My Prognosis

My prognosis—IF we don’t pull off something big fast.

We will soon have a wave of states joining some form of the voucher business—pure market capitalism in place of public education “as we know it”– funded by we the people.

Amazingly we have witnessed a catastrophic example of the dangers of the free ”market place (2008) and come out of it with more and more PR on behalf of it! And it is selling. And with it a revival of an old definition of democracy itself: “free choice”—untrammeled by political interference. Free choice—two noble words—are a dangerous definition of democracy but it has its individualized appeal in a society where communal and workplace organization has been enormously weakened.

Tell me I’m wrong! Please.

12 Responses

  1. Deb, I wish I could. What I fear from here in Massachusetts is we’re going to see the “charter-ization” of districts the state deems failing. Keep your eye on Holyoke.

  2. Sometimes pain is the only teacher. We the People are about to learn some very painful lessons that we learned — but apparently not indelibly — in 1776 and the 1860s. Who knows if We the People will even survive the lesson this time.

  3. Looking to 2016, my feeling is that we will be offered the choice between a) more of the same from Democrats (Clinton or other), and b) elimination of compulsory education from Republicans. I suspect the Right will argue that some communities do not value or want public education, that the majority population is tired of paying for it, and thus, ‘Fine, if you don’t want to go to school, we’re done.’ I think this was the real goal of NCLB when initially conceived by the Right.

  4. you are 1000% right.the writing is on the wall for us.we better read and take action accordingly.

  5. I think compulsory tax-supported education will continue because that is the cash cow for privateers and pirateers. Here are some scenarios.

    The property tax will vanish in favor of a state formula per child, based on tiers of services that are politically marketable as if “in the public interest,” with the money following the child.

    There will be a reduction in federal spending except to “incent” a constant churn of “distruptive innovations” in the delivery of educational services (e.g., on line, on demand, a pick and choose menu of fare reflecting “national economic priorities”).

    A culture of” buyer-beware-of-quality” will spawn more rating systems for education. Most of these will be driven by ideological preferences and deep pockets. Examples are ratings for teacher education programs (funded by Gates, published in Newsweek) and curriculum materials (funded by Gates, published at Another is on the way for parents.

    We will probably see the growth of other “customer service” intermediaries offering counseling to parents and other caregivers on best value for learning–with some “e-harmony” matchmaking of interests and opportunities (already being pushed in Arizona and other states for college and career matches starting in Kindergarten).

    I think the issue of testing will not be as important insofar as computer-based instruction can be marketed as personalized learning. As the ethos of consumerism becomes “thoroughly naturalized” in education, the very concept of ethical practice is likely to become a faint memory.
    “Thoroughly naturalized” is a phrase from John Dewey.

    Why the loss of interest in testing? With a radical shift of much instruction to computers and online delivery, information-gathering about student performance will be non-stop and also become marketable. For example, give up all privacy for your online activity and get a discount for your online course. In addition, software for the analysis of “big data” will mature and produce comparisons, ratings, anything of political use or economic interest, including more international comparisons.

    At some point there may be rationing of money for education– A cap on the amount that can be spent and justified as best practice or best value (in about the same way that Medicare and Medicaid is now under attack).

    This commentary is not what I wish to see. I wish to see a huge backlash against all of these tendencies, a secure position for place-based education with the ambiences clearly friendly and based on personal relationships that honor the curiosity of students and leverage non-stop learning. Given the population of baby-boomers reaching “maturity,” I would like to see much more cross-generational learning that restores communities and revitalizes the capacity of these social groupings to be engaged in the practice of democracy and pursuit of social justice.

