Neoliberalism eats Education

The Making of Neoliberalism:
Planned Failure & Privatization

As I became a scholar and, you know, got into the academic world, I found myself—I don’t know. I fell into a sort of a conservative mindset about a lot of things.

…If you believed that children should study history and geography and real things, you’re conservative in the academic world, because you’re not supposed to believe in a real curriculum. I believe that it’s not conservative; it’s actually very liberal and empowering to have real knowledge… But having been castigated as a conservative for believing in having a traditional curriculum, when I went into the Bush administration, I found myself kind of getting caught up in the choice rhetoric. And so, for about ten years or so, I was advocating for charter schools. They didn’t exist, so I didn’t know how things would turn out.

…Over the years, from the period in which charters started and in which the whole Accountability movement started (And what Accountability ultimately meant, not just in the Bush administration, but in the Clinton, and now in the Obama administration, Accountability means who should be punished. If the scores don’t go up, who should be punished? Teachers. Teachers should be punished. The unions should be demonized.), I began looking at the results. When I looked at No Child Left Behind and saw, you know, we’re not really making any improvements under No Child Left Behind—the test scores have been either stagnant or made tiny improvement. Actually, the gains before No Child Left Behind on national tests were larger than since No Child Left Behind was adopted. I mean, I looked at the evidence, and I thought, all these things that I hoped would work didn’t work.

…This is the great legacy of No Child Left Behind, is that it has left us with a system of institutionalized fraud…(E)very year we get closer to 2014, the bar goes up, and the states are told, ‘If you don’t reach that bar, you’re going to be punished. Schools will be closed. They’ll be turned into charter schools.’ That’s part of the federal mandate, is that schools will be privatized if they can’t meet that impossible goal. So in order to preserve some semblance of public education, the states have been encouraged to lie.

…’The Billionaires Boys Club’ is …a new era of the foundations and their relation to education. We have never in the history of the United States had foundations with the wealth of the Gates Foundation and some of the other billionaire foundations—the Walton (WalMart) Family Foundation, The Broad Foundation. And these three foundations—Gates, Broad and Walton—are committed now to charter schools and to evaluating teachers by test scores. And that’s now the policy of the US Department of Education.

…I’m just trying to say the evidence says No Child Left Behind was a failure, and the evidence says that charter (privatized) schools are going to lead us into a swamp of—well, first of all, they’re not going to be any better, because if you look at national test scores—charter schools were first part of the national tests in 2003—they didn’t do any better than regular public schools. They were tested again in 2005, 2007, 2009. They (privatized schools) have never outperformed regular public schools.”

–Dr. Diane Ravitch,
Research Professor of Education at New York University,
Assistant Secretary of Education and counselor to Education Secretary Lamar Alexander under President George H.W. Bush and appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board under President Clinton.
Interviewed on Democracy Now!
March 5, 2010.

Ever wonder how liberals converted into conservative neoliberals, diligently building the conservative leviathon? (Hint: Rudderless fear of a “radical” leftist planet.)

Here’s the edumacation we’ve built ourselves in the land of blowing up public goods and services. And destroying public education = destroying communities.

Faced with the radicalness of the destruction in the US, Ravitch contrasts,

“’Nations like Finland and Japan seek out the best college graduates for teaching positions, prepare them well, pay them well and treat them with respect,’ she said. ‘They make sure that all their students study the arts, history, literature, geography, civics, foreign languages, the sciences and other subjects. They do this because this is the way to ensure good education. We’re on the wrong track’.”

Here’s the wrong track we’re on.
It’s our policy golem, and it is rampaging with this result as its goal: “I say let’s blow (public education) up” (C. Finn, education policy expert).

Here’s a little reminder on John Dewey’s view on democracy and education. Once upon a time we cared about democracy and progress, rather than simple profit accumulation, shorn of even economic development.


New Trends in Taylorization: Edumakashun

Because everything in the US is just fine, it’s just that they have some problems with The Help, today the NYTimes has run a vast, beloved article, presumably about a dogged capitalist market-devotee hero, the latest Frederick Taylor, who has this time, at last, again come up with the Solution to all the problems of America, which can be reduced of course to Bad Public Education Teachers.

The solution is: Get out the old Taylor stopwatch, record the small techniques employed by the teachers whose students score best on George Bush’s education test, and train (not educate) teachers to efficiently, precisely replicate these movements and no other.

This is considered a tremendous innovation over the previous ineffective 5 Year Taylorization Plan, championed by such mid-level neoliberal giants as NYC Education Czars Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee. The former Plan gave upper-middle bonuses to teachers whose students made the George W. Bush test not look so bad (Thanks for the ideas again, Frederick Taylor!), while simply axing or threatening to axe the majority of teachers, whose students failed to make the Texan training program look like it has anything to do with learning. What the previous Taylorization Plan accomplished was to deplete the teaching staff while recklessly bestowing a few members of The Help with uncomfortably comfortable incomes which they should not get used to (see Malthus).

So some busy-bee heroes of the conservative elite caste who are not working on the central task of accumulating wealth are diligently implementing the triedest and truest investigatory and management techniques upon The Help, which perversely keeps falling down.

After all sorts of budgets and planning and well-compensated, high-status experts/managers and time is put into this new 5 Year Plan for disciplining teachers and rationalizing and homogenizing public education, the US will have the most efficient education factories possible for training young Americans to take the George Bush education exam.

