Monday, October 4, 2010

Superman (and Superwoman) have arrived!

If Davis Guggenheim’s only goal in the making of the movie “Waiting for Superman” was to stir up a national dialog, then I guess it was a success before it even hit the theaters.  From the outset, the movie reeked of what I call the billionaire pseudo-reformers, a group of influential leaders with no formal education expertise who have hijacked education reform in America. In general, these people seek to make a top-down system, implement aspects of a business model such as merit-pay, create inequitable charter schools, and in general privatize the institution of education.

A quick tour of the “Waiting for Superman” website reveals a disturbing connection to corporate America and the billionaire pseudo-reformersThere is a section of the site where it is possible to pledge to see the movie, admittedly a great promotional feature.  But, and it’s a big but, based on the number who pledge, corporations and foundations will donate money.  These include corporations who stand to profit from schools whichever direction reform goes: Office Max and the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  It also includes the venture fund NewSchools.  I had never heard of NewSchools, so I checked out their list of donors.  Among others, NewSchools boast as investors The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. 

These are the very foundations that I call the billionaire pseudo-reformers: those advocates of a top-down, business model, exclusionary system of reforms! These billionaires are shelling out millions of dollars in social experiments, and when they fail, they move on to the next experiment leaving the burden of repair to the lackluster resources of public education.  Why do these organizations have such a high stake in education reform?  How do they stand to benefit, and at what cost to public education?

At another page on the movie’s website, there is an opportunity to join the debate (I could not resist, of course).   The question was, “should student test scores be used to evaluate teachers?”  High stake tests and merit-pay are a cornerstone of the pseudo-reformer movement.  The majority of respondents (59% at press time) said no, as did I.  Here is my response
…Bill Gates and his like-minded billionaire buddies need to get out of the business of education reform. They are hurting more than they are helping. Funny that Microsoft has made a business model out of squelching competition and yet Gates promotes unhealthy competition within the school system. The question should not be whether schools need to adopt a corporate model, such as merit pay, but why in the world anyone thinks the corporate model is successful in the first place! I mean, just look at the state of the economy and where that model has led us...
And, I added a pledge NOT to see the movie.
Superman has already arrived and is working his cape off in classrooms around the country.  Reclaim public education!

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