Friday, January 2, 2009

Conventional Wisdom Examined: Public Schools

Originally posted on Daily Kos

In the 1980s, corporate CEOs slowly and systematically began taking control of our public schools by pushing current major education reform known as "High Standards for All" or "High Stakes Testing". CEOs from Accenture, American Express, AIG, Exxon Mobil, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, General Motors, Morgan Stanley, and 145 other big businesses currently serve as members of the Business Roundtable, the association pushing the agenda for our public schools.
I've created this diary to examine the conventional wisdom regarding public education in the U.S., starting with this C.W.: "Businesses Know Best What Kind of Schools We Need".

The impetus for the Business Roundtable's education agenda included both the Civil Rights Movement and the weakening of the U.S. automobile industry. Kathy Emery, Executive Director of the San Francisco Freedom Summer School Program, writes in her dissertation, "The Business Roundtable and Systemic Reform: How Corporate-Engineered High Stakes Testing Has Eliminated Community Participation in Developing Educational Goals and Policies":

In education, one manifestation of such [Civil Rights] organizing was the
increase in the number of educators promoting student-centered,interdisciplinary, experiential, and multi-cultural education and an increase inthe number of school boards allowing such education into the classroom. Theseevents threatened to challenge a dominant culture and political process that wasfundamentally dependent on racism. The cultural and political challenge to thestatus quo of the sixties was made more serious by the invasion of Toyota trucksand cars. ... Corporate CEOs turned to educational reform as one of severalmeans to address the economic, political and cultural challenges of thepost-Cold War era. They did so because business leaders have always seen theeducational system as both a means to "externalize" training costs as well as a means to socialize a citizenry to support the national interest (as defined by business).

The Business Roundtable (BRT) has grown tremendously since it came to consensus in 1989 as to its educational agenda. In the last 20 years the BRT has worked to:

•Set the agenda for President Bush’s 1989 National Goals Education Summit

•influence the training of superintendents and school board members

•train people to start other organizations that push standardized, high stakes testing in schools

•create an organization that provides pro-business agenda information to the media

•seat members on the Education Commission of the States •replace school boards, or make them mayorally elected

•partner with dozens of state and national business organizations, state and federal governments, private foundations and non-profit organizations

•lobby state governors and legislators for its pro-big-business agenda •pressure teacher unions and parents to conform to their agenda

•create state-level BRTs in every state

•meet with President-Elect Obama to influence his transition teams

These just hit the highlights, but it's clear that the BRT has its tentacles in every facet of influence over education policy. As the BRT's influence grows, community, parent, and teacher influence has become almost non-existent,and our "national interest" becomes framed by failing and misguided corportions.

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