Thursday, May 23, 2013

Paul Horton: Will Career Teachers Be Crowded Out by Corporate Reform? (repost)

Repost from NPE News Brief:

Paul Horton: Will Career Teachers Be Crowded Out by Corporate Reform? – Living in Dialogue – Education Week

Guest post by Paul Horton in Anthony Cody’s Living in Dialogue Blog –
The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history. – Orwell

I can still remember my Econ 101 Professor define “the Crowding Out Effect.” He told us in his endearing urbane twang that the “crowding out effect” prevented long term economic recovery from a recession when too much public investment did not allow private investment to rekindle economic growth. Probably the last LBJ Keynesian at a major Texas university, he defended high levels of public spending during recessions. He was endearingly folksy, someone who knew how to tell stories about New Deal price supports in historical and ethical contexts.

Lately, however, the phrase “crowding out effect” has begun to take on a different meaning for me. I am one of the dwindling breed of early seventies idealists who entered the teaching profession before teacher’s unions had any clout, when one who chose to teach had to work one or two extra jobs to pay for auto insurance, a room, and food.
Many teachers who have put in at least thirty years feel as though we have made real sacrifices to remain teachers. My Econ 101 professor would call this an opportunity cost.

We thought it was honorable to sacrifice the income potential that a more lucrative profession would afford us. We paid our dues, and apprenticed under master teachers. On the home front, many of us had second thoughts about the virtues of sacrifice and honor when we realized how expensive raising children could be. At least if we were poor, we could think highly of ourselves.

My how things have changed! Most of us cannot believe what is happening to our profession now.

Now we feel “crowded out” by a national corporate education reform agenda that has no place for creativity or craftsmanship. Many of our educational leaders at the U.S. Department of Education, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Students First who have spent very little time in the classroom, claim to know everything that is best for Education. Because they have a lot of money to throw around, media outlets give them every opportunity to voice their agenda. No one in power stops to ask us anything about what we know: we have become superfluous, dead branches of a dying tree that must be pruned back by people who don’t know much about trees.

These leaders and others like them (both Democratic and Republican) embrace the “rational choice theory” of education. They are dismantling a once proud public education system, practically giving it away to private investors and education corporations who push multiple choice tests, computerized essay grading, and digitalized instruction. These leaders want to scale-up charter and virtual schools and to reduce the costs of public education by busting unions. They are rapidly replacing the curricular choices made by experienced, master teachers with efficiency rhetoric, scaling metrics, and time and motion studies. In short, they are turning schools into high-tech assembly lines.

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