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According to former public school teacher turned radical unschooler John Taylor Gatto, we have developed a de facto three-tiered education system in the United States as follows...

Tier One - The elite private schools for the kids of our economic elite (the so called “One Percent”), where they have the opportunity to develop skills of leadership, entrepreneurship, and creative outside-the-box thinking and develop the necessary connections to people in power to become the next generation of corporate and political leaders.

Tier Two - The “good” public schools (and comparable religious and secular private schools) that train the kids of middle-class families to become part of the what Gatto calls the “professional proletariat” - the doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, and other “knowledge workers” - that staff the corporate enterprises financed, launched and led by the kids from the tier one schools.

Tier Three – The “bad” or “failed” public schools for the economically disadvantage communities, which according to Gatto and other radical education activists are designed to "fail" and maintain an underclass of "them" to anchor the hierarchical pyramid of a country that continues to be comfortable with being economically stratified.  These schools basically warehouse the kids of the poorest among us who, if they can find jobs at all, are hopefully grateful to take the service and other menial jobs along with filling the ranks of our large volunteer military.

To be perfectly and uncomfortably honest, my own continuing analysis of American society is moving me towards agreeing with Gatto on the above.  This is not a matter of just failing to apply the needed money and effort to “fix” the “bad” schools, but more of an underlying problem, endemic when any elite conceives of a new societal institution as a tool for normalizing their privilege and control.  I am concerned that our public school system, as originally envisioned by Horace Mann and other reformers suffers from this endemic problem and may be unredeemable unless completely transformed.  Transformed to the extent that the states are no longer controlling the public education process, and schools are created and run by teachers, parents get to decide whether to send their kids to school, and young people are in charge of directing their own education.

State-Directed Education for the Strong Modern State

In Colonial times and into the early 19th century, my understanding is that the education of young people was handled mostly informally by families themselves in something equivalent to what we today call homeschooling or unschooling.  This generally involved a mix of things based on the family's means and connections including tutors, small informal schools, apprenticeships, self-directed home study, or having your kid work as a domestic servant for a more well to do family who in exchange would see to your kid's basic education or training in some craft.

It was in the early 19th century with the beginnings of the industrial revolution and growing nationalist sentiments around the world that countries, including the U.S., began considering more formal government directed education systems.  The first country to do so was Prussia, which developed the first universal mandatory education system, conceived as an integral part of its modern military-industrial totalitarian state.  Impressed by the Prussian system (and not wanting to fall behind in the growing competition between nation-states in the 19th century) other countries including the U.S. soon followed Prussia's lead and developed comparable state-run school systems.

In the U.S. with its federal (much authority held by states) system, that effort was launched at the state rather than national level.  It was championed by the Whig part (the GOP of their day) which represented not so much the business community at the time, but the moderate conservative New England social elite.  One of the most compelling arguments for state-run schools was concern among that elite that immigration of Catholics and Jews from Southern and Eastern Europe could challenge white Anglo-Saxon Protestant political and cultural control of the country.

As I wrote in my previous piece, “Horace Mann & Compulsory Schooling”, the most famous champion of this new concept of state-run “common” schools, was Whig and Unitarian Horace Mann, who like other member's of the Protestant elite, felt the new educational system created by the European county of Prussia in the early 19th century represented the best-practice for the strong modern nation-state.  Mann acknowledged that Prussia was anything but a democratic country, but felt Prussia's state-of-the-art education system could be adapted to serve the American republic.

The Prussian Three-Tiered Education System

Reacting to their devastating defeat by Napoleon's army in 1806, the Prussian aristocracy coalesced around an idea to harness the totality of its national resources in service of a powerful modern state-of-the-art military-industrial state, led by that aristocracy.  The Prussians realized that France had triumphed against them because that new republic's empowered citizen-soldiers, as real stakeholders in their nation, had significantly better morale than the Prussian mercenary soldiers they faced.  

Unwilling to loosen the reins and politically empower their own people, Prussia would instead indoctrinate them in national pride and service to the nation from a young age and employ a system of meritocracy to identify the best and the brightest to be trained to be the mid-level army officers and industrial middle-managers.  So the aristocracy developed an innovative (if not humanistic) three-tiered education system built around aristocratic privilege but also leveraging meritocracy, at least to the degree that it best supported that aristocracy.

The top tier of that system (akin to our modern K-12 system) were the elite private schools reserved for the children of the aristocracy, Prussia’s “One Percent”.  These schools taught their privileged young people to be leaders, entrepreneurs, and creative thinkers, so they would grow up to be the skilled army generals and captains of industry to direct the country's powerful military-industrial machine.

Writes Gatto in his book The Underground History of American Education...

