Monday, August 8, 2011

NCSL in San Antonio

I am at the first day of the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) in San Antonio, Texas. It's over 100 degrees here and as tough as it is on the visitors, we should remember Texans are in their 39th day of tripple digits.

Regardless of heat, the National Education Association is at NCSL and doing their part to influence the public policy of states towards an education agenda that makes sense. Towards that end, the NEA sponsored a presentation by William Mathis of the National Education Policy Center. Mr Mathis and the NEPC spend a lot of time debunking the myths driving US education policy today. In this post I'll focus on just one part of his brilliant presentation, in which he identifies the "Market-Model Approach" under which we are living now, and answers with an alternative.
According to William Mathis the Market-Model Approach is as follows:

  • The purpose of education is high test scores for international economic competitiveness.

  • Properly run schools can overcome poverty and other disadvantages by dint of greater efficiency and effectiveness.

  • A free-market, privatized system will, through competition, achieve the desirable outcomes.

  • Advanced by wealthy patrons, business community, media and politicians based on research from vested interest think-tanks such as Heritage, Cato, Manhattan and Hoover.

Again, according to Mr. Mathis, the Anti-Market Model Narrative:

  • Education is, among other things, a process

  • of shaping the moral imagination, character, skills and intellect of our children,

  • of inviting them into the great conversation of our moral, cultural and intellectual life, and

  • of giving them the resources to prepare them to fully participate in the life of the nation and of the world.

The alternative provided by the National Education Policy Center sounds closer to the type of education that attracted most educators to the profession and it is certainly closer to mission of education when middle aged Americans were themselves students.

It occurs to me that the Market Model is based on two falsehoods:1. US corporations have outsourced millions of jobs because they cannot find enough "smart" Americans to take those jobs. 2. It is the job of the US education system to now make America economically competitive again.

In short order. US corporations did not outsource for smart labor. They outsourced for cheap labor, and for labor unimpeded by safety and environmental laws. 2. The job of education is about those immeasurable attributes listed by Mr. Mathis instill a love of learning that is applicable in the intellectual, moral, and cultural life of an individual.

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