Another Clinton Presidency? Let’s Recall the Role of the First Clinton in Establishing Achieve and the Common Core

Much is being written about the AFT’s early endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president.  As American citizens consider who they believe would make the best president when it comes to education policy, let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

In 1996, corporate superstar Lou Gerstner hosted an education summit at IBM headquarters in Palisades, New York.  This is where Achieve was born.  You remember Achieve, don’t you?  This organization is responsible for the construction of our Common Core State Standards  — the extension of their American Diploma Project.   In attendance at the Palisades Summit were our nation’s governors, accompanied by at least one corporate CEO from each of their respective states.   It was literally an elite  “who’s who” of education reform, too.  Marc Tucker (remember his letter to Hillary Clinton?) was there along with the leaders of the NEA and the AFT and other folks deemed to be “resource people.”  Diane Ravitch was there representing New York University.  Denis Doyle attended as a representative of the Heritage Foundation.  Doyle had recently co-authored the book Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America’s Public Schools with Lou Gerstner and he would go on to co-author a book  with Susan Pimentel (one of the chief architects of the CCSS).  And there were other folks as well who would provide commentary about what took place at Palisades.

President Bill Clinton was there and gave a speech on the second day.  What’s ironic is that some of the conservative education reformers in attendance sang the praises of Clinton’s speech at Palisades.  For example, as I explain and cite in my book (p. 121):

“The bipartisan spirit of the summit was impressive.  On the second day, President Clinton delivered a speech that Doyle described as ‘calculated to please.’  Doyle explained, ‘not surprisingly … it was a speech 95% of which any Republican could have delivered with complete conviction.’  Chester Finn, who attended the summit as a representative of the conservative Hudson Institution, noted that ‘it was a speech which Ronald Reagan could have given.’”

The love feast of Republicans and Democrats and corporate America at Palisades in 1996 resulted in the birth of Achieve and the Common Core State Standards.  President Clinton was there and wholeheartedly endorsed the process of systemically reforming America’s public schools.  “The president even gave a shout out to Bill Gates, a rising corporate superstar who would later join the ranks of CEOs with the big minds and big ideas about education reform, by referring to Gates’ book, The Road from Here.” (p. 121)

So — when you consider who you think will best serve the needs of our public school system in America, please remember that we already have the legacy of the first Clinton presidency in the public education arena.  And I have no doubt that this legacy will continue if Hillary is elected.

This is why I cannot support another Clinton presidency nor any presidency as a result of the current Republican gaggle.  I can only support a candidate who has vowed to address income inequality and to stave the economic and democratic public school blood-letting in our country.  Only Bernie Sanders has the courage to work in the interest of our democratic pluralistic nation and hold public spaces as sacred — not places to be exploited for profit by Wall Street.

The Flipping of Education Policy: When Big Government Became a Good Thing and Local Control Became Bad

Several years ago my husband, Thomas Fiala, and I presented a paper at the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) conference regarding education policy.  President Obama had recently been elected and No Child Left Behind was choking the life out of public education. The steady drumbeat of free market privatization was clearly echoing across the nation.  Race to the Top was starting to boil across the country and its scalding corrosive steam was beginning to be felt.  Our paper explored the convergence of education policy discussions across the decades and we presented it at a political science conference because it was as much about the intrusion of economic policy and conservative ideology in the education arena as it was education policy.  The MPSA conference was an excellent venue for vetting our ideas.  Instead of preaching to the choir, we were talking with scholars from other disciplines who could challenge us and help us in our quest to understand how we ended up in this place and time with the federal government driving education policy — something that has been traditionally considered a local issue or, at best, in the hands of state governments to decide.

One of our discussants at MPSA posed an interesting question, asking, “How do you explain the fact that conservatives have always been opposed to centralized federal government and yet it was a Republican president who brought us the most far-reaching federal education policies in U.S. history?  How do you explain that?”  “Aaaah,”  We responded.  “That is the question that drives our research.”  Far from being definitive, our paper had opened up a number of questions that were not easy to answer.  And so we continued to delve into our research.

By 2014, the Common Core State Standards had become a lightning rod in the U.S. and was driving an angry groundswell of dissenters on both the political right and left.  While many conservatives were angry about the federal overreach in promoting a set of national education standards that were suspect by their very nature, many liberals were crying foul over the continued assault on public education and teachers, and an onslaught of standardized tests. And both sides were questioning the profit motive that was driving corporate influence in education policy.