At the top, one-half of 1 percent of the students attended Akadamiesschulen, where, as future policy makers, they learned to think strategically, contextually, in wholes; they learned complex processes, and useful knowledge, studied history, wrote copiously, argued often, read deeply, and mastered tasks of command. (Gatto page 137)
The remaining two tiers were government run schools that were free to the public, and all about ranking, sorting and training the rest of Prussia’s youth so they could best play the needed roles supporting the elite in the nation’s military-industrial apparatus. Tier two were schools specially designed to train the most gifted among the children of the common folk...
The next level, Realsschulen, was intended mostly as a manufactory for the professional proletariat of engineers, architects, doctors, lawyers, career civil servants, and such other assistants as policy thinkers at times would require. From 5 to 7.5 percent of all students attended these “real schools”, learning in a superficial fashion how to think in context, but mostly learning how to manage materials, men, and situations – to be problem solvers. This group would also staff the various policing functions of the state, bringing order to the domain. (Gatto page 137)
I keep thinking of that great Russian word, “apparatchik”, for people who hold key positions within the bureaucratic or political “apparatus” that runs an organization or country.  Having studied and developing a fondness for the Russian language and the country's history, I love the gnarly provocative sound of it.  A “bureaucrat” participates in running a “bureau”, which is an old-fashioned term for a desk or a room with desks in it.  But an “apparatchik” is part or an “apparatus” which in my mind connotes much richer images of cleverly designed machinery.

The rest of the kids of the common folk who did not show promise to be the high-skill “knowledge workers”, were tracked into the tier-three schools and given sufficient training to be the “worker bees”, last and least in terms of position in the societal hierarchy...

A group of between 92 and 94 percent of the population attended “people’s schools” [Volksschulen] where they learned obedience, cooperation and correct attitudes, along with rudiments of literacy and official state myths of history. (Gatto page 137)
In Gatto’s provocative summary, these Prussian educational visionaries…
Held a clear idea of what centralized schooling should deliver: 1) Obedient soldiers to the army; 2) Obedient workers for mines, factories, and farms; 3) Well-subordinated civil servants, trained in their function; 4) Well-subordinated clerks for industry; 5) Citizens who thought alike on most issues; 6) National uniformity in thought, word and deed. (Gatto page 131)
This structure served the totalitarian state well as Prussia expanded and incorporated the rest of the German states, crushed France in the War of 1870, and outdid the rest of Europe in its industrial development.  Of course it also could be “credited” with creating an obedient public willing to be slaughtered on the battlefields in World War I and embrace a sociopathic dictator rising out of the ashes of that pointless cataclysm.  

But when American educational pioneer Horace Mann visited Prussia in 1843, he was certainly impressed with their education system, and felt that system should be adapted to serve an emerging non-totalitarian American republic.  More broadly, Mann's colleagues in the American intellectual elite increasingly were looking to Prussia for the “best practices” to build their young nation.

According to Jacques Barzun in his book From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life...

The American intellectual class that did exist in the 1830s looked less and less to England and France for ideas. It was Germany that fed them... Chief among American Germanists was professor George Ticknor of Harvard. He, George Bancroft (later the first national historian), and a few others had gone to German universities and carried home the message of Herder and Goethe, Kant and Schiller in all its poetical and philosophical strength. Ticknor in turn imparted it to young Emerson and his classmates. (pg 504)
Mann's Vision of a Single-Tier American Education System

Though Horace Mann was a member in good standing in the New England Protestant intellectual elite, he put forward a vision for a state-run taxpayer-funded “common” school system that would be completely one-size-fits-all and not rank, sort and track the nation's youth based on either social status or merit.  Mann's vision, at least reflected in his reports and lectures, included a strong opposition to private schools of any kind (though I would imagine most of his colleagues in the upper echelons of society continued to send their kids to tutors and private schools even after those “common” schools were established).

According to Bob Pepperman Taylor in his book Horace Mann's Troubling Legacy...

Building to his discussion of the Prussian schools in the Seventh Annual Report, Mann is careful to acknowledge that regardless of the strength of their educational program, schools in Prussia were employed in the service of an authoritarian state. His claim, however, is that such schools would be all the more appropriate in a free, democratic society. He is also careful to praise our own tradition of common schools and to emphasize their egalitarian structure. “Massachusetts has the honor of establishing the first system of Free Schools in the world... Our system, too, is one and the same for both rich and poor; for, as all human beings, in regard to their natural rights, stand upon a footing of equality before God, so, in this respect, the human has been copied from the divine plan of government, by placing all citizens on the same footing of equality before the law of the land”. (pg 34)
I think it is important to note that Mann's vision for American schools was perhaps egalitarian in treating all students the same, but elitist and hierarchical in its governance model.  All families would be required by the state to send their children to school to be instructed in a standardized curriculum developed by state bureaucrats.  Though those bureaucrats would be appointed by legislators elected by the people, the reality then and still today is that due to money, connections and other resources, the entrenched elite tend to dominate elected legislative offices and the bureaucratic boards those legislators make appointments to.  The elite are the individuals with the societal credentials, connections, and free time to serve on those sorts of boards.

