Saturday, October 24, 2009

Duncan Shoots a Brick

by special guest blogger Michael Fiorillo

So Arne Duncan, whose qualifications to be Secretary of Education include a brief stint as "CEO" of the public schools in Chicago, President Obama's pick-up basketball pal, and part-time tutor at his mommy's after-school program, is now going after the ed programs at the colleges and universities. He is insisting that they be part of the same test mania and junk data pipeline that the public schools are being forced to swallow. In the perverse cause-and-effect logic of corporate education deform, the teacher training programs are to be held responsible for the "outcomes" of their graduates, just as public school teachers are held responsible for the "outcomes" of students whose infinite needs are largely ignored by the politicians and corporate overseers who dominate our looted, outsourced society. Exactly how many degrees of separation are we talking about here? No matter, it's the teacher's fault.

He was also there to plug the special program Teacher's College has opportunistically set up to train teachers at publicly-funded private school chains such as KIPP and Green Dot, which are being pushed as the replacement for traditional neighborhood public schools.

I came to teaching late, after knocking around the world of work and performing a wide variety of jobs. I also read and studied eclectically. I feel that all of these factors have made me a better teacher. It also meant that I had a fairly wide range of life experience and content knowledge before I went to get my certification. I always saw the certification classes as little more than a means to the end of working in the classroom.

Education programs are mostly bad, and for many reasons. There's the old saw about TC and Columbia, and how "120th Street is the widest street in the world." When I went to grad school in TESOL at NYU, it was appalling, but not for the reasons given by most ed deformers. It was awful largely because, of the twelve classes I took, all but two were taught by part-time TAs who ranged from OK to dreadful. And this was grad school! God only knows what it's like for the undergrads. It was a clear indication of the university's disrespect for teaching, and it was obvious that the ed school was little more than a profit center for them.

Why was this? Sorry, ed deformers, you can't blame this one on the union. The program was academically impoverished, despite its exorbitant cost, because of the revenue-intensifying labor relations policies of the university, which valued the hiring of cheap part-timers instead of full-time tenured faculty. It's also testimony to the fact that, as I've written elsewhere, NYU is a real estate holding and development company with a higher ed subsidiary.

So, yes, education programs are pretty bad. But that's not what Duncan's offensive against them is about. No, this is about the fact that the college education programs, despite their many shortcomings, are still holdouts, where the values of teaching humanistically and teaching the whole child still control some physical and ideological space. The ed schools have not yet joined the New World Order in education, have not fully gotten with the program or embraced the market, and must be brought on line and on message. Money aside, this is also a reason why senior teachers are targeted, since they are less likely to be entranced by the Magic of the Marketplace in education.

Sure, corporate education deform is about current and future profits/ compensation, but its also about control and the social engineering that education inevitably involves. The schools are there to replicate the kind of society the overclass wants, one filled with alienation, tedium, stress, insecurity, overwork, and under perpetual monitoring and surveillance by its managers. This is also the society where they reap most of the benefits. The kids are being socialized and prepped to endure the same conditions their parents face, if they're lucky enough to have a job, and the schools and teachers are on a forced march to take them there.

By the way, Arne, while we're busy blaming schools and teachers for the Decline and Fall of Western Civilization, where's the outrage at the MBA programs, which have trained the looters and sociopaths who have cannibalized the US economy and brought it to its knees? But then again, as I look offstage while you do your cheap soft shoe routine, I see many of the same people suiting up in the wings to cannibalize the public schools.
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