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Racing to College

by Susan Ohanian

Joanne Weiss is former Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education, shepherding Race to the Top for Arne Duncan. Weiss brought to this job a record in investment strategy and management assistance that includes a portfolio of investment ventures at the New Schools Venture Fund, where she also led the organization's research agenda and oversaw operations. Steven Brill pronounced her resume as perfect for Race to the Top.

He was right.

Now head of her own consulting firm, she lists these clients: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Commission of the States,Harvard Graduate School of Education (where she's Expert in Residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-Lab) through a partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Education), NewSchools Venture Fund,Owl Ventures, Rodel Foundation of Delaware, The New Teacher Project (TNTP).

All this is in introduction of Weiss' Twitter pronouncement that the regrettable New York Times Is Your 1st Grader College Ready? piece is "a cute article to start your weekend off right."

The article, accompanied by a video, made me grind my teeth.

Six-year-olds only get one chance to be six-years-old. Giving them a crash course on college isn't cute. One little girl expressed concern that college might cost too much for her to pay for it and be able to buy lunch.

I share the concern of Marcy Guddemi, executive director of the Gesell Institute of Child Development: "We are robbing children of childhood by talking about college and career so early in life." She also pointed out how inappropriate this subject matter is: "You may as well be talking about Mars. It's totally meaningless."

The folks who gave us Race to the Top are now giving us Race to College. Fortunately, a lot of New York Times readers aren't buying it. Here's a reader comment:

I'm the head of a private school in Manhattan and I think these people have lost their minds.

Unfortunately, others think they is just what poor kids need.

Poor kids are supposed to forgo being children and take on adult lessons. Meanwhile, rich kids get a very different message.

A month ago, the New York Times featured an obscene story about spa birthday parties where seven-year-olds get makeovers.

And the Wall Street Journal offered a feature on the $200,000 princess bedroom.

While some kids worry about how they would pay for college and lunch, other kids are getting facials and sleeping in those princess bedrooms.

Recommended Reading: Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America by Bob Herbert. Herbert offers gut-wrenching stories of Americans struggling to a survive in a nation that has become obscenely unjust. After writing his last op-ed column in The New York Times in 2011, Herbert traveled the country talking with people being left behind in an economy that's ruled by a corporate elite.

The New York Times offers articles echoing the White House "college for all" as the salvation. Herbert's call to arms shows that college hasn't saved people from the devastating effects of corporate greed and that we need to confront a politically and morally corrupt system.

— Susan Ohanian




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