Educational Standardization Protects Privilege

From my reading of human history and my own observations of the human condition over six decades of my life, standardized education (or standardized anything) tends to reflect the values and protect the privileges of the standard setters.  A standardized educational process and curriculum, conceived, fashioned and disseminated by the state is then likely to reflect the agenda and biases of the elite that dominate that state's decision making and implementing apparatus.  It would be much different if Mann's Massachusetts state school board had decided to fund local schools, but also set up mechanisms for localities to make their own decisions on school curriculum and educational methodology.  

The standardized curriculum Mann and his colleagues required all young people to be instructed in in Massachusetts public schools was not focused on the “three R’s” or development of a skilled workforce for industry, but the molding of the next generation of American citizenry in the secularized Protestant values of the intellectual and economic elite.  That elite feared what would happen to their America if rural parochialism and an array of “sectarian” religious beliefs (particularly the feared and foreign Catholicism) were allowed to hold sway.

According to Charles Leslie Glenn Jr. in his book, The Myth of the Common School, Mann and his colleagues developed a standardized public school curriculum for Massachusetts that represented...

A program of educational reform, indeed of social reform through education. The heart of this program... is the deliberate effort to create in the entire youth of a nation common attitudes, loyalties, and values, and to do so under central direction of the state. In this agenda “moral education” and the shaping of a shared national identity were of considerably more ultimate importance than teaching basic academic skills. “Sectarian” religious teaching was seen as a major threat to the accomplishment of this program of national unification through common socialization. (pg. 4)
This was the institutional machinery of the iconic American “melting pot” that we read about in American History textbooks.  Many of my fellow progressives today probably still resonate with much of this statement, including its call for social reform through education and its opposition to religious teaching, while being less comfortable perhaps with a call for “moral education”.  But remember that by and large it was representatives of the top echelon of society that were given the task of setting those binding standards that would be applied to everyone else's children.  The reality was that that top echelon continued to send their own children, for the most part, to elite private (Gatto's de facto “Tier One”) schools.

Gatto writes in his book, The Underground History of American Education...

Elite private boarding schools were an important cornerstone in the foundation of a permanent American upper class whose children were to be socialized for power.  They were great schools for the Great Race, intended to forge a collective identity among children of privilege, training them to be bankers, financiers, partners in law firms, corporate directors, negotiators of international treaties and contracts, patrons of the arts, philanthropists, directors of of welfare organizations, members of advisory panels, government elites, and business elites. (pg 249)
Given that reality, the realization of Mann's common school vision would at best create a “Tier Two” of schools for everyone else.  From where I stand, we are talking about creating compulsory schools designed by the “One Percent” to instruct everyone else's kids, but not their own, in a standardized curriculum that included the elite's vision of America.  

Whether Mann's underlying intentions were noble or not, is it any wonder that this system was or might become corruptible and problematic in facilitating a truly egalitarian society?  An education system conceived mostly by the “One Percent” that is “brought to bear” on the rest of us, the “Ninety-Nine Percent”.

One could argue that Mann's educational vision, though parochial in a Protestant sense, was on the whole secular (or at least non-sectarian) and also not explicitly conceived in the service of business interests.  His was a vision of a common “moral education” for a democracy rather than developing “human resources” for a corporate state.  But he fully realized he was creating a powerful tool wielded by the state for controlling “the character of men”.  Here are his words presented to the Massachusetts Board of Education...

Education has never yet been brought to bear with one hundredth part of its potential force, upon the natures of children, and, through them, upon the character of men and of the race... Here, then, is a new agency, whose powers are but just beginning to be understood, and whose mighty energies, hitherto, have been but feebly invoked... Reformatory efforts, hitherto made, have been mainly expended upon the oaken-fibred hardihood and incorrigibleness of adult offenders; and not upon the flexibleness and ductiliy of youthful tendencies. (pg. 81)
The Corporatization of American Public Schools

Powerful tools tend to become tools of the powerful.  A public education system completely controlled at the top echelons of state government continued to be a powerful tool for those given the task of wielding it.  And in the early 20th century, as I document in my piece, “You May Have Missed the Corporate Takeover of Education”, I believe that big business interests were ceded the responsibility for administering the American public school system and have never relinquished that control.

The events leading to that business takeover in the early 20th century I lay out in another piece, “Education and the Cult of Efficiency”, based on a book by the same name written by Raymond Callahan.  In his book Callahan documents how an educational “crisis” was essentially created by the popular press at the turn of that century for a range of reasons, starting with selling newspapers and magazines. Jumping on the cause of societal “reform”, the muckraking journalists of the period turned their focus on rooting out supposed inefficiencies and staid ivory-tower academic thinking in the U.S. public education system.  

Read Callahan's book for all the historical detail.  But essentially, to blunt a media assault on education for its supposed business inefficiency, the U.S. public education system did its best to adopt business values that trumped academic values to better “prove” its efficient use of public funds to teach America's youth a pragmatic curriculum that would make them more effective workers for the burgeoning American industrial society.  This also led to letting people trained in business management, rather than educators, take the reins of the U.S. public education system.  Says Callahan...

