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From South Carolina to New Jersey to Wisconsin—and all across the U.S.—universal public education is under assault by the bully politics of education reform.

In my home state of South Carolina, Governor Haley and Superintendent Zais, neither of whom have experience or expertise in education, are seeking to attack unions (although SC is a non-union, right-to-work state), increase education testing through adopting Common Core State Standards, deprofessionalize teachers through new accountability and merit-pay schemes, and cripple public schools by endorsing expanded choice initiatives.

Tractenberg details a similar pattern in New Jersey:

"Gov. Chris Christie wastes no opportunity to trash Newark’s public schools. His assaults continued recently at a national school choice conference, where he and odd-couple partner Mayor Cory Booker were featured speakers.

"Aside from Christie’s well-known penchant for confrontation, there are two big problems with his attacks.

"First, he insists on citing “facts” that are either flat-out wrong or cherry-picked to emphasize the worst in Newark’s schools. An education expert recently questioned why those promoting school choice often use the best charter schools to characterize all charter schools and the worst regular public schools to characterize all those schools."

The situation is even more grim in Wisconsin, home of the relentless Governor Walker:
"Walker is the archetypical bully. He has plenty of insecurities as a possible suspect in a John Doe case and as a college dropout--which necessitates his attacks on the 'liberal' academics. Self-esteem issues explain his need to repeatedly remind us how 'courageous' he has been and how he is like Ronald Reagan. Walker, like most bullies, yearns for status—which explains his national speaking tour.  Most blatantly bullying is Walker’s 'divide and conquer' management style (openly advertised to one of his billionaire campaign donors)."

"No group is better skilled at handling bullies, like Walker, than public educators. Teachers have much experience managing bullies in schools. We are trained in anti-bullying tactics. We have intervened in bullying situations and we advise our students on how to counter bullying. It is now time for Wisconsin’s teachers to embrace what we teach our students."

Steve Strieker, then, calls for a response in Wisconsin that every educator should heed: "Public educators must not be bystanders to Walker’s bullying." Part of the action educators must take is to identify the hypocrisy and lack of credibility coming from the current leaders in the call to reform schools along "no excuses" and corporate ideologies.

Bully Bravado Masks Inexperience, No Expertise, and Hypocrisy

Presidents, Secretaries of Education, Governors, and State Superintendents of Education historically and currently have used their bully pulpits to speak to and directly influence public education in the U.S. and in each state. In the twenty-first century, billionaires, millionaires, athletes, and celebrities have increasingly joined those political leaders by adopting education as their hobby. Among all of these elites, several patterns expose their combined failure to understand the problems facing and solutions needed for education—despite their elitist status that allows them power and prestige in the education debate. Those patterns expose these leaders' hypocrisy and lack of credibility and include the following:

• Most of these leaders experienced educational advantages unlike the schools they hope to create by dismantling public schools. Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, and Mitt Romney, for example, enjoyed the luxury of low student-teacher ratios, but claim class size doesn't matter (although class size does matter). The hypocrisy of the "no excuses" reformers reveals that these people living in privilege have a different standard for other people's children.

• Most of these leaders have never taught a day in their lives, and have no background in education other than their appointments and self-proclamations as educators. Sal Khan—like Duncan, Gates, and the governors across the nation—for example, has been anointed "educator" and "innovator" without having ever taught, without holding any degrees in education.

• Most of these leaders have either a weak or nonexistent grasp on the current knowledge and research-base for teaching and learning. Further, like Christie, when these reformers call on evidence, they either cherry-pick, distort, or misrepresent the data. Recently, Superintendent Zais (SC) discounted paying teachers for years of experience or advanced degrees since, as he claimed, those two characteristic do not correlate positively with higher student test scores. But Zais does endorse merit pay, value-added methods of teacher evaluation, charter schools, and vouchers/tuition tax credits—all of which have the same correlation with higher student test scores as his claim about experience and advanced degrees.

