Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Philanthropy and Education "Reform"

Two very good pieces that talk about how corporations are shaping education policy in this country - it's amazing to me that so few give a damn and that the 'reformers' are championed throughout the main stream media and by every politician...

Stanley Katz - Beware Big Donors -

"Look at the most recent Forbes 400 (the magazine's annual list of the richest Americans), headed by Bill Gates (net worth $59-billion), Warren Buffett ($39-billion), Larry Ellison ($33-billion), the Koch brothers ($25-billion each), one of the Waltons (Christy, $24.5-billion), and so on. As of August 2011, more than 40 families had pledged themselves to the effort by Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to galvanize other billionaires to give away, inter vivos, the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. Many of them have already set up family foundations (and more will do so), and many of those new foundations have bounded to the upper reaches of the Foundation Center's list of the top 100 private philanthropies.
They are new foundations, and they are behaving in novel ways, departing from the more reflective, more patient, and generally less aggressive behaviors of the classic 20th-century foundations."... "What has been particularly interesting to note has been the commitment of the newer foundations to overt policy advocacy, which they see as a logical outcome of their strategic stance."..."The new strategic foundations behave as though they are entitled to make public policy, and they are not shy about it. Perhaps the most obvious, and important, example of the new philanthropic aggressiveness is the financing of organizations and projects concerned with the reform of public elementary and secondary education."
"What is obvious to me, as a historian of the emergence of private philanthropic foundations almost exactly a century ago, is how far we have traveled from the fears of the first foundations that they would be perceived as antiegalitarian and threatening to the democratic process. For years Rockefeller and Carnegie pussyfooted around financing economic and social efforts that might be perceived as politically sensitive. Ford got into trouble with Congress when it immersed itself in school reform in New York City and had to back down. But while Gates is often seen as antiunion and pro-charter school—politically contestable positions—it shows no signs of hesitating to push its overtly political agenda. Gates and Lumina are clearly untroubled to be, and to be seen as, players in education policy.
Universities—and their associations—have been silent on this development, perhaps reluctant to bite the hands that feed them. But shouldn't we all be concerned when public officials defer to private institutions when reforming higher education? Are we outsourcing parts of our education policy to the private philanthropic sector? I think so."
And a nice summary from Diane Ravitch @ Education Week about how these reforms are actually taking place... 

The Pattern on the Rug -

"The pattern on the rug grows clear. Teaching will become a job, not a profession. Young people will typically spend a year or two as teachers, then move on to other, more rewarding careers. Federal and state policy will promote online learning, and computers will replace teaches. Online class sizes will reach 1:100, even 1:200; the job of monitoring the screens will be outsourced, creating large economies for state budgets. For-profit companies will make large profits. The Common Core standards will create a national marketplace for vendors, as Secretary Arne Duncan's chief of staff, Joanne Weiss, predicted. Entrepreneurs will reap the rewards of the new American style of education. As profits grow, the cost of education will be contained. Public education will increasingly be handed over to businesses designed to maximize economic efficiency and produce dependable profits for investors.
The report last week from the Klein-Rice commission of the Council on Foreign Relations reveals how this manner of thinking about education has become the conventional wisdom. Public schools as we know them, the commission suggests, are a threat to national security. What's needed to protect us from foreign enemies is more competition and choice, more privatization of our public schools, more No Child Left Behind, more Race to the Top. Big commissions tend to reflect the status quo. This one does, for sure.
See the pattern on the rug? It grows clearer every day. It is not about improving education. It is not about helping our society become more literate and better educated. Follow the money. We are indeed a nation at risk."

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