The tragedy itself was fourfold: that educational questions were subordinated to business considerations; that administrators were produced who were not, in any true sense, educators; that a scientific label was put on some very unscientific and dubious methods and practices; and that an anti-intellectual climate, already prevalent, was strengthened. As the business-industrial values and procedures spread into the thinking and acting of educators, countless educational decisions were made on economic or on non-educational grounds. (pg 246)
Given that school teachers were mostly women, a male-centered society in the first half of the 20th century was comfortable accepting a cadre of male business executives increasingly assuming positions of control over these female teachers, and accepted those executives lack of credentials as educators.  These men created a new “profession” of educational administration that was fixated almost exclusively on the financial, logistical and organizational problems of schools and gave short shrift to educational issues and facilitating human development.  This profession was supported by the launch of big corporate educational foundations still active today like the Carnegie Foundation (1905) and the Rockefeller Foundation (1913) that provided the intellectual underpinning for business trained administrators like Franklin Bobbitt, Leonard Ayres, and Elwood Cubberley, the latter who famously said...
Our schools are, in a sense, factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specification for manufacturing come from the demands of the twentieth-century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils to the specification laid down. This demands good tools, specialized machinery, continuous measurement of production to see if it is according to specifications, the elimination of waste in manufacture, and a large variety in the output. (pg 152)
The Persistence of Tier-Three Public Schools in America

With businessmen at the helm of the education system by the 1920s and going forward, is it any wonder that a great holistic educational thinker like John Dewey, who is acknowledged by many as the great American philosopher of the 20th century, would ultimately have almost no impact on the American public education system.  Dewey’s progressive education ideals were co-opted, and according to Ron Miller in his book What are Schools For?, the greatest lasting influences Dewey had on the American classroom are...

Cosmetic changes, such as portable rather than fixed seating in classrooms, are about as near to progressive reform as most public schools have ventured. To conceive of the school as a laboratory where individuals explore their lives’ possibilities, or where society experiments with new values, would entail sweeping changes in the philosophy, curriculum, methods, and administration of public schools.
So is it also any wonder that those businessmen at the helm of the American school system would not be equipped to address and support the growing movement for racial equality in the U.S. after World War II.  They were all about consistent and efficient school administration within the status quo that increasingly included big business interests that were supplying the textbooks, reading programs and testing materials to a burgeoning educational market, what some have come to call the “educational-industrial complex”.  They were not about stirring the pot and challenging the established order.

The Civil Rights movement and the War on Poverty put increasing focus on societal inequality, including thousands of “bad” schools (Gatto's de facto “Tier Three”) in poor communities and poor neighborhoods within otherwise large vibrant cities.  We have spent the last five decades  creating and implementing solutions to remedy the dilemma of these impoverished communities and their “bad” public schools.  It feels like there has been some progress, but then the gulf between rich and poor in our society is by many measures bigger than ever.  In the War on Poverty it appears that we have not been particularly victorious, and we as a society have to a large degree have accepted that reality.

Despite that reality, there is still a prevailing mythology that somehow public schools in those still impoverished communities can be equalized by various bureaucratic mechanisms, including forced and voluntary integration, charter schools, and leveled state funding of schools between poor and well-to-do school districts.  

The favored bureaucratic mechanism over the past couple decade has been standardized high-stakes testing, championed by both Democrats and GOP alike.  Bill Clinton's Goals 2000 set the table for George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy to partner in “No Child Left Behind.  Basically create simple test metrics for minimum proficiency in language arts and math to identify public schools that fail to meet those scores, and then judge schools as “failed” if they can't improve the scores themselves, triggering punitive external interventions.  The goal at best being to coerce all “bad” schools to be at least “proficient” (by a sort of “martial law” of takeover if necessary) when it comes to their students' math and language arts scores.

But still the reality that everyone knows is that there continue to be “good” and “bad” public schools (even though the occasional school is highlighted moving between the two categories).  Again, some radical educators say this is by design.  Other progressives say that it is impossible to have successful schools where the greater community continues to be economically impoverished, but we continue to be divided about solutions.  But most progressive and conservative policy-makers cling to the hope that somehow educational equality can be compartmentalized from the larger issue of societal economic equality.  

My View from the Present

180 years ago, Horace Mann conceived an education system for an emerging nation that would provide a “common” school with a “common” curriculum financed by taxpayers for every child in Massachusetts, no matter how rich or how poor.  It became the model that was later implemented in other states throughout the country.  

I think Mann used the word “common” to highlight that these schools belonged to everyone and were intended to educate everyone's children in a singular curriculum designed to make America a strong democratic country.  A singular standardized curriculum designed by the best and brightest (Mann included) that would best inculcate the youth of the country (particular the children of immigrants) in the essence of American values and ethical practice.  It was a real world implementation of the iconic “melting pot”, which used to be a main metaphor for America in the larger world.

