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School reform: Its all about control of curriculum and profits

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I have no idea why anyone believes anything out of a Conservatives mouth. For over thirty years the model they have used to undermine everything from Democracy itself to education has been to create a phony crisis for which the solution is to turn everything over to private investors and they tell us all will be well.

The only problem is that everything always has a habit of getting worse in this Americanization of Britain's Enclosure Acts from the 17th and 18th century. We now have the most expensive yet worst performing health care system in the world and the Affordable Care Act is more hype than reality and still leaves a privatized medical system in place. Our private funding for public office thanks to Citizens United and McCutcheon has done little more than create a legal system of bribery and corruption on an unprecedented scale. And after a multitude of assaults on wages and benefits, America now looks more like a Banana Republic when it comes to income inequality coupled with secretive and suicidal trade deals like the original NAFTA that make the American Dream largely a myth for many families.

The latest focus of attention has been that bastion of democracy the public school system. Never has a president more naively and stupidly just accepted the phony corporate pablum in pursuit of profits than Barack Obama. His Race to the Top initiative actually amounts to a race to the basement because little of the school reform movement is directed at the quality of the education of America's school age children.

His Education Secretary needs to be investigated for his collusion with Billionaire Bill Gates in creating and marketing Gates Common Core State Curriculum Standards. The problem is not with Common Core itself but the anti-democratic way it was done with representatives of the testing industry drawing up the state standards with virtually no input from teachers themselves let alone parents and then sold without testing to every state in the union.

There are no real heroes in this battle for control of who teaches and what is taught as well as billions of dollars of funding. The teachers unions have become so ossified that they seem to be fighting for the right to control who teaches when what is needed is a flexible activist grass roots teachers union fighting for the rights of the local public schools to control their own future and that one school curriculum does not fit all as you see in places like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle with the standardized testing boycotts.

Teaching is both an art and a science but the teachers unions seem stuck on creating process which is akin to taking a Van Gogh or a Monet and trying to turn it into a paint by number project. There is no cookbook of teaching methods that can possibly work because as we know from Gardner's multiple learning styles there are at my last count at least 8 different ways children learn, thus the same teacher must utilize 8 different ways of teaching all in the same class.

The school reformers would like you to believe that Paint by Numbers is a Van Gogh or a Monet. What gives their profit motive away when they create the phony straw man of incompetent teachers, is who they remove. Invariably once tenure and due process requirements are broken in the courts by ideologues making legal decisions based on ideology not legal precedent, those let go are mostly teachers with years of experience and many with at least one advanced degree who would be due higher salaries. The replacement is often Teach for America's low wage model of teacher who has five weeks of training as a teacher not years of training.

The low wage low job skill teacher model is who Common Core is really directed at. Common Core is really just a cookie cutter curriculum that provides a teaching template for those who have never been given the skills to create lesson plans and to utilize differential instruction for different learning styles in a classroom.

When listening to the incompetent teacher schtick remember that teachers are more heavily vetted for competence than any other profession. You must complete at least four years of undergraduate training, many have advanced degrees, then you have student teaching, many school systems have a mentor for new teachers just starting out, and you have Praxis I and II tests measuring core subject knowledge and knowledge of teaching methods as well as teacher certification by each school district. If corporate CEO's underwent the rigorous process teachers do most would be flipping burgers.

There are no accurate models for what constitutes incompetent teaching because it is little more than an emotional con job. Thee are teachers whose style you may not like but not very many truly incompetent teachers.

What is happening to education will ultimately give us an expensive privatized system, with segregated schools, and massive costs that will yield poor performance based on standardized tests that lack cultural competence. We will have allowed the Right to destroy part of the foundation of American democracy for nothing more noble than individual profit. The result will be a dumbing down of America to accept poor wages and poor quality jobs while sharing no political access or power. But then that has been the goal of the Reagan Revolution from its inception.

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