Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Common Core's Pustule Encrusted Underbelly

For the past two days I've written about high stakes standardized testing in our public schools. In Monday's post I discussed it within the context of current Congressional efforts to re-authorize the No Child Left Behind act which ushered in this current era of high stakes testing, suggesting that this is an opportunity for us to make a difference in the lives of children since the key players all seem to be backing away from the regime of high stakes tests. Yesterday, I riffed on the blatantly anti-democratic aspects of high stakes testing, evoking Noam Chomsky to support me. Today, I want to take a look at the pustule encrusted underbelly of the test-driven Common Core national public school curriculum that, even though it is clearly destined to fail dramatically, is threatening to rob a generation of children of a quality education.

Specifically, I want to write about the millions of dollars individuals and corporations have made so far off the labor of young children and the billions more over which they are greedily rubbing their greasy hands.

I'm going to begin with Pearson "Education." I use the quotation marks because what they do has very little to do with actual education other than to sell tests and pre-tests and test-compliant materials to schools and school districts, raking in billions in a process that includes breaking federal laws. They're involved with other education-ish stuff, I know, because a public school teacher once gave me a bunch of left-over pre-packaged "science kits" that included a few pennies worth of dried beans and plastic cups. My understanding was that these kits had cost the school district upwards of $20 each. I'm going to tell myself that they cost so much because Pearson pays a terrific living wage to the poor people hired to assemble them. (Ha, ha, ha! I hope I've done enough now to establish a vein of satire. Pearson is notoriously prickly and vindictive, so I want to protect myself.) Already sucking billions out of our nation's education budgets, Pearson stands to earn a minimum of $138 million off Common Core this year.

Another of the ways Pearson plans to accelerate their looting of our schools is that they've gone into business with Microsoft to develop more Common Core "products." Now neither of these companies roll out of bed for chump change, so I'm sure they see the market for these products to be quite massive. Last year, Bill Gates, Microsoft's founder, the world's wealthiest man, and the guy who privately funded much of the development of the Common Core, famously bristled when a Washington Post reporter suggested that he was involved in public education for monetary gain. He aggressively sputtered, "Are you suggesting I'm in this for the money!" and "This is philanthropy!" Maybe he actually has no idea about what Microsoft and Pearson are planning, an absentee leadership would explain why the company he founded has foundered for the past decade and more, but I find it hard to swallow that the world's leading venture philanthropist wouldn't know what's going on. In fact, it was in that same interview that he discussed "unleashing powerful market forces" on our children and compared the Common Core to standardizing electrical outlets so businesses could more easily plug their products into our schools.

I'm sorry, but the Common Core national curriculum, at it's core, is all about making money. It's not an accident Pearson and Gates are involved, just like it's not an accident that hedge fund managers and other Wall Street types are heavily invested in "education." They don't roll out of bed for chump change either.

And where you find bathtubs of money, you also find cronyism, conveniently hidden conflicts of interest and other kinds of dirt-baggery. 

Recently, NPR ran a piece on a man named Jason Zimba, a former professor who wrote the math portion of the Common Core. In the piece, he reveals that even though his own children attend a school that uses his work, he still tutors them at home. Why? Well, he blames professional educators for doing it wrong, which is sort of what everyone involved in the Common Core is now doing: pointing the finger at teachers for being bad at teaching the load of crap they've foisted on American children. Not only does Zimba come off as quite arrogant about his vastly superior intellect, but a little scratching beneath the surface reveals that he continues to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, off Common Core, even as it is failing our nation's children.

My cap is off to Joy Pullman, managing editor at The Federalist, who last month published a excellent piece entitled "Ten Common Core Promoters Laughing All the Way to the Bank," with Zimba standing at the top of her list. He left his professorship to found a Common Core non-profit from which he earns over $330,000 in salary. On top of that he makes additional thousands by traveling the country teaching us idiot teachers how to do Common Core the Jason Zimba way. Pullman's list is limited to just 10 individuals who are sleazily and cynically gorging at the Common Core trough. Assuredly, there are thousands more who, like Bill Gates, are attempting to deny their vested interests, while making money off the make-work labor of our children.

Common Core is doomed to fail. Indeed, I would say it has already failed, but that hasn't dampened the greed that always lies at the heart of "powerful market forces." Even as Common Core crumbles, corporations and individuals continue to rake in the dough and they are doing it on the bent backs of our children.

If you're feeling a little sick right now, you can't say I didn't warn you that it is a pustule encrusted underbelly. Tomorrow I hope I can go back to writing about things happening in our preschool where we take a play-based, evidence-based, truly non-profit approach to education.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Love the satire, love the sentiment, love your work. This new commercialising of education is spreading like a cancer, because big business everywhere sees education as a cash cow to be milked. The aggressive marketing strategies and involvement in in Government means that they are essentially committing commercial suicide as 'the people' aren't actually stupid. They may be a bit slow to catch on, but the message is getting out there. Parents all over the western world are beginning to question and resist these strategies. Thanks goodness for that! We are experiencing similiar strategies over here. From Auckland New Zealand. Keep up your incredibly awesome and important work.Sandy Good