What I think was at best naïve and at worst disingenuous in this vision of Mann and others is that they were creating a mechanism for a small group of people in the seats of power to control another much larger group of people who were not so powerful.  In terms of the state of the art in “nation building” at the time, this “Prussian model” for universal standardized compulsory public education made sense as a tool that could be employed by a more democratic country.  The idea being that in America, the small group that wielded the power to shape the curriculum and the tool to deliver that curriculum would have the best interests of the larger public in mind.

That tool was wielded initially by the progressive Protestant elite, who had a vision of a strong united nation, but also a fear of foreign religions, particularly “Papist” Catholics immigrating to America in large numbers which might eventually tip the political balance away from that Protestant elite.  But to the best of my understanding, most of the elite did not send their own kids to these “common” schools.  They continued (despite what Mann might have naively envisaged) to attend the private schools that catered to and facilitated the continuing power and influence of their privilege.

Perhaps one can argue that it was a tool well used for the good of the larger country, but I do think that John Taylor Gatto has real insight when he provocatively describes this public school system of Mann and others as a “weapon of mass instruction”.  A “weapon” that at the beginning of the 20th century fell under the control of big business interests who used it to redesign public education to match their vision of an efficient enterprise to train up American youth to be the “human resources” for a business expansion that would make America the unrivaled economic powerhouse of the world by the middle.  

It was a takeover that even great humanistic educational thinkers like John Dewey and Maria Montessori could not counter.  It was a takeover that resisted other education radicals in the 1960s and 1970s who tried to bring the principles of civil rights and the War on Poverty to public education.  Instead, it retrenched itself with increasing standardization and regimentation that began with Reagan's “A Nation at Risk” and continuing through Bush and Kennedy's “No Child Left Behind”.

And so today ironically, but maybe not surprisingly, we find ourselves with a national education system with its de facto three tiers - elite private schools for the children or the powerful, “good” public schools (and some comparable private schools) for the kids of the middle class, and “bad” public schools for the least economically privileged among us.  Uncomfortably close in structure and effect to a system developed nearly two-hundred years ago to be the backbone of a totalitarian state.

I think the solution lies somewhere under the heading of “many educational paths”, somehow challenging a one-size-fits-all system that continues to resist real democratization because it continues to be structured to be run by a small crew at the top of the pyramid of control.  Those of us in the education alternatives movement continue to strive to flesh out and make possible those other paths.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Louisiana Makes Bold Bid To Privatize Public Educa (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III, Oh Mary Oh

    Louisiana Makes Bold Bid To Privatize Public Education


    •  Nearly a century after the business takeover... (0+ / 0-)

      of public education in the U.S., we are seeing the approach that mindset is taking to diminished means in this current push to privatize our school system.  Instead, IMO, we should be looking to decentralize it and take this "weapon of mass instruction" away from any powerful party with the will and means to seize control of it.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:09:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  During the 20th century business profited... (0+ / 0-)

      mainly from the public school textbook, testing and special programs market.  I think the Louisiana situation is actually a reaction against the previous standardization and regimentation, but a reaction in the wrong direction!

      Progressive educators who would bring more humanistic and holistic educational models to public schools are mostly stymied by the increasing centralization, standardization and regimentation of public schools in recent decades.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:47:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree with you here. (0+ / 0-)
        During the 20th century business profited... mainly from the public school textbook, testing and special programs market.
        The much bigger profit to the Forces of Oppression is in the undereducated and therefore relatively desperate workforce produced by the third tier worker bee education.
      •  I should be more clear. (0+ / 0-)

        There are interests who want a low-cost labor force, not a highly educated workforce. They don't want a Tier One education for all. They don't want the U.S. to be like Scandinavia, where corporations make a living but not a killing. They want a desperately poor, undereducated workforce, and they take every measure necessary to oppress, including depriving the American people of a good education. I know it has become a brand, but indeed, knowledge is power.

  •  The notion that we want an uneducated, (6+ / 0-)

    criminal underclass is preposterous.  Giant fail.

    •  then why has public policy militated towards (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      absdoggy, FloridaSNMOM

      this outcome?  

    •  Perhaps, but you can't deny there is a tiered (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      structure to the education system in the country.

      The thing is, the lower tier is expanding rabidly into the middle tier as budgets are slashed. And yet somehow those proposing more and more slashing keep getting elected.

      W. T. F. ?

      Romney - his fingernails have never been anything but manicured.

      by Pescadero Bill on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:04:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed, but the notion that a compliant... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      underclass can serve the needs of the elite, including providing soldiers for our volunteer army, I think is consistent with an economy that has been featuring more low-paying jobs that IMO contribute to a protection of privilege.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:12:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But this underclass is not... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:


        They don't show up for work, they take drugs, they commit crimes, they steal copper pipes out of vacant houses.

        I think that everybody understands the problem with bad schools. Everybody wants to solve it. But no single group has a strong enough incentive to do so:

        1) The teachers could make education better by accepting cuts in work rules and benefits. But they aren't paid that much to begin with, so they refuse to do so. Also, they know that if they give in this year, they will only be asked to give more next year.