    The futurists have a vision, and it is being sold to tech companies and international groups organized to promote “personalized learning,” meaning do-it-yourself and much of that on-line. The website below will put you in the loop of one of the “futurist” belief tanks. It has enjoyed funding from Gates and others. The current CEO came from Great Britain and the open university program there. I think particants in this and other techy ventures do not thnk very long and hard about the education of children before the age of nine or ten.
    Forecasting the Future of K-12 Teaching: Four Scenarios for a Decade of Disruption Katherine Prince | Senior Director, Strategic Foresight, KnowledgeWorks

    Click to access k12-teaching-scenarios-decade-disruption_1.pdf

  6. I am thinking it is time for all of us to learn that underestimating the American people’s lust for justice and democracy will provide a surprise. I believe this privatization bandwagon is about to deliver political demise to it advocates. Both Democrats and Republicans may be in for a shockingly rapid comeuppance. Already in California barely 40% of registered voters are Democrats and only 28% are Republican.

  7. I wish you were wrong; I wish pain were as good a teacher as Jon believes, and I really really wish “tultican” is not wrong about the engaged resilience of both our people and our institutions. One reason I’m so unhelpfully gloomy is that learning –for us who have lingered here long (on the planet, self included) — doesn’t seem to include deep knowledge of “pulling off something really big”. That’s the citizenship/democracy stuff Tulti has faith in. And yes, what otherwise? Revolutionaries usually make a bloody mess. Smaller-scale stuff is smaller but still beautiful, hope-generating. (E.g. just about everything DM is known for and this site celebrates).

  8. Ok: You’re wrong, Deb! I’m not at all in favor of vouchers, but there is nothing more important than our right to educate our own children as we see fit. Systems that are educational for one child can be incarcerating for another. To remove parental and student choice in schooling and force all children to go to the school of the government’s choice would be the gravest removal of freedom imaginable.

    • You seem to be calling for the elimination of compulsory school laws and all state oversight of education. You seem to view education strictly as a personal matter, between parent and child, with no consequences for others.

      I think that your premise ignores the fact that we must learn to live and play and work together in an increasing diverse society. One of the purposes of the common school was precisely that of getting children into an environment where they would encounter and learn from experiences beyond those carefully moderated by parents wihtout regard for “other people’s children.”

      Perhaps the solution is not vouchers but “user pay the cost” in a free market for education services–all taxes and subsidies for education off the books and policies that allow for-profit education to flourish. Moral values enter into the idea of unregulated freedom of choice, especially in combination with faith in a free markets as the paradigm for and guarantor of democratic values.

      The moral case goes something like this. When parents pay the full cost of education, there is usually greater oversight of the value they receive. Some parents may need to rearrange their priorities in order to pay for education. This encourages responsible parenting, fiscal self-discipline, and with some likelihood that children will be diligent learners. These are some of the moral virtues associated with choice, with home schooling one of the most developed educational paths.

      Myron Lieberman, who advocates total replacement of public schools with profit-centered schools, asserts that “Private schools of the future may foster some of the moral values associated with a religious point of view. This would seem especially likely if government schools are replaced by schools for profit.”

      I find that an amazing and troubling conclusion. For an elaboration on what seems to be your position see E.G. West, Education and the state: A study in political economy, Third edition. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. Lieberman,s introduction. 1994, page xix).

      • Oh you are lucky– a power surge wiped out my long reply. Short reply is that Free Markets = Freedom (i.e., “as the paradigm for and guarantor of democratic values”) is just another religion, abused by both status-quo and purists. For education, whether parent-kid centric or considering socialization at large, it means something we already know: NO ONE BEST WAY. Big headache for policy, but the rest of the discussion starts with: “What is the condition of our democracy and the prospects/terms we could have this discussion on?”

  9. Excellent reply.

  10. Your comments have been disturbing me for days, probably because I cannot tell you that you are wrong. I cannot feel that that you are exaggerating or viewing things from a negative position.
    I want you to be wrong, but we might have passed the opportunity for any positive change. Merely redefining democracy and claiming it as an updated version is blather.
    The USSR claimed until its bitter end that it was the UNION of Soviet Socialist REPUBLICS. The Roman Empire under its emperors continued to rule, coin money, and construct roads and cities with SPQR (the Senate and People of Rome) emblazoned everywhere for centuries.
    Multinational corporate interests will continue the voting process while calling the shots for both major political parties which they openly own and control.

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