The time was right to write The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy.  In this book I try to answer the question posed at the Midwest Political Science Association conference several years earlier.  While the key to understanding current education policy is acknowledging the powerful influence of conservative voices that have never missed an opportunity to criticize the very notion of public education since at least 1931 when Albert Jay Nock wrote The Theory of Education in the United States, to understand how these ideas became the wellspring of current education policy requires an examination of public policy in general. Conservative thinkers such as Nock and those who followed him, most notably free market economist Milton Friedman, were provided a national stage when President Reagan was elected.  And while Reagan’s first order of business in the education policy arena was intended to be the abolition of the federal Department of Education, the publication of the erroneous, misleading, and factually wrong report A Nation at Risk created a heady atmosphere among Reagan supporters that their conservative ideas could finally form the basis of national education policy in the years to come.  While ANAR did not immediately yield the fruit of their most cherished idea — vouchers and school choice — it did provide a platform for promoting the privatization of public education.  And the inflammatory report did provide the impetus for dismantling our nation’s public school system by creating a crisis mentality and promoting the zeitgeist that all our public schools are failing.  This zeitgeist has gone largely unchallenged, and when it was challenged in the early 90s with the Sandia Report, the administration of George H.W. Bush had the report buried so that it would never be publicly reported to the American citizens.

When a Democrat was elected as president, our nation had an opportunity to reclaim our nation’s public school system and celebrate the achievement of a nation that had for so long envisioned public schools as an arena for hope and equity.  Acknowledging that schools serve and reflect communities and that there was still so much work to be done to overcome structural problems like poverty, income disparity, racism, and unequal funding for public schools that interfere with a child’s educational attainment, we could have embarked on an era of genuine reform — both socially and educationally.  Instead, we placed our faith in Bill Clinton and understanding his public and education policies is essential if one is to understand the origins of the Common Core.  He opened the gate, through his allegiance to the free market and his adoption of third way politics, to corporate leaders who took a place at the head of the table in education policies.  And corporate leaders seized the opportunity with gusto.  As a result, Bill Clinton became the architect of what would become No Child Left Behind, which would be skillfully named by George W. Bush to reflect the trademarked motto (“Leave no Child Behind”) of Marian Wright Edelman’s Children’s Defense Fund.

Corporate leaders have been setting the agenda in education for several decades now.  They do not act in a conspiratorial way.  They were invited to the policy table and they have not left.  No one blinked an eye when they openly declared that they envisioned the education arena as a way to make huge profits.  They organized summits and conferences to plot their strategy.  Corporate leaders and think tank executives move freely between governmental appointments and private enterprise to expand their influence.  They act boldly and brush off any criticism about their actions because they can afford to do so.

A growing number of scholars have begun to acknowledge that governmental decision making in the U.S. has been corrupted by this third way of governance.  Mike Lofgren calls it the Deep State, explaining the phenomenon on the Bill Moyers show.  In deciphering the policies that have culminated in RTTT and CCSS, I think I now understand how we got here.  The question now remains — how do we get out of here?  How do we reclaim our public schools?   A first step, I believe, is reclaiming local control over public schools.  This we cannot surrender.  A growing number of education critics are arguing that local school governance is the problem.  We are seeing a growing trend in which entire school districts are being turned over to private management firms and the power of local school boards is being assaulted.  It is only at the local level, with democratically elected school boards, that we can complete the work of reclaiming public schools and address problems inherent with faulty standards, curricula, high stakes testing, teacher evaluation, data mining, and the other toxic policies emanating  from centralized authorities who long ago relinquished their responsibilities to corporations intent on using education policies as a way to make a buck on the backs of our children.  School boards have the power to drive the money lenders from the temple.  Of course, they must seize their power by collectively demanding that our elected officials restructure school funding so that school districts do not have to bow to the altar of state and federal officials to ensure that their children receive equitable funding for their public schools.

Stop the War Metaphors when Talking About Education Policy: Have You no Shame?

In 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education declared, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”  And thus began an era in which a culture of shame was attributed to America’s public education system.  I don’t know about my fellow public school supporters, but I am quite frankly tired of the use of war metaphors by critics of public schools.  We are talking about children after all.

Lee Fang’s article, “Venture Capitalists Are Poised to ‘Disrupt’ Everything About the Education Market,” published by The Nation on September 25, 2014, illustrates how pervasive this use of violent war metaphors has become (http://www.thenation.com/article/181762/venture-capitalists-are-poised-disrupt-everything-about-education-market#).  Fang cites Michael Moe and a document produced by his investment firm, GSV Capital, entitled “American Revolution 2.0” which serves the dual purposes of providing a manifesto for education reform and a blueprint for how venture capitalists can make a lot of money in the educational sector.  According to Fang:

“The revolution GSV goes on to describe is a battle to control the fate of America’s K-12 education system. Noting that this money is still controlled by public entities, or what’s referred in the document as “the old model,” the GSV paper calls for reformers to join the “education battlefield.” (A colorful diagram depicts “unions” and “status quo” forces equipped with muskets across businesses and other “change agents” equipped with a fighter jet and a howitzer.) The GSV manifesto declares, “we believe the opportunity to build numerous multi-billion dollar education enterprises is finally real.”

