Saturday, October 17, 2015

Brown Calls for End of Public Education

Well, at least she just put it right out there.

In a piece at the Daily Beast, Campbell Brown calls for US politicians to follow the example of  the UK Prime Minister David Cameron. And what example is that?

Last week, addressing his party for the first time since re-election in May, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron called for an end to the country’s traditional public school system, endorsing instead a nationwide conversion to academies, which are essentially the British equivalent of charter schools—publicly funded, but with greater freedom over what they teach and how they are run.

And Brown includes this quote from Cameron:

“So my next ambition is this,” Cameron told a nationally televised audience, “five hundred new free schools. Every school an academy…and yes—local authorities running schools a thing of the past.”

And just in case you're wondering if I'm using context to make Brown seem more radical than she actually is, here are more of her own words;

In a rational world, hosannas might greet a head of state who used his power to reduce inequality.

There are several astonishing ideas folded into that sentence, but the most astonishing is that a Head of State has the power to reduce inequality. But of course Cameron is not so much interested in reducing inequality as he is interested in reducing democratic control of vital public institutions.

But that, apparently, is what Brown loves about him. She dismissing his opponents (and the similar-sounding opponents of charters and choice in the US) by mocking their talk of privatization and anti-democratic reform

[Addendum] I realized a bit after posting that some clarification is called for. British public schools both are and are not like US public schools. In their earliest form, they were not unlike the earliest version of US public schools-- local folks band together to set up a school for their kids. Somewhere in the middle of their growth, they came to resemble what we would call private schools, and then in more modern times have become more closely connected to each other and to the state-run school system. If you see US public schools as "government schools," created and operated by the state, then these will look like a different thing. But if like me you see US public schools as created and operated by locally chosen citizens, then British "public schools" look rather similar to the US public school. Either way, Cameron and Brown want to see it all replaced with a charter system.

Brown recognizes, sadly, that an American President doesn't have the power to simply erase democratic process with a wave of his hand (though she should have acknowledged the artful Duncan/Obama circumnavigation of the law with waivers), but she wants to at least get some red meat from the candidates.

Brown spends several paragraphs chicken littling education, throwing around fake statistics like three quarters of American students are unprepared for college in reading, math, and science (though she doesn't cite her source, I'm guessing it's the study that looked for students who scored high in all areas of the subject matter ACT, in which case her stat is twelve kinds of bogus). Seriously-- if three quarters of American students aren't capable of attending college, who are all those students on college campuses? She also throws in the old baloney that Back in the Golden Age, US students were absolutely awesome. That's simply not true. No matter how you slice it.

But she wants Presidential candidates to speak up, and to do it now:

Well, here’s a nudge: There is no need to wait to advocate until you are elected. And no need to wait until someone asks you. Seriously.

Because she really wanted to ask them. She wanted more than a middling six GOP candidates and way more flat-out zero Dems to show up for her education beauty pageants. Though I'll give her credit- she does get one assessment of the situation on the money:

Every candidate has the stage; the Republicans have used it to fuss unproductively over the Common Core. The Democrats have all but refused to speak.

But mostly she wants somebody to step up and show the wisdom and fire and determination of David Cameron and call for an end to this democracy baloney. Our beloved leader (whoever that turns out to be) will decide where schools should be and who should run them, and our beloved leader will decide what students (particular the poor ones who can't just escape to private school) need and what they deserve and what they are going to get.

Give Brown credit-- what other reformsters hint at and dance around and court with dog whistles, Brown just goes ahead and calls for directly and clearly-- an end to public schools controlled locally by citizens elected by the taxpayers. Public schools must be shut down. Democratic local control must be ended. The government, run by a Beloved Leader, will decide all. This is a nice, clear reminder that the attempt to shut down public education goes hand in hand with an assault on democracy itself.


  1. Wow. It's amazing that Cameron is saying that across the pond, and that Brown is presenting it as a great idea. She's bold, but so misguided.

  2. Giving She-who-shall-not-be-named a run for the money.

  3. "She-who-must-not-be-named" is too busy right now working as a fixer to cover up and clean up the mess from her husband's sex scandals---including a police interview video with one of his victims."

  4. Campbell Brown is an idiot on many levels, but to start, here's one thing she got wrong: David Cameron is the head of GOVERNMENT, in the U.K., NOT Head of State. Head of State in the U.K. would be Queen Elizabeth II. My students learn the difference between the two in 8th grade. She needs to come to my class for a refresher.

  5. "chicken littling education . . ." Phrases like that make this the best blog in education land.

  6. Interesting article in Salon today on Brown.