Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Campbell Brown's Edusummit AM

Today is Campbell Brown's education summit in New Hampshire, featuring six GOP candidates and some other filler. It's an all-day extravaganza. The live streaming had some trouble hitting its stride, so I missed the opener and the first part of Jeb Bush's turn in the soft, comfy chair (there are no hot seats anywhere at this summit.)

I had no intention of watching, but it's like netflixing a bad comedy series-- you just keep sticking around a little bit longer. So I have no super-coherent observations about the morning with Bush, Fiorina, and Kasich (Jennifer Berkshire is there for Edushyster, so I look forward to her write-up). But there are several things that jump out.


That's the preferred modifier for the talents and abilities of students. This not only lets candidates name-check God, but it also sidesteps any discussion about what effects poverty and environment might have on the talents and abilities that a student brings to school.

Local control is union control

Yeah, this is a new but already-beloved talking point. If you let people have local control, those damn unions will just buy the elections, just like they did in...well, somewhere. The problem with this talking point will be coming up with an actual example of a local school board that is run by the bought-and-paid-for tools of the teachers union.

Cognitive dissonance

Holy smokes but the candidates disagree with themselves. Kasich thinks local control is awesome, but the state takeover of Cleveland and Youngstown is also awesome. This is a sticking point for all three candidates, who love them some local control and decry the evils of top-down federal over-reachy policy-- but you can't privatize and get charters and choice unless you open up the market by shutting down local voters.

Also teachers unions are terrible and awful and a barrier to great things in education, but teachers themselves are wonderful and deserve our support and good pay except for the bad ones who should be driven from the classroom. We're really torn here.

Expectations are important and magical, so we can get students to do better just by expecting it, but not by supporting those expectations. Just expect.

Annnd-- we all hate red tape and think that a whole bunch of mandated paperwork and programs and stuff is terrible, but we also should have rock-solid tough-love accountability so that we absolutely know if students are learning and teachers are doing a good job. Do none of these people see that the only way to get super-duper accountability is with tons of "red tape"?

Students vs grownups

We saw a resurgence of the talking point about how we should run schools according to needs of students and not the needs of adults (aka teachers aka those money-grubbing union teachers who want pay and stuff). This allows us to dismiss all teacher objections to vouchers, testing , charters, etc because there couldn't be anything in our criticism of policy based on our professional knowledge-- it's just us looking out for our own interests. I find this one particularly ironic because:

A) in many places, teachers are the primary voices standing up for student interests and

B) charters and choice schools are naturally not interested in student needs, because if I'm a charter operator, every dollar I spend on a student is a dollar I don't get to keep.

Fiorina is not ready for prime time

Fiorina channeled Yong Zhao briefly to explain why China-style standardization is a terrible idea, even though much of what she supports fits that completely. She doesn't known that the government and the USED are audited, she doesn't understand the Vergara case, she doesn't know what TFA actually does, and she thinks we're testing students every year in all subjects.

She also dropped the most quotable gaffe of the day, saying that Katrina was "a wonderful oportunity for innovation."

Jeb is anti-tepid

Jeb spoke about his fiery concern and against being tepid. He wants to "let the big dog eat" which seems to mean that corporations should be able to eat piles of money of the backs of children and poop out... I dunno. Education? It was an odd moment. He said "rising" a lot.

Kasich talks to and for God

Kasich was Kasich, barely allowing Brown to speak and instructing us several times on what God wants. He wants teachers not to hang out in lounges, and he channeled Reagan-- Nancy Reagan-- by saying that we stop the drug problem by just telling people to stop.

Just send money

Everyone wants the feds to just bundle up the money and send it to the states to use as they think best.

As I left

A congressperson, an AEI guy, and a writer from the Wall Street Journal were doing a promotional discussion for school choice. It would have been boring, except that the Wall Street Journal writer seems really, really angry, like she wants to punch public education in the face.

You can find the after noon stuff, which kicks off with a panel discussion on the excitement of new innovation which would be uninspiring except that the panel includes Joel "I Just Tanked Amplify" Klein. I'd like to hope that he'll be asked the secret of turning $1 billion into $600 million, but I doubt it. Nobody has gotten a hard question yet today except, oddly enough, "Can you name who influences your thoughts on education policy" which was probably not meant to be a stumper, but is. The feed is on youtube right here, and they'll probably save all of it, God help us.


  1. Well, that music sure revved me up...

  2. The union controlled school board thing strikes me as really odd. That's been thrown at me a number of times on Twitter by Dmitri "Confirmation Bias King" Melhorn, who speaks of it as if it's a well-known fact. Maybe I am living in a special part of the country, but I have never seen a BOE that wasn't highly antagonistic toward the teachers' union.

    I believe the cognitive dissonance thing is something you have to be pretty comfortable with to be a political candidate in the US. Think about it. What you're selling can't be nuanced and well-reasoned, or you're Ralph Nader and will never have a hope of being elected. So you're stuck with simple solutions. But the problems are complex (not just in education), so you have to be willing to live with some pretty huge internal conflict and just keep pushing the talking points that poll well.

  3. Teachers in Ohio tell me Kasich is really down with the meaningless, burdensome red tape. Tons have been added under him.

    Not surprising the failed business executive Fiorina is completely clueless.

    Jeb: "Let the big dogs eat." What!?! When he talks off the cuff he seems to have almost as much trouble with words as his brother.

  4. The latest deformer synonym for "high-stakes tests" is "student learning." Watch for it in the rhetoric of Bush, Duncan et al.