I read a diary about Eli Broad and his influence, and I begin writing. I start with what I think will be a brief comment. It quickly becomes clear that I have too many words.
What follows is something of a screed. I acknowledge it. I am making it diary in the hopes that it reaches a somewhat larger audience, although to what end I truly do not know, beyond the fact that I am about to burst.
I am not a fan of the Eli Broads of the world. It has nothing to do with how he made his money (which includes AIG), but how he is bullying this nation on matters educational because he has so much. IF we have not learned from the economic crisis the folly of allowing big money actors to dictate terms to the rest of us, then surely we are lost.
I invite you to keep reading.
his core of superintendents. I know what that produces, as our immediate past head of school system, John Deasy, was a product, as apparently was the man he brought into the system who appears set to replace him, Bill Hite.
Deasy left to go to the Gates Foundation. And Gates and Broad are co-funders of a lot of endeavors. At the school building level, there is the New Leaders for New Schools program of developing principals in one year. Like the superintendent's academy, everything is supposedly data driven. Which if the data were (a) complete; (b) an accurate representation of what is really happening in the schools; would not be totally destructive. Neither statement is quite true, which means decisions get made on inaccurate and incomplete information, which IS destructive, most especially of the long-term learning of the schools.
Broad presents himself as committed to public education. The press ought to realize that he is committed to HIS VIEW on what public education ought to be, a view which lacks any resource basis, and the model for which has so far been shown not to work as he claims it will. In short, because he is rich he thinks his should be if not the only voice, the loudest voice on matters educational. And because of the money he has been willing to spend, he has been driving the debate, when others who lack those resources are excluded from the discussion - not only are they not at the table when decisions are being made, they are not even in the building.
Gates at least acknowledged that his major individual effort, the small schools initiative, failed to produce the results he had predicted,and his foundation is somewhat retooling what they are doing.
Money matters. For all the Erik Hanusheks who try to argue that the money spent on schools does not matter, consider this - Broad and Gates and the Waltons and others, knowing that it does, use money as a carrot and a bludgeon to get schools to jump as high as they want in a direction that often has little to do with real educational value.
I have to get dressed, go to school and teach. I am in my 14th year on the ground, in the classroom. I read about people dabbling in educational policy, and have to shake my head at how unrealistic some of what they propose actually is. I have been writing about these issues hear for the past 5 years. I have run panels at conventions. I write op eds, letters to editors. I lobby on Capitol Hill.
But I do not have a billion dollar foundation. When Gates and Broad put up 60 million, hire Roy Romer, and attempt to drive the discussions on education during the election, they will draw more attention than anything I can hope to accomplish.
And when Obama is giving a speech on education and Duncan's department does not notify the educational press and reporters so that the coverage is mainly political reporters lacking even the minimal understanding of some of the education reporters (a few are very good, but many do not stay on the beat long enough to develop expertise and understanding), the entire discussion is shaped purely in political terms, in the same repetitive talking points that we see on editorial pages such as that of the Washington Post, where the writers do not truly understand education.
I have been thinking about a panel on the Obama education efforts. I wonder if the damage that will have been done by August will be so great that I should simply forget it. I wonder if it will even be worthwhile returning to my classroom for another year.
I am frustrated. This began as a comment on another diary. I am throwing it up as an independent diary. Consider it a cri de coeur. I know mine is not the only such voice, but no one seems to be listening.
And if teachers like me decide it is no longer worth it to butt our heads against a system being pushed in the wrong direction especially by people like Broad, then God help our schools, our students, and our country.