        2) Suburban taxpayers could pay more in taxes to fund more and better teachers -- but they already have nice schools, so there is nothing in it for them. Besides, the money spent on taxes to school brown kids could be spent on music lessons for their their blonde kids. Not a hard choice!

        3) Parents could throw their TV set into the trash and teach their kids at home. But homeschooling requires educated parents who have time on their hands. Single mothers generally fit neither description. In fact, very few parents do.

        4) The corporations and the 1% are scared witless that they wil be stuck with a nation of dumb workers who can't produce and broke-poor customers who can't buy. But they don't trust the teachers, so any money they cough up is wrapped in free-market ideology (vouchers, charters, etc.)

        Our education system is bad not because of any conspiracy. Who benefits from jailing tens of thousands of mean-eyed 19 year olds each year? Nobody (except maybe the prison owner).

        It is a tragedy of the commons. Every interest group needs to give a little for a solution to work.

        •  Maybe partially compliant... (0+ / 0-)

          the goals of their tier three public schools would be to make them as compliant as possible, failing to somehow move them into the tier two category or transferring them to a tier two school.

          I like your breakout of the different school stakeholders and their agendas, though I would add the students as another stakeholder category with a unique take and a unique impact on the process.

          So addressing your breakdown...

          1. Teachers - Could make ed better IMO by demanding more control of their school and its decision-making apparatus including curriculum and educational methodology.

          2. Taxpayers - Might be motivated to pay more in taxes if there was more local community involvement (including by teachers taking more control in item 1).

          3. Parents - Can work with their kids to take more ownership of the kids learning process which might involve more activity outside of school and either full-time, part-time or no school attendance.

          4. Corporations & 1% - Are taken out of their dominant role in managing the public education process but continue to support campaigns to encourage careers in growing fields (like science).

          5. Students - Are expected to play more of a role calling the shots of their own education which is not assumed to be cookie-cutter and like everyone else's, but a unique mix of learning assets and venues for their unique needs.

          I would say our ed system suffers from the path of least resistance around centralization, standardization and regimentation that worked for a control model in the 19th and 20th century, but is keeping it from evolving in the 21st.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 11:37:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Define "we". If you mean "We 1 percenters", (0+ / 0-)

      then absolutely. America's 1% doesn't want to spend one nickel of their treasure hoard educating 'those kinds of people'. They'd much rather build more prisons.

      •  Horace Mann was part of the 1%... (0+ / 0-)

        and I think he and fellow elite folks had a vested interest, worth paying for, in maintaining the primacy of Protestant values and elite control of the political process through compulsory standardized public schools.  I would think their would be some sort of comparable stake today.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles

        by leftyparent on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 11:41:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Back then even the wealthy had to rub shoulders... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          with the great unwashed; everyone travelled by train, and the need to employ the 99% in one's factories was obvious.

          Today's 1%-ers just move piles of money around electronically. They could do that from the moon. They feel no connection whatsoever with the rest of us.

          •  You may be right!... (0+ / 0-)

            The pools of workers and growing markets these days are in other parts of the world.  What happens to U.S. workers and consumers may not be as significant as it once was.

            But we still are voters so they cannot distance themselves completely!

            Cooper Zale Los Angeles

            by leftyparent on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 01:21:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  An informed population not only will (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, entlord

    vote for their best interests but are less likely to be conned by deceptive advertising.

    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 05:16:05 AM PDT

    •  I think informed is not enough... (0+ / 0-)

      Our current education system is all about informing kids in a huge edifice of standardized curriculum.  The problem is IMO that the system is set up for a path of least resistance where they should passively absorb that information while sitting quietly at their desks.  

      It is not about Dewey's vision of helping them become active citizens in a vibrant democratic country.  That would take a completely different approach to education than the overly standardized, regimented approach controlled from the top that we have had for the past 180 years.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:17:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Community Spotlight worthy (4+ / 0-)

    Good luck.

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 05:20:51 AM PDT

  •  Interesting read. Tip'd. nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh, Alexandra Lynch

    Obama: The old economy was his fault, the new economy is his fault, and the European economy is probably his fault. The man just can't win.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 05:52:09 AM PDT

  •  this "tiering" is nowhere as obvious as (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandra Lynch, FloridaSNMOM

    in law schools, where we annually turn out far more attorneys than the market needs and where market forces really do not operate as law schools basically can charge whatever they please and the federal government will make funds available to students with no limit on tuition costs.

    So we have about 1/3 of all law grads able to find appropriate employment in their field.  Another 1/3 can piece together some part time gigs or else some freelance work so they at least have some work.  The other 1/3 has to find employment outside their field.

    Problem is that most law school grads have six figure debts and except for the lucky 1/3 (who generally graduate from the "right schools" and have parents with connections and juice) these debts are unlikely to be paid off in a timely fashion and cannot be discharged by bankruptcy.  Worse, for some, the rates are just short of usury.

