Sunday, February 17, 2008

Killing School Boards A "Progressive" Agenda?

Matt Miller, an education policy expert at the Orwellian contrived Center for American Progress has an article appearing in The Atlantic called "First, Kill All the School Boards".

Yeah, I know. How cool, given all the violence that somebody should be running wish lists for who gun nuts should target. I love having someone paint a target on my back.

The title of course is metaphorical but still inappropriate in a country where the ones who can't think in metaphor express themselves in showers of bullets. Sorry, Matt - bad form.

Second, to the degree that I can ascertain, this so-called think tank is not really progressive at all. It looks to be a political honeypot intended to promote neocon agenda items as liberal/progressive ideas probably sucking up and drying up well-intentioned liberal donations. In other words, a neocon disinformation clearinghouse.

I'm not a progressive, I'm a liberal. Let's examine this so-called progressive agenda.

Miller's thesis is;
When you look at what local control of education has wrought,... we must... nationalize our schools, to some degree.

He argues that "there is no way of knowing how children are doing", that educational research & development is stunted by local control, local school boards are incompetent and controlled by teacher unions, and that there's financial inequity in local control.

The special interest groups behind Miller's thinking are elements of the Gates Foundation, neocons associated with "Lucky" Bill Bennett, and the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce (a 2006 panel called the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce (a 2006 panel called bipartisan by the partisans who put it together).

Miller claims this cabal of special interests somehow represents something both Democrats and Republicans have in common. This assertion, of course flies in the face of the fact that constituencies both parties want an end to NCLB, want the government out of education, and need no lectures about foreign competition. When the well-educated parents of students see their jobs evaporate overseas, the argument that bad schools are the excuse rings hollow.

Miller is frightened that teachers "teach whatever they want"! The state made the same kind of assertion when they blew through town a week or two ago. The people saying things like this have their heads up their asses.

I'm on a school board and I see what teachers are doing, the curriculum, and so on. American teachers don't teach what they want, they teach what's required in their own way. This is what makes Americans so fungible, our teachers and kids are not predictable automatons. Miller looks at totalitarian education systems with envy. If only everybody clicked their heels -sigh-.

There are barely a handful of educational publishing companies in this country producing textbooks. What is totalitarian government centralization going to do? Reduce it to one? Is there a correcter algebra? Is somebody teaching that George Washington isn't the first president?

These manufactured crisis in American Education exist because Washington wants more power not because American kids aren't learning. The creeps in Washington don't want kids to have a second to think about how criminal and demented the government has become.

He claims "Local control has kept education from attracting the research and development that drives progress, because benefits of scale are absent... The more complicated and fragmented the sale that a company has to make, the less willing it is to invest in product research and development."

This is pure group-think bullshit. Because this think tank doesn't know how to use the resources of the internet he and his colleagues assume local schools are equally ignorant. Wrong, the richness of tools, techniques and knowledge is approaching The Singularity at cybersonic latency. the idea that educators have the luxury of waiting for five year government plans to change curriculum is cute in an anal retentive, sad way.

The information tiger that education is riding is breath-taking. The ability of government to respond to anything is excruciating. Why put that yoke on public education?

Local control essentially surrenders power over the schools to the teachers’ unions. Union money and mobilization are often decisive in board elections. And local unions have hefty intellectual and political backing from their state and national affiliates. Even when they’re not in the unions’ pockets, in other words, school boards are outmatched.
This is not entirely true though it is disturbingly typical. In a country where the average worker is lucky to see a 1% pay increase, teacher salary scales progress at much higher accelerations. The tax base breaking point for this kind of thing is clearly in sight.

He claims "Meanwhile, common-sense reforms, like offering higher pay to attract teachers to under served specialties such as math, science, and special education, can’t get traction, because the unions say no".

Miller and his colleagues do not seem to understand that it is not higher pay that will make these jobs more desirable but less government interference. Brilliant science and math teachers are not happy about becoming mindless test droids.

And special education teachers need less worthless paperwork and more actual human contact time.

Miller's thesis is a whore to the politics of No Child Left Behind, Bush's phallic intrusion into education. Pandering to anything in NCLB results in recommendations such as these in which drunken businessmen draw up wish lists for schools, parents, and teachers and swing back room deals to secure testing rights while the dreams and aspirations of children go unfulfilled.

As the Amish girl in the schoolhouse in Pennsylvania said, "Shoot me first."

Miller and his associates are wrong. Local school boards work. They are courageous, they are innovative and they can be asinine. But they are elected and accountable and they care about the kids.

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