Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Great Education Myth

Back in December 2006, David Sirota wrote a piece for Huffington Post entitled "Obama - Power Challenger or Power Appeaser?" in which he noted how then presidential candidate Barack Obama was a purveyer of the "Great Education Myth" - that if we only raise education levels for all Americans, raise test scores, raise graduation rates, etc. we can solve the economic problems so many working, middle and now even affluent Americans are suffering as a result of globalization - problems like outsourcing, wage depression, and health care benefit/pension cuts.

Here's how Sirota put it:

This is one of the most dishonest myths out there, as the government's own data shows that, in fact, all of the major economic indicators are plummeting for college grads. You can make everyone in America a PhD, and all you would have is more unemployed PhD's - it would do almost nothing to address the fact that the very structure of our economy - our tax system, our trade system and our corporate welfare system - is designed to help Big Money interests ship jobs offshore and lower wages/benefits here at home.

Sirota writes that so many politicians, including our current president, traffic in the Great Education Myth because it's easier to blame teachers, teachers unions, schools, and the education system for the economic ills we suffer as a result of globalization rather than take on the true creators of the problem - the Big Money multinational corporations who outsource the jobs, pressure Americans' wages downward, cancel health care/pension benefits and look to have American workers compete with workers in Sri Lanka and Thailand for a race to the bottom of the economic scale while they pay off the politicians in Washington with campaign contributions and cushy post-political jobs to look the other way.

That's exactly what the last administration did with No Child Left Behind and what the current administration is apparently going to do with its education policies. The problems of low wages, outsourcing, lay-offs, falling 401 (k)'s can all be laid at the feet of teachers and the public school system. What we need, the president says, is longer school days, a longer school year, increased testing, and an AIG-type merit pay bonus system for teachers based upon test scores to solve our economic ills (and note too how he gave this education speech to a bunch of business "leaders" at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, further underscoring just how much he and his administration trust the guidance and wisdom of business leaders to take our country out of the current financial mess these self-same business leaders created.)

Of course Obama's belief that "fixing" America's public school system will fix the economic fall-out from globalization is horse#$%^. Here's Sirota again:

This isn't to say that we should underfund America's schools, or that our education system isn't a priority. Of course it is. But it is downright destructive to peddle the idea that paying teachers more or better funding the No Child Left Behind Act will be the major key to solving the problems inherent in a globalization policy that incentivizes slave labor, sweatshops, union busting and environmental degradation. All this Tom Friedman-inspired Great Education Myth does is raise public expectations to unrealistic levels while creating a justification for continuing to sell off our country's core economic policy to K Street lobbyists.

And that's it in a nutshell - divert attention from the real culprits for America's economic problems by blaming teachers, schools and of course teachers unions, all the while propping up the current dying financial system by handing out trillions in bailout money to the financial industry in the form of TARP money, TALF money and ancillary other forms of corporate welfare. But the real problem is not teachers and schools on Main Street, the real problem is the globalization policies in Washington and Wall Street (and let us note how so many "education reformers" are also corporate raiders, con-men, crooks and hedge fund managers - no accident that the people who want to "reform" the system are the same people pillaging it.)

Obama's education policy is just another example of how the "Change You Can Believe In" promises we heard from him during the campaign were nothing but empty slogans - about the only change Obama seems to believe in was a change of his own address.

Meet the new boss, Boss Obama - busy propping up the status quo of a globalized corporate world where wages are pressured downward and Americans are told they're going to have to work longer and harder to maintain a lifestyle that their parents and grandparents took for granted.

He looks a lot like the old boss, Boss Bush.
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