I began writing articles about the political hijacking of education a few years ago primarily out of desperation. For most of my career, I, like most of my peers, had remained silent as politicians slowly took control of our profession. This meant they controlled the narrative, which was filled with half-truths and misinformation about how children become educated. Most of us viewed the political propaganda about education reform as little more than white noise. It was annoying to be sure, but it didn’t have much to do with the jobs we were trying to perform, so we tried to ignore it as much as possible.
Then, I had an epiphany. When talking with people who were not directly involved in education, I began to realize that our silence was allowing politicians to control what they wanted the public to believe, most of which was not true. Not responding allowed them to spread their misinformation as if it were gospel, and that is not a good thing regardless of the subject matter. Experience has taught me that when untruths are permitted to be repeated long enough without being confronted, over time they can morph into truths in the minds of those who are being misled. I decided I would no longer sit by idly and watch that happen.
My goal in writing these articles was to inform the public that there is a political reality to how children best become successful, then there is reality, and the two are generally unrelated. If I could use my articles to open minds and generate meaningful conversations, I would be happy. Based on the feedback I continually receive it seems that I have achieved my goal.
I receive my feedback via emails from folks from around the state or when I am stopped in public by people who would like to discuss something I have written or would like my opinion about the latest political mandate governing education. The result has been meaningful dialogue with people who otherwise only knew what our politicians wanted them to know.
Along this line, a former colleague of mine recently emailed me a blog in which United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos was quoted as saying that the Common Core was “effectively finished in her department,” and that despite Republicans and Democrats “valiant efforts to improve education,” “federal education reform efforts have not worked as hoped.” My former colleague was curious what I thought of her comments.
He probably wishes he had never asked.
First of all, Betsy DeVos, the person who has been appointed to be in charge of The US Department of Education is neither an educator or an educational leader. Google her. She is a politician and a businesswoman, a businesswoman who has made lots and lots of money, a good deal of which has been off the backs of disadvantaged children through her charter school experiment. What does it say about the importance of education in the minds of this country’s leaders when the person who has been put in charge of the national agency governing education is neither an educator or an educational leader? I think the answer is obvious.
It’s nice to know that Secretary DeVos has apparently officially declared the Common Core “effectively finished.” I hate to burst Ms. Devos’s bubble, but the Common Core, like many of its predecessors (aka “No Child Left Behind,” “Race to the Top,” “Every Child Succeeds,” and a thousand other important sounding politically-created reforms) were “effectively finished” before they “effectively began.” The public was told the Common Core held the answers to student success, but it didn’t any more than the previous reforms it attempted to copy did. Of course it failed. Meaningless things usually do.
If you question whether or not Ms. DeVos is a politician at heart, read the quotes attributed to her carefully, because they follow the typical political script that is used to excuse their ineptitude. Despite their constant failures, politicians love to praise each other for their efforts. She checked that box, even describing her peers’ efforts as “valiant” for good measure. Politicians also remind us that they freely and irresponsibly spend our tax dollars in their “valiant efforts.” She checked that box, too, even admitting that “billions and billions of dollars” had been wasted. Finally, she let us know that, despite their failure, they had “good intentions.” Box number three checked.
Isn’t there an old proverb that states, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions?” Frankly, I am tired of hearing how well-intentioned these folks are.
The blogger did note that DeVos’s educational ideology involves “giving power back to local schools, teachers, and, ultimately, the parents themselves.” That would be nice, if, indeed, it was true. However, history has taught us that that is not at all what happens. When the federal government punts the educational ball, the receivers are the politicians at the state level, not local folks, and certainly not professional educators who may know a thing or two about how children become educated. (If you don’t believe me, dial up the 2016 Republican primary presidential debates and listen carefully to what the candidates said.) With all due respect, our state leaders have proven to be every bit as incompetent as the feds have been, so, that is no grand victory for children.
So, the answer to my friend’s question is that the United States Secretary of Education’s comments were the typical political blather we have come to expect from our “leaders,” and that is not good enough.
Tom Dunn is the superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.