When I first read “The quote that reveals how at least one corporate school reformer really views students” on Valerie Strauss’ blog The Answer Sheet a few days ago, I was outraged. I immediately contacted my TRUTH partner, Angela, and told her that my blood was boiling and that I was not sure how to proceed. Originally, I thought we should attack the post using Angela’s parent perspective – and, we still may. But, I had to respond first, because I couldn’t forget about the quotation that got me so riled up in the first place:
“The business community is the consumer of the educational product. Students are the educational product. They are going through the education system so that they can be an attractive product for business to consume and hire as a workforce in the future.”
Before I get accused of taking them out of context, I want you to see the words. Please, read them a few times. If you were students in my classroom, I’d ask you to highlight the key words to help you summarize the quotation. Then, I’d ask you to “peel the onion” and get to the heart of the author’s words. Can you summarize it in a short statement? I can: “Corporate ed reformers are using our children (from the time they hit kindergarten) as pawns in a moneymaking scheme.” Put even more simply: “Kids can make businesses wealthy if ed reformers complete the takeover of America’s public schools.”
Now, for the context. Ohio House Bill 597 seeks to repeal the adoption of the Common Core Standards, and business executives were testifying, beginning the week of August 25, in support of the Common Core. Among business organizations supporting the Common Core are the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce and Chris Kershner, who is “with the chamber.” The sickening statement above is attributed to Kershner. The quotation first appeared in a WOSU News report, and Strauss’ blog post is a scathing review of Kershner and other business-minded individuals who are trying to privatize education and eliminate public schools in this country forever. Strauss ends her post with these words:
“And there you have it. Education isn’t so much about exploration of the world or learning how to be a knowledgeable citizen who can participate in American democracy, but rather to serve the economy. If you didn’t know before, now you do.”
I agree with Strauss 100%. That’s her summary statement not just of Kershner’s words but of education reform as a whole. All of the reasons that education in this country is important – building better citizens, fostering curiosity and empathy and citizenship, encouraging and praising, guiding and nurturing – become moot points for the ed reformers who see education as the final frontier in mass marketing. Conquer the public school system and get pockets lined with gold.
Teachers have seen the writing on the wall for years. The ed reformers come after our unions, our seniority, our tenure, our pensions, our evaluations, our autonomy, our voices… They want to take the teachers who talk about “our kids” out of the equation because they want robots and technology to further their business model. They want to remove our experienced ranks because they know that we always try to do what’s right for kids, even if it means defying directives from administrators and hiding the test-prep materials in a closet to make room for the materials we know will engage and inspire learners and thinkers in our classrooms instead of result in kids who know all of the hints and tricks for passing the test.
So, if you’re not sure how the companies make money off our students, consider the exponential growth of high-stakes testing in this country over the past few years. Companies like Pearson and ETS, two national private testing companies, are contracted to create the new Ohio tests as well as those for 12 other states, according to the WOSU News report.
But, those are just the tests. Pearson also, quite conveniently, offers materials and curriculum items to school districts to help prepare students for – you guessed it – the tests they have written. So, states need to provide assessments because the legislators adopt the standards, states pay Pearson to create the assessments, and districts pay Pearson to provide materials to help their students pass the (Pearson) assessments. Don’t believe it yet? One educator decided to follow the trail of money and found that it almost always leads to Pearson; one example is Pearson’s enVisionMATH curriculum that it’s peddling to districts as we speak.
People like Kershner have no interest in students. They have no idea what students need or how to get them to learn and thrive. You have to ask yourself why businesses care so damn much about the tests. Well, what do most businesses care about more than anything? Money. Strauss is right. If you didn’t know that ed reform is about money, you cannot deny it now. And, until we can figure out a way to stop the big-business takeover of public education, we need to protect our children from the teachers and school districts that are “selling” them to Pearson and other companies associated with the Common Core in any way.
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