Wisconsin may have dodged the bullet of privatizers in our State Superintendent election, but at the national level the for profit, not the public crowd are going forth with guns blazing. President Obama, Arne Duncan and their crew are showing themselves to be, in the words of Diane Ravitch, “Margaret Spellings in Drag.”
Their latest hire fits the profile. Education Week is reporting and the the Department of Education site confirms the Broad trained, former edu-preneur with LearnNow, most recently Bill “Money Talks” Gates bag man, James Shelton III (scroll here for a bio) is the new head of the Office of Innovation and Improvement.
In history, one school of thought holds that industrialists and capitalists came to welcome expanded government when they realized they could “capture” the boards and departments and use them for their own ends. Think of the fox guarding the hen house. The Obama crew are not liberators, just a changing of the guard.
As Deborah Meir recently wrote about the mindset that is at work in the corridors of power:
Some combination of Harvard and Wall Street smarts are seen as all-purpose disinterested expertise, fit for any purpose. The master key. While disregard of educators has a long history, and demonizing of teacher organizations is hardly new, it has reached new heights. A mere 20 years ago one could not imagine school systems would be run by people who never practiced or studied schooling or education. The assumption that “smarts” based on hands-on knowledge is valuable has lost its historic place in our view of reality. Law and business and finance smarts have ruled the day for this generation. At a cost. And not just in schools….
Our schools and our economy—and, above all, our democracy—require us to restore the balance.
The Obama permanent campaign will be holding listening sessions in Wisconsin. It might be worth trying to get in a good word for public education by and for the people, not profit.
Thomas J. Mertz