrants and immigrants, the people marginalized for centuries, the people
who didn’t climb into the middle class, the people who are different or who
offend our religious beliefs somehow, or just people living in another part
of the country – we just don’t want to pay to educate their kids. It’s
understandable, at least to me, given the colonial past of our country; we
are much more like Latin-American countries than we want to admit. But if we
don’t move beyond that, we will sink under the weight of millions of young
people who do not know how to learn and so cannot even adapt, where
unscrupulous “educators” charge the government for huge unpaid student debt
when the students often not only do not get a job but don’t even get a
degree. If we don’t start electing legislators who can stand up to big
money, we are doomed to become even more disconnected from our government,
speaking from the left but the same is true for those on the right and for
lots in the middle. Education is part of government, at least in this
country, and that’s why, IMHO, I think we see the rise of charters and the
desire for vouchers for private schools – b/c we are withdrawing from public
life, like they do in Morocco or Pakistan, and therefore from public
A little long? Big topic. Hope you are enjoying your new home. We’ll keep an
eye on this one.
Pat Barrett

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