Sunday, September 8, 2013

Beyond Politics

One of the notable features of the school "reform" movement is that it transcends politics (much in the same way that the military industrial complex transcends politics).

People are starting to notice the oddity of CCSS opposition coming from both the Tea Party and Union Lefties. But that simply mirrors the bipartisan nature of the "reform" movement itself.

You can remember back when we are all kind of surprised and hopeful that No Child Left Behind represented a bipartisan agreement to address education as a priority in this country. True, that optimism lasted about ten minutes once we saw what they'd come up with, but still-- it looked like something new.

But it's not. We've seen the same patterns in the military and food industries. There are two notable features:

1) The revolving door. There's a well-lubricated speed-tunnel between the offices where regulations are written and the offices where businesses make money from following the regulations. The suits who write the laws that make it possible for Monsanto to make an unhindered fortune are the same suits that go to work for Monsanto and cash in.

The Teach For America model is nothing new-- do a couple of years of government work so that you can build a resume and make some contacts, then head off to make the real money. The Common Core model is nothing new-- create a fake government body that ploughs the field so that you can go back to your real job in the corporate world and make money cashing in on the laws that you wrote.

2) Left-right fusion. Create a bipartisan appeal by including something for everyone. For lefties, provide the idea that this is a Big Problem and Government is going to Step In And Fix It. For the right, turn around and have Government fix the problem by turning to market solutions. Hire some private firm to provide your fix.

Again, this is nothing new. Forty years ago, activists got lefties to demand that developmentally disabled men and women be "set free" from institutions and allowed to take their place in society. Government said, "Well, sure" and then proceeded to create cash cows for any private contractors who wanted to set up halfway houses or other services for clients. It didn't work out real well for anybody (unless you really get a kick out of the squeegee guys you meet) except the contractors who got big gummint checks for pretending to provide services for the clients.

There are no politics in school "reform," or many other issues, either. The only division that matters is not left-right or Dem-GOP. It's the powerful, rich,and privileged vs the rest of us. They are not interested in American politics (heck, in many cases they aren't even particularly American) except as a tool for working their will on the marketplace. The education business, with its vast untapped resource of tax dollars, is just their new frontier.

What do we do? I wish I knew. I've tried for years to convince my liberal friends that getting the federal government involved just makes things worse. Collecting power in DC is like putting all your money in a big pile on your front porch-- you just cannot be surprised by the crowd that it gathers, nor that using your pile responsibly is not their priority. I believe that this is a battle that has to be fought on a thousand separate beaches. More than that, I don't know.

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