We need to fix the economy to fix education
Sirota is a little late to the fight if he thinks opposition to corporate-politico education policy "seems to be emerging." Plight of public schools doesn't make David Sirota's list of 10 things more important than Weinergate--written just 4 days before this column.
I would point out that this website was set up nine years ago. I would direct you to Gerald Bracey's books, to Stephen Krashen's research, and so on and so on.
All that said, welcome to the fight, David Sirota. We can hope your involvement is more than an occasional thing.
By David Sirota
In the intensifying debate over the future of education, two camps seem to be emerging. On one side, there are people like New York University professor/former Deputy U.S. Education Secretary Diane Ravitch who argue that larger social ills such as poverty, joblessness, economic despair and lack of health coverage negatively affect educational achievement, and that until those problems are addressed, schools will never be able to produce the results we want. On the other side, there are so-called "reformers" who want to radically change (read: charterize and/or privatize) public education under the premise that the primary problems are bad/lazy teachers and "unaccountable" school administrators (to hear a debate between Ravitch and self-described "reformer" Jon Alter, listen to this podcast from my KKZN-AM760 radio show).
For her work marshaling hard facts and empirical data against corporate-backed "reformers" who rely largely on substance-free rhetoric and platitudes, Ravitch has been named this year's winner of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize -- so clearly, she's holding her own, even as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is launching a desperate PR campaign to make her Public Enemy #1. But just in case she needed any help making her argument about poverty and education, the National Bureau of Economic Research has published The Great Education Myth -- the wrongheaded idea that if we just fix our schools, all of our other social problems will miraculously disappear.
This myth is a favorite of politicians and their super-rich campaign donors because it creates a scapegoat (schools/teachers/teachers unions) that distracts attention from the economic policies that are really harming our society -- policies like job-killing trade deals, bank deregulation and revenue-draining top-bracket tax cuts that the political/economic elite have a financial stake in preserving. Rather than open up debates about those neoliberal economic policies, these politicians and their donors spend lots of political capital and money labeling themselves "education reformers" and manufacturing an Orwellian discourse that demonizes public education as the root of all our problems. And it's no coincidence that the leading self-described "education reformers" are the politicians who rely most heavily on corporate campaign contributions and the business elites who have so handsomely profited from the economic status quo -- after all, they are the ones who have the most to lose from a public debate about neoliberal economic policy, and, thus, the most to gain from The Great Education Myth.
But while the political world can be dominated by such spin and propaganda, the data is clear. Until we fix the economy -- and specifically, the policies that have destroyed the economy -- we probably will not get the education results we all want.
David Sirota is a best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com. More: David Sirota