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Publication Date: 2011-07-20

This is from For Public Schools blog on Wikispaces. I have posted just the beginning. The writer offers provocative speculation about what those who claim to be working on the achievement gap are really up to.

The idea of working to close the so-called “achievement gap” in education is very similar to the concept of “greenwash” in environmentalism.

Greenwash is the term used to refer to propaganda deliberately used by polluters to cover up what they are really doing. A typical example would be the plant-a-tree days that are funded by big oil and auto companies. Obviously, no amount of tree planting will ever undo their damage, yet the public relations people know that greenwash is a great way to protect their profits from costly calls for more government regulation: it distracts people from real causes. It encourages people to “take personal responsibility” rather than blame corporations who are made to look like leaders of environmentalism.

Similarly, when we look at education, we find that its new mission around the globe has, ever since NCLB, become “closing the achievement gap,” that is, leaving no child left behind. I call this “gapwash” because it covers up the real problem of the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, a gap which was caused by globalization and technology which together have dealt a death blow to the “decent jobs” of yesteryear’s working class and given rise a new super-class of billionaires. “Closing the gap” gives educators a feel- good mission of raising test scores and graduation rates as it preserves the illusion that they are actually doing something to raise children out of poverty. Because, as many scientific studies have conclusively demonstrated, poverty will always be the single greatest cause of failure at school (and wealth not surprisingly predicts success), there is never any danger of the gap actually being closed. It is the perfect War on Terror for education. If it were actually possible to close some kind of achievement gap (and the sheer range in incomes and intelligences guarantees that it is not), the fact that it could never bring back the jobs that were exported to places that lack labour rights would become all too obvious.

Just as with greenwash, the real cause can never be addressed, but moreover, the “wash” distracts and diverts all energy into the busywork of what should be called “Stupid Goals” (referred to in today’s highly commercialized education lingo as “Smart Goals”): raising math and literacy scores or pass rates with the aid of all manner of commercial pedagogy (e.g. test strategy enhancement and/or systematic cheating as seen in recently in Atlanta), creative grade accounting (such as the various forms of “credit recovery”), and political manipulation (as seen most notably in New York under billionaire mayor Bloomberg). . .

Keep reading here.

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