With these patterns in mind, educators must consider directly the situation in Wisconsin, where a recall highlights the power of action, and possibly highlights yet again the negative influence of passive educators.

Wisconsin, along with SC and New Jersey, is not just one state in the union, but a very real crucible of democracy. Educators and citizens across the U.S. must not ignore that an attack on public schools, public school teachers, and public school students is an attack on democracy.

Democracy is not just an ideal, it is an act of the individual fully committed to the community.

Originally posted to plthomasEdD on Fri May 25, 2012 at 05:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by Education Alternatives.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks again for the excellent diary (6+ / 0-)

    Unfortunately Democrats and Repbulicans are racing to outdo each other in bashing educators.

    The sad fact is that none of them, not Obama or Duncan, not Walker, Snyder or Christie, have a clue. The collective ignorance is astounding.

    Educators outperform the Health Industry (#37 in the world), the legal system (#1 incarceration rate in the world, for many years), and business (given the woeful recent record of our corporate overlords, does anyone truly believe that we should run schools like a business?). Yet we don't see the President or the Thugs going after those folks with the same invective they reserve for educators.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:26:18 PM PDT

    •  So true until, (0+ / 0-)

      you have taught, you can't possibly know how much work it is (and how much fun it is) to teach. I've been teaching at the college level for five years. Education needs more attention. A lot more. I am disappointed that Obama hasn't made education more important, but he has done a lot of great things.

      "It's kind of fun to do the impossible!"

      by ljcrazyhistorian on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:53:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The attack on education is simply (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    an effort by the rich, white, heterosexual, western European in origin male "elite" to keep their "last" bit of power.

    "It's kind of fun to do the impossible!"

    by ljcrazyhistorian on Fri May 25, 2012 at 06:51:32 PM PDT

  •  I have become so discouraged (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, grimjc

    Even here and on other liberal websites, bashing public education/educators is deemed acceptable from any and everyone.  Why?   All apparently are considered or consider themselves "experts" based on the fact that they went to school or they have children that go to school

    I go to the doctor's office for regular check ups and when I am sick but I am neither an expert nor do I claim to be an expert in medicine.  

    Last night I was watching CURRENT TV and had the Gavin Newsom show on.  When he announced his next guest would be Michelle Rhee as they were going to discuss education, I changed the channel.

    Again, Ms Rhee, with so little teaching experience, is considered an expert????  

    There are issues in education to be sure.   Bringing in teacher bashers/public school bashers to lead the discussions while ignoring thousands of talented, experienced teachers makes me see red.  I spent my entire career in education.  I was in the classroom for over thirty years and was a media center educator for several years and since my retirement I have subbed in various schools and classrooms and specialties.  I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to hear these non-experts as they are given the power and money while teachers with experience, education and a love for students are ignored.

    •  OMG! Oligarchs are running Current, too? (0+ / 0-)

      Newsom had Rhee on Current?!?!

      It's time to Occupy Current.

    •  Education has always been a political football... (0+ / 0-)

      in the U.S. every since Horace Mann and other more conservative political types conceived of the public school system as a tool for "taming" a nation that was flooding with new "unruly" immigrants during industrialization in the first half of the 19th century and transitioned from academic to more business control in the early 20th.  I'm not sure it is a redeemable institution, but that said, we can't abandon our kids in the effort to find an alternative.

      It is the devil we know...

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Mon May 28, 2012 at 09:50:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Side note : here we go again : (0+ / 0-)

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Sat May 26, 2012 at 05:10:32 AM PDT

  •  Didya' happen to catch this (0+ / 0-)

        on Friday's Democracy Now ?

    The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

    by Azazello on Sat May 26, 2012 at 06:53:12 AM PDT

    •  From my continued reading of U.S. history... (0+ / 0-)

      Our public school system, conceived by a moderate conservative member of the elite, Horace Mann, has been pretty consistently since 1830 been "school by the 1% for the 99%" to protect the privilege and position of that 1%.  The more I read the more that becomes clear to me.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Mon May 28, 2012 at 09:56:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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