It’s about the profit, stupid

Please take a few minutes to read this sharp analysis of why the Penny Pritzkers of America suddenly seem to care about our children’s education, by David Sirota in Salon.

Here’s a taste:

On one side are self-interested teachers unions who supposedly oppose fundamental changes to schools, not because they care about students, but because they fear for their own job security and wages, irrespective of kids. In this mythology, they are pitted against an alliance of extraordinarily wealthy corporate elites who, unlike the allegedly greedy unions, are said to act solely out of the goodness of their hearts. We are told that this “reform” alliance of everyone from Rupert Murdoch to the Walton family to leading hedge fundersspends huge amounts of money pushing for radical changes to public schools because they suddenly decided that they care about destitute children, and now want to see all kids get a great education.

The dominant narrative, in other words, explains the fight for the future of education as a battle between the evil forces of myopic selfishness (teachers) and the altruistic benevolence of noblesse oblige (Wall Street). Such subjective framing has resulted in reporters, pundits and politicians typically casting the “reformers'” arguments as free of self-interest, and therefore more objective and credible than teachers’ counterarguments….

As Brill and most other education correspondents tell it, those most aggressively trying to privatize public schools and focus education around standardized tests just “happen to be” Wall Streeters — as if that’s merely a random, inconsequential coincidence. Somehow, we are to assume that these same Wall Streeters who make millions off of “parasitic” investment schemes to leech public institutions for private profit couldn’t have ulterior motives when it comes to public schools.

No, in the standard fairy tale sold as education journalism, these “reformers” are presented as having had an honest, entirely altruistic “epiphany” that led them to discover that “the reforms that are necessary” (ie., only the policies Wall Street deems acceptable) comprise “the civil rights issue of this era.”

In this framing, millionaires and billionaires trying to eviscerate traditional public education from their Manhattan office suites are the new Martin Luther Kings — even though theĀ  empirical data tell us that their schemes to charter-ize and privatize schools have been a systemic failure, often further disadvantaging the most economically challenged students of all (one example: see Stanford’s landmark study showing more than a third of kids whom reformers ushered into charter schools were educationally harmed by the move).

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Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.
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