And then, hallelujah, all the problems of America will continue to rage on, perhaps a little harder, because the country is so much further down the road in its long implosion, and after all, you cannot leave all welfare functions to teachers and schools to carry out on top of their training responsibilities when your whole society has been based for hundreds of years on the single, semi-useful, semi-asinine premise of mining the fuck out of the working class and nature, and your decision-making elites can no longer possibly imagine a different way of doing anything because everything is just fine the way it is, although The Help are admittedly something of a problem on the books. They look bad. And they keep looking worse. And they always will because, no matter the fine rhetorical conventions in which they are promoted, conservative interventions are designed to prey rapaciously upon the lives of people who cannot protect themselves from you.

Benefits to the NYTimes-heralded New Taylorize Teachers agenda:

1) By giving teachers training as opposed to education, teachers will feel more comfortable with simple parameters of movement and operation, which is what they have come to expect anyway, since the whole American middle mind consensus treats public educators as if they didn’t have the human wherewithal to use their own discretion and vary and fail and learn and develop themselves and their communities through education as a craft.

2) Transfers the responsibility for all of America’s prodigious social, economic, environmental and political failures off the back of proletarianized, fettered teachers, and onto the backs of their trainers, possibly proletarianized education professors at non-prestigious colleges. In this way, the blame can be infinitely transferred amongst people who are not allowed anywhere near the policy formation process, and this will consume time and energy so that no one asks why it is that in the US public education employees bear the burden for the majority of social welfare provisioning on top of their responsibilities training children to perform for the George W. Bush test, while the US implodes and elites get out with as much accumulated wealth as possible.

3) Droves of private-school educated expert management consultants will be paid a lot of money, simply for deploying variations on the same old management templates in operation for well over 100 years, that they might buy McMansions and SUVs and stocks and entertain friends on exclusive Caribbean islands, where they can also stash their wealth away.


If teachers’ unions were not lame, this is how they would respond:

They would commission a study of the unique conditions that allow the best teachers to act as autonomous, developing human agents, and propose that these conditions be replicated for all teachers, in order to improve education and students’ “performance.” And if you didn’t follow that link, when I say “autonomous,” partly I mean unionized. You don’t get autonomy in humanity without a supportive network, as all capitalists know.

Also, they would fight for the development of a welfare state so that teachers did not also have to do the majority of welfare provisioning in the US for free.

Also, they would support theoretical discourse and empirical research to help them champion innovative low-inequality policies, so that Americans could learn to value citizenship, ecology, human development and education (not just training)– pro-Enlightenment culture which would go a long way toward finally, really improving education and solving persistent social problems.


Students, teachers and communities took to the streets yesterday to defend public education in America. It made the alternative media.

2011 UPDATE:

The Nation reports on how public education miners (including now, Michelle Rhee, in a more blatantly corporate reincarnation) are using the blind of “tiknowligy” and political seeding to destroy unions and mine education for public dollars.

Two techniques in their hegemonic arsenal include demonizing teachers and pseudo antiracism:

1)”‘(In) the [education reform] debate…is there a way that we can get into it at an emotional level?’ Berman asked. ‘Emotions will stay with people longer than concepts.’ He then answered his own question: ‘We need to hit on fear and anger. Because fear and anger stays with people longer. And how you get the fear and anger is by reframing the problem.’ Berman’s glossy ads, which have run in Washington, DC, and New Jersey, portray teachers unions as schoolyard bullies. One spot even seems to compare teachers to child abusers.”

2)”Like many ‘education entrepreneurs,’ Moe remains a player in the education reform movement, pushing policies that have the potential to benefit his clients…Earlier this year, the group dropped $70,000 on an ad campaign in Pennsylvania comparing those who oppose a new measure to expand vouchers to segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace, who blocked African-American children from entering white schools.”

US Elites are Cracked Out (in case you hadn’t noticed)

“Just consider who is supported and embraced by those who slap the “crazy” label on the forehead of every perceived dissident. Hillary Clinton — the ultimate embodiment of Democratic Party Seriousness and Sanity — supported the invasion of Iraq by warning of scary weapons and Al Qaeda ties that did not exist (“Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members”), and she spent her campaign beating her chest and doing things like threatening to “totally obliterate” Iran. While in office, Barack Obama has endorsed putting people in cages with no charges, assassinating American citizens with no due process, eavesdropping on Americans en masse with little oversight, increasing military spending beyond its shockingly inflated levels while searching for ways to cut Medicaid and Social Security, and blocking judicial review of presidential felonies and war crimes on the ground that those criminal acts constitute vital “state secrets” and must be protected. Most Serious, Sane Democrats have supported all of that insanity.

Meanwhile, the GOP establishment from top to bottom spent a decade cheering on torture, disappearances, abductions, unprovoked wars, chronic presidential lawbreaking and truly sick McCarthyite witch hunts. Both of the Sane Parties conspired to transfer, with little accountability, massive amounts of public wealth to the very Wall Street firms which virtually destroyed the entire world economy, while standing by and doing very little about tragic levels of joblessness or future risk of Wall-Street-caused financial crises; kept us waging war for a full decade in multiple countries (while threatening others) even as we near the precipice of bankruptcy, the hallmarks of under-developed nation status and the disappearance of the social safety net; and are so captive to the corporate interests which own the Government that they viciously compete with one another over who can be a more loyal servant to those interests.

While all of that is happening, those whom all Serious, Sane people agree are Crazy — people like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul and Alan Grayson — vehemently oppose most if not all of that and try to find ways to expand the realm of legitimate debate and political alliances beyond the suffocating stranglehold of those responsible. So who exactly is Crazy?”

–Glenn Greenwald. “Who are the actual crazy people in American politics?” Salon. March 4, 2010.