    Yet I understand all law schools, even the worse, have waiting lists

    •  Not really much market about it if funding from (3+ / 0-)

      the fed is there, wouldn't you say?

      Otherwise (supposedly) the market would work after kids in undergrad wise up to their actual job prospects.

      Obama: The old economy was his fault, the new economy is his fault, and the European economy is probably his fault. The man just can't win.

      by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 05:55:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I forgot to mention that LGM blog has a great (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Alexandra Lynch

        deal on the economics of law school and why law school is just not a vocational choice any more as the limited demand for lawyers is filled by the scions of the privileged

        •  "Who you know" is as important when getting (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Alexandra Lynch, FloridaSNMOM

          opportunities to do anything money-making (if you suck you still won't make it, but the opportunities are there) as the best graduate degree available. Unfortunately.

          Obama: The old economy was his fault, the new economy is his fault, and the European economy is probably his fault. The man just can't win.

          by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:27:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  if you suck you won't make it? (0+ / 0-)

            then explain Jonah Goldberg among a host of other professional wingers

            •  If Jonah Goldberg didn't help sell whatever (0+ / 0-)

              medium he was writing for, he wouldn't have a job.

              Our opinion of the quality of his work notwithstanding. Hell, until the Avengers came along Titanic and Avatar were the big ones, and man did they SUCK.

              Obama: The old economy was his fault, the new economy is his fault, and the European economy is probably his fault. The man just can't win.

              by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:45:00 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Jonah Goldberg is a child of elites (0+ / 0-)

              with connections.

              If he was Jonah Goldberg from Podunk, graduate of Wasteland Community College, no one would publish his work.

              The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

              by raboof on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 09:49:50 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  all public, private and for profit schools (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Should publish one page summaries on the financial outcomes of their graduates, and students should be required to sign acknowledgement with their applications, tuition payments and with any eduction loan application.

        The content of the above summary should be specified by the Dept of Education

        I suspect a significant share of students are not aware of the economics of their educational decisions are likely to be.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:54:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And let's have the same thing for high schools. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nextstep, reconnected, FloridaSNMOM

          Every high school that urges its students to go to college, every cheery "everyone can go!" line, should be backed up with stats on how many of that school's students not only started college but got jobs that enabled them to pay off the debt they are encouraged to incur.

          Current, easily accessible info. If there's a poster promoting college, there should be one right next to it explaining what it costs. Not the "over a lifetime" crap based on old data and generalities. But real information about how much debt a student from this school should expect to have when they graduate from college and how and how long they are going to be paying it off.

          Poster 1: Everyone can go!

          Required companion poster: If you graduate from this high school, qualify for the usual state scholarships/grants, federal grants, and aid directly from the college, expect to have a student job and expect to have X amount of debt by the end of 4 years in a state college or Y amount of debt if you graduate from a private college. Some of this will be in the form of federal loans at $5500 a year at X% interest rate and that will amount to $X a month in loan payments. Private loans are an additional cost to consider. The average state college student graduating from a state college in 2011 will have a monthly loan payment of $whatever it is -- $200, $300, $500, and higher, for X number of years.

          I think, really, none of the schools have a clue and are just blindly pushing the students along in the hope that things will be better in the future.

        •  You need more than a degree to be successful (0+ / 0-)

          and you can be successful without a degree.

          Please tell me you're not one of those folks that think a college degree is the gateway to experience needed, no hard work needed, no references needed, etc.

          I'd be more concerned with Bloomberg's ban except most jerks in the restaurant industry fill the cups with 20oz of ice before putting in the soda anyway.

          by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 09:34:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Agreed that degrees don't assure success nor is it (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FloridaSNMOM, Linda Wood

            required for success.  The real world is one of probabilities not assured outcomes.  This means that some decisions have very high risk of failure, but some will have success taking the same risk.

            However, having data when making important decisions is critical, especially when people are vulnerable to unrealistic and uninformed expectations.  The person makes the decision, not the one page form.

            The cost of going to college for 4 years is not just the cost of tuition and books, it also includes the 4 years of income working that were lost.  At the same time the degree can have benefits beyond the financial.

            A person may quite rationally decide to enter a field where the cost of education is significantly greater than the likely financial value of the education - because that is what she really wanted to do.  Making that decision fully aware of the situation when entering the education program is far better than discovering that was the case 4 years after graduation, working in a job that did not require a high school degree while paying off high debt from an education loan.

            The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

            by nextstep on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 10:00:07 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I totally get where you're coming from. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I lean toward the fed or states taking the lead on this vs asking the colleges that are already too expensive to spend more money and time on it, and frankly I think there would be a bit if a mistrust factor involved because obviously a poor outlook will mean less $$$ for them. There's always but I think at worst it should be much more publicized.

