A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Undue Influence of the Rich

Rich people automatically seem to assume that their economic success is evidence that they possess superior knowledge on all subjects. A significant portion of the public unfortunately seems to agree. It’s the modern iteration of Calvinist elect theology in which God’s grace is evidenced by human success. Perhaps one of the few good things to come from the Trump presidency will be a broad appreciation that rich people can be complete idiots.

I’m prompted to think about the undue influence of the rich in affairs about which they know nothing after reading about Bill Gates’ keynote address to the Council of Great City Schools. After spending billions on one ill-informed so-called education reform after another, after these reforms seriously demoralized a generation of public school educators, after supporting endless propaganda convincing many parents that their children’s schools are failing, after all this unnecessary chaos, here’s what Bill Gates learned. ““Giving schools and districts more flexibility is more likely to lead to solutions that fit the needs of local communities and are potentially replicable elsewhere… If there is one thing I have learned, it is that no matter how enthusiastic we might be about one approach or another, the decision to go from pilot to wide-scale usage is ultimately and always something that has to be decided by you and others the field.”

Schmuck! We could have told you that when your launched your first reform.

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The Influence of the Rich

Is there no end to the malignant influence of the repulsively rich on the education of America’s children? Now it’s Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla who have created the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to pour billions of dollars into some hypothetical personalized learning scheme. What do these two thirty-somethings know about education that warrants our paying attention to them? Next to nothing, Zuckerberg having no education experience and Chan having apparently taught very briefly. But today, ideas, no matter how ill conceived, are made serious and worthy of consideration because they are put forth by someone who has made millions of dollars in some field of endeavor, today mostly in high tech. Billions of Bill Gates’ dollars have been used to promote senseless ideas like small schools, Common Core and teacher evaluation based on student standardized tests scores. We just can’t seem to get it through our heads that just because techie Wunderkinder like Gates and Zuckerberg have made billions, it doesn’t mean they know anything about either what’s wrong with our schools or how to make them better.

We would be much better served as a nation if we had a tax structure that had these fabulously rich people paying a fair share to finance the public services we need. When I was a kid, the marginal tax rate for people like Zuckerberg was over 90 percent. We now look back at those times as a golden age, an age with a growing middleclass, high rates of employment and significantly less economic inequality. Public education would be much better off if all initiatives to improve it came from the government rather than from the charity of the rich. If you take the rich man’s money, you take his id

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The Latest Ed-Tech Innovation

My readers are well aware of my growing concerns about the infiltration of technological learning appliances and their debasement of what it has meant to be educated. Thus, I was not at all surprised to read that the latest “learning innovation” to be touted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a biosensor attached to students’ wrists and able to gauge their attentiveness to lesson before them. It won’t be long I suspect before some jackass of a superintendent of schools, spouting the empty rhetoric of 21st century learners and digital citizens, offers this up as the latest improvement in education. What it is in fact is the latest from a tech industry that has provided the tools of the surveillance society we have become. If we were interested in an educated citizenry we would be spending time at all levels of education discussing the increasing threat to our freedom these devices pose. We would also be wise to take seriously teaching students how to be intelligent consumers of media that are increasingly personalized to the point that we share less and less of a common reality and the concept of a fact appears to mean less and less with each passing day.

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A New Approach to Fleecing Public Schools

The titans of the high tech companies many of whom have fleeced our nation’s public schools, promising that each new digital product would revolutionize education, are apparently coming up with a new game plan. Correctly sensing that the public is rapidly turning away from the kind of school reforms sponsored by public school predators like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, the new gig to keep those taxpayer dollars rolling into their companies appears to be personalized learning, tailoring the education of individual students through the use of technology. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that education is a social process with goals much more encompassing than the acquisition of skills, business people are correctly reading a market trend. More and more the public seems to expect its schools to treat their children individually. School leaders have responded to this unreasonable demand by defining good teaching as individualizing instruction. Now comes an emerging business model that promises it can overcome the inability of teachers to provide a unique education for each of their students. Cheaper, better and, better yet, more profitable for the hardware and software companies.

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