Saturday, January 26, 2013

A+ Arkansas Education Summit, and the Faces of Janus

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." widely attributed to Mussolini 

Where do those of us who are not fascists go to have a group that shares our views on the education of our children?  Is the only choice we have outside of homeschooling a choice of which face of Janus we will offer our children to? 

It seems those on the left want the central state to control our children's education.  Those on the right want corporations to control our children's education.   Where do those people go who think that a community's school ought to be controlled by the parents of that community?   With the Democrats co-opted directly by government and the Republicans co-opted by corporations, those who see education as a function and extension of the family have no political organization to represent them.   

I reject both socialism and fascism, and therefore must reject both "liberal" and "conservative" ideas about what our community schools ought to look like.   I am a Localist.  Here is a small part of what Localism, A Philosophy of Goverment says about education (Kindle/Amazon) (Barnes and Noble/EPUB). ......
"In the localist view, education is the responsibility of the family, and any community schools should be an extension of the family.  Any schooling in which the state assists the parents should be built upon this idea, and any schooling which the parent does without assistance from the state should be protected by this idea."
Both "choices" the American people have been presented with as their only options have been in a mad rush to centralize control of education.  Republican Mike Huckabee pushed for the centralization of education in Arkansas.  The Democrats were glad to help him.   America had 117,000 local school districts in 1940 (when our population was less than half its current size.)  Today we have less that 15,000 school districts, and the amount of control those "local" school boards have over the schools is less than ever before. National testing and state standards drive everything.  Centralization of control away from the parent and toward the state has been the dominant trend in education for more than a generation. The only trend that even compares is the trend towards increased cost (without commensurate results).

The A+ Arkansas education summit will be in Little Rock this Tuesday.   A+ Arkansas is supported by Arkansans' for Educational Reform.   However, like many of American's other choices, this appears to be a false choice.    The "reformers" have the same world view of centralized control, standardized testing, and commodization of delivery that their erstwhile opponents have.   The only "choice" we have is whether parents will hand control of their child's education to a government educrat or a corporate one.  The two will be educating toward the same standards, measured using the same types of instruments, and using similar delivery techniques.   

Arkansans for Education Reform supports Act 35, the measure Huckabee got passed after Lakeview which centralized control of schools in this state more than ever.   They also support the Bush-Kennedy federalization of education mis-named "No Child Left Behind."    Arkansas has recently joined half the other states in asking for a waiver from the goals of this program.   As I repeatedly warned for seven years, the stated goals of NCLB cannot be met, even if the entire nation were transformed into a totalitarian dictatorship for the purpose of complying with the act.   The goals were unrealistic and not achievable by means of government action.   If the real goal though, was to transfer power over education from the local to the federal level then this diabolical measure was a great success.

The corporations were all for it, because of the promise of what is termed "workforce education".    This is a socialist concept (which again is sold to the right as a "conservative" one so that only the illusion of choice is maintained) which says that government controlled education should be hijacked by favored industries so that they might lay their job training costs unto the backs of the taxpayers.   

This is a "planned economy", eastern European style, for labor inputs.   And just like in eastern Europe, or anywhere else it has been tried in human history ever, it was a failure.   It is failing here too, but our current ruling elites are convinced that "this time its different."   After all, they are running the show now and they are the ones smart enough to, for the first time in history, make central planning work!   That proves that arrogance can make smart people do stupid things because when it comes to the fundamentals of human nature and government intervention in market action, its never different.

At any rate, my take on this is that the corporate guys are frustrated at the slow pace and ineffective results they have gotten from hiring the government to convert your community school into their taxpayer-funded training program.   They want to cut out the middle-man, government, and have some of their own use government dollars to do it their way.  Government's only role would be to extract taxes from the serfs in order to fund the big boy's dreams.   Hence their idea of McSchool charter schools.

Unlike your local school, which still has a parent-elected school board as a vestige of the time when families and communities still ran their own schools, McSchool Charter Schools will not have locally elected school boards.   They will simply have a designated parent liaison or two, safely picked by themselves, to give the barest veneer of parental involvement.   

They will fixate on stadardized tests, just as the government schools do now, because that is a way to measure children without actually knowing them. The focus will be on mastering processes- such as processes some of the school's corporate sponsors find handy in their workforce.    The focus won't be about transferring a core body of knowledge from one generation to the next, because knowledge of history and general science and what have you is not essential to being a productive drone for some corporate workforce.   Also, people who know things are too hard to govern.   In McSchools, when it comes to history and civics, ignorance is strength!

But of course my main complaint is that education in nature is an extension of the family, education in scripture is a responsibility of the family, and back in the day when America was growing and improving community schools treated education like it was an extension of the family.   Schools did more than convey information.  They socialized children in an organic way.    What I see is that the new left and the new right only offer parents choice of masters.    There is no faction offering community.

I also notice that Luke Gordy, chief lobbyist for the McSchool effort, is also pushing a delivery system which will make learning more clinical and less personal.   It appears to be focused on distance learning, with video clips and a video teacher who would not even be physically present with the students.   

I have an anecdote which speaks to this.   My brother is a history and government teacher, and a great one.    His school tried a similar delivery system for their Advanced Placement History class.   These were the best juniors and seniors in the school.   They had one person pass the end of course exam in five years.   Out of frustration, they tried putting a good living, breathing teacher who was able to communicate and inspire and, yes like, these students on a personal level.   The next year they had five students pass the end of course exam and have gotten similar results since then.

I know that grassroots activists are anxious for an alternative to an increasingly moribund school system (no matter what awards they give themselves ).   In our desire for an answer, let's not rush to an incorrect answer.  Let's not turn to what is in reality just another face of the same false god.   Children are meant to be raised, and educated, in families, and in communities of people they connect with.  This is the localist approach (Kindle/Amazon) (Barnes and Noble/EPUB) to education, it is the classic approach to education, and it is the natural approach to education.


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