              I'd be more concerned with Bloomberg's ban except most jerks in the restaurant industry fill the cups with 20oz of ice before putting in the soda anyway.

              by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 10:58:12 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Mortgage banks do it. (0+ / 0-)

                If I want a mortgage, I can go to the website of a mortgage bank and put in certain info, total loan, down payment, interest rate, length of loan and get a monthly payment figure. I can adjust these and figure out what I can afford.

                Colleges have some info on their websites but it is not nearly as helpful and clear.

                •  I don't think we're talking about the same thing. (0+ / 0-)

                  I don't think banks publish the financial outcomes of people that get home loans from them.

                  I'd be more concerned with Bloomberg's ban except most jerks in the restaurant industry fill the cups with 20oz of ice before putting in the soda anyway.

                  by GoGoGoEverton on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 11:38:19 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  They publish part (0+ / 0-)

                    of what is needed. Their worksheets get you an actual answer about how much the loan will cost every month, for how long, long before you decide which house you can afford. I'm just suggesting colleges, and high schools, could do something useful along the same lines.

    •  I think the whole growing "college industry"... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM, Nance

      is a boondoggle and scandal in the making, particularly the for-profit colleges.  But IMO we all share the blame for over-hyping formal education, particularly college and then also pushing kids to enter college immediately after completing high school, before many have a sense of the adult world and what they want to do within it.

      IMO it is another symptom of this standardization and regimentation that had turned education into one big easy market for big business.  Over the past 100 years we have become a nation that consumes education provided by the major business players in the "education-industrial complex".

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:25:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is a really excellent analysis. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My father took physics and ran track.
    I took Latin and played in the orchestra.
    My son took "War" and is in ROTC.

    There's a VERY strong push to track the lower class kids into military service. And it's not that I disagree with service per se (I'd like to see a universal service requirement, to be served either in the military or in other ways), I just disagree with my son being raised to be cannon fodder.

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:33:25 AM PDT

  •  Three tiers, of course, is simplistic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I tipped and rec'd, but I do want to point out that the three tier categorization is very simplistic. We still have a few truly middle class areas that are somewhere between the second and third tiers. Also, I teach in a public school that is pretty much Tier One.

    "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

    by Reino on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 06:41:15 AM PDT

    •  Tier one in terms of access to power... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and connection with other rich and powerful people?

      Say more about that, because that would be an interesting exception, if you would care to elaborate!

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles

      by leftyparent on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 07:31:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Very Wealthy Area (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Who attends our school is determined only by where you live, but it is a very wealthy area. The average home value is over a million dollars, and just growing up in the area gives you exposure to CEOs, heirs, and people with a lot of influence.

        Our alums include a W Bush Cabinet member, a formerly very high ranking member of the Obama Administration, a current Senator, two current US Representatives, and plenty of people whose names you would recognize. It's a large school that graduates about 1000 people each year.

        "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

        by Reino on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 08:42:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here in Los Angeles I think it is rare... (0+ / 0-)

          that a rich person, even a progressive rich person, would send their kids to public schools.

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles

          by leftyparent on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 11:44:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It Depends Where (0+ / 0-)

            I don't know that area well, but I'm guessing that North Hollywood, Arcadia, and/or Whitney High Schools have some wealthy students.

            "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

            by Reino on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 02:14:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this wonderful analysis (0+ / 0-)

    and for the historical information. The Three Tiered system was definitely in place during my public education in the form of a tracking system based on neighborhood, meaning income, designed to place higher income students into college prep classes, middle income kids into skilled trades, and lower income students into low income jobs. It was no secret. It was effective for the forces who profited from it. I agree with you and John Gatto that we're still confronted with the stubborn work of the most powerful interests in this country to perpetuate this state of affairs.

    But I am one of the progressives you mention who would resonate with the call for nationwide standards. I think some of us got this way because the assumption that states and districts would of course provide the basics for all U.S. children, the basics of reading, math and civics, has come under scrutiny. I think we've come to calling for standards because, nationwide, districts have bought into questionable curricula that have left huge numbers of American kids undereducated and therefore unable to acquire sustainable, livable, or meaningful work.

    Parents know how this is going. They know how well their children are doing relative to their own experience a generation earlier, or even relative to their own parents' generation, in terms of the ability to read and do math, or in terms of their basic knowledge of history. The concern about the quality of education is not coming solely from conservative think tanks, though those tanks are profiting from the concern. But initially the misgivings and alarm have come from parents seeing their children struggling to read or do basic computation or exhibiting a lack of knowledge about foundational information.

    I am a progressive who believes strongly in the importance of art and science in education, and of course I want each teacher to bring his or her personal talent and inspiration to children's lives. But accountability is not unreasonable. Districts should be held accountable more than teachers, I think, if they buy into flawed teaching methods. If district administrators bring in specialists who sell them on programs that train teachers to mislead children or obstruct their right to achieve strong skills, I think those administrators and specialists should be held accountable. And I also think teachers should stand up in defiance to questionable teaching practices, though I know a lot of pressure can be applied to teachers in such situations.

    Thank you again for this great diary and for all the work you do to bring these issues to our attention.

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