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Deafening Silence

Ohanian Note: The message, below, and a study Ending Nebraska's Achievement Gap went out to the 264 faculty members of the 16 teacher training programs that operate in Nebraska.

The "study" was produced by a free market think tank. The author is a senior fellow and director of the Women for School Choice Project at the Independent Women's Forum in Washington, D.C., and a research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California.

This is posted, not to highlight one more dubious study, but to highlight Rob Bligh's question to Nebraska academics : Why is there no one among you who responds publicly and professionally to the nonsense that is presented by ignorant politicians, disingenuous pundits and politically motivated "think" tanks on the subject of "school reform?"

This academic silence blankets the entire country. Blogging and Tweeting to those of like mind just doesn't cut the mustard. Yes, there are a few books by dissidents analyzing the political discourse, but measure this meager output against the fact that there are 264 faculty members at the 16 teacher training programs--just in Nebraska.

  • Where are the academic papers?

  • Where are the letters to editor?

  • Where's the call for revolution?

  • From: Rob Bligh
    Date: Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 12:25 PM
    Subject: Deafening Silence

    Dear Nebraska Teacher Trainers,

    You will find attached to this message a copy of a "policy report" issued yesterday by an organization called "The Platte Institute." Every faculty member employed by every one of the 16 collegiate teacher training programs that operate in Nebraska should read it.

    It is the latest effort to promote the privatization of K-12 education in Nebraska in the name of "school reform." This report -- like those that have preceded it -- is filled with senseless analysis and silly arguments. The "school reform" proposals that such reports favor have failed everywhere they have been tried -- especially during the last 13 years.

    I have one question for every faculty member in every collegiate teacher training program in Nebraska: Why is there no one among you who responds publicly and professionally to the nonsense that is presented by ignorant politicians, disingenuous pundits and politically motivated "think" tanks on the subject of "school reform?"

    I think that I understand the political malice that guides the Republicans in supporting "school reform." The teacher unions have been very effective supporters of Democratic Party candidates for decades. Republicans feel that teachers have earned Republican ire.

    I think that I understand the political correctness that guides the Democrats in supporting "school reform." Democrats feel obliged to blame the schools because they simply cannot bring themselves to admit publicly that most of the children who fail academically live in inadequate households.

    I think that I understand the arrogant ignorance that guides people like Microsoft's Bill Gates and his fellow billionaires who support "school reform." They think that their financial success marks them as possessors of great wisdom rather than as the beneficiaries of a combination of very hard work and very good luck. Their biggest error is that they think of students as the customers of education rather than what they really are: the raw material.

    I certainly understand the avarice that guides the scheming promoters who seek to get their slimy fingers on as much public public education money as they can get away with. Their most lucrative schemes include selling "consulting" services for the adoption of worthless reforms, the operation of charter schools -- that succeed only to the extent that they exclude students who fail -- and the sale of tests that measure little of importance to the formal education of America's children. In the 19th century, these people would have gone from town to town in painted wagons selling cure-all potions, magic elixirs and bottles of snake oil to the gullible. The products have changed, but the fraud remains intact.

    What I do not understand is the deafening silence of nearly all of the teacher training faculty employed by our colleges and universities. Academics are supposed to be the source of truth and wisdom on this topic. Instead, they are allowing their graduates to be roasted slowly over a flame of lies and they are doing nothing about it. Do the professors of education think that they will escape to early retirement before the reform troopers come for them? Rev. Martin Niem├ââ├é┬Âller lost a similar bet.

    For 40 years I have suspected that we ask K-12 schools to be responsible for matters that are far beyond the reach of classroom pedagogy. We foolishly expect schools to repair the developmental damage that is inflicted on those innocent children who are consigned by accidents of birth to live in households that are unfit for effective child development.

    The common judgment of the power of pedagogy is wrong. The idea that formal education can be an effective substitute for a healthy nurturing family is nonsense. Children spend more than 91 percent of childhood someplace other than school. Every child lives 50,000 hours between biological conception and the first day of kindergarten and thereafter spends less than 14,000 hours in a K-12 classroom. When those first 50,000 hours are spent in a chaotic and otherwise inadequate household, the 14,000 hours of subsequent pedagogy that follow tend strongly to produce little benefit.

    Expecting formal education to repair the developmental damage inflicted upon children by preschool life in inadequate households has been a uniform and universal failure since it began to become politically popular in 1965. Children who fail academically do not need better teachers or better schools. They need better childhoods.

    I have repeatedly asked if any Nebraska teacher training faculty member has published any academic article that deals with the political nonsense that is produced in support of "school reform." So far, I have asked in vain. I am still asking. Perhaps some of you will provide a different answer.

    Rob Bligh

    — Rob Bligh
    letter to 264 faculty members




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