Further examination of GSV’s 300+ page document (http://gsvadvisors.com/wordpress/wp-content/themes/gsvadvisors/American%20Revolution%202.0.pdf) is alarming.  Children are not referred to merely as students — they are “knowledge troops.”  GSV provides a “budget battle” detailing the expected market growth and profit through 2018 for every aspect of the education marketplace from pre-k education to charter schools and e-learning to test prep and counseling.  Other sections in GSV’s manifesto bear war inspired titles such as “Shock and Awe,” “Modern Weaponry,” “Time to Fight,” and “Weapons of Mass Education – Investment Themes.”

As Fang adeptly points out in the subtitle of his article, “Venture capitalists and for-profit firms are salivating over the exploding $788.7 billion market in K-12 education.”  And apparently, they have no shame when declaring a war on public education.  In their “Strategic Battle Plan,” they openly call for the elimination of local school boards and employ all the rhetoric of free market advocates.

And what about those “knowledge troops” — or children as I prefer to call them?  What is their role in this supposed war/revolution?  Should kindergarteners be issued combat fatigues on their day of school to complete the war metaphor?  Or, as is increasingly evident, are they collateral damage, suffering from battle fatigue and post traumatic stress disorder as the result of wave after wave of high stakes standardized tests being being launched at them?  If children are, indeed, as envisioned by corporate reformers and venture capitalists, the troops in this war on public education, then I have to ask, who protects the children from the ravages of war?

The use of violent metaphors has been a consistent theme for corporate and free market reformers.  In 1971, conservative libertarian economist and political theorist Murray Rothbard invoked the war metaphor in his attack on America’s public school system with his book “Education: Free and Compulsory” when he proclaimed on the cover, “We are Ready — How about You?  SCHOOLS AT WAR!”  In 2008, Matt Miller of the Center for American Progress, wrote an article entitled, “First, Kill all the School Boards” for The Atlantic.  At the 1995 National Governors Association meeting, corporate superstar Lou Gerstner (of RJR Nabisco and IBM fame) called for complete revolution in education policy, stating, “The only way this will happen … is if we push through a fundamental, bone-jarring, full-fledged, 100 percent revolution that discards the old and replaces it with a totally new performance-driven system.”  One year later, at a gathering of governors and corporate CEOs at the IBM Palisades NY headquarters, the organization Achieve, Inc. was formed — the organization that would bring us the Common Core State Standards.  And the bone-jarring revolution continues.  But whose bones are getting jarred in the end?  The federal Department of Education?  No — its still going strong.  The venture capitalists and corporate CEOs?  No, they’re getting richer by the minute.  The bone-jarring revolution, however, is leaving a lot of children bewildered and frustrated along with the teachers who spend their days with them.  And let’s not forget the parents who are trying to make sense of it all.

Thank you, Lee Fang, for reminding us that there is a price on the head of every child in America.  We’re not giving up, however.  I urge all Americans to call for unilateral disarmament in the war on public schools.  Of course, there is really nothing unilateral about it.  The reality is that there are no “knowledge troops” — just children.  They have no war machines to lay down.  They just want to pick up their books and learn.

I eagerly await the publication of my book by Palgrave Macmillan in January entitled, “The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy.”  I believe it will further expand the discourse among citizens and scholars interested in taking back their public schools.  Knowledge is power — and I’m not talking about the KIPP Knowledge is Power Program — and power in the form of knowledge is not violent.

The Conservative Mind and Education Reform

Thank you, Andy Smarick, of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, for your commentary on the role of conservatism in education reform (Change and preservation in education reform, August 6, 2014).  Apparently, Smarick and Michael Petrilli (the newly appointed president of Fordham) are wrestling with the education policies their organization helped engineer in partnership with corporate interests and presidential administrations (both Democrat and Republican) in recent decades.  Once again, the conservative lens is being employed to sort out the debacle that has culminated in the current state of education policy with all its accoutrements —  the Common Core, an explosion in student testing, massive data storage systems, value added measurements for teacher accountability, and, last but certainly not least, a free market driven system that ensures the free flow of dollars to the private sector through charter schools and products associated with RTTT education reform policies.

Smarick wonders if education reform is “inherently anti-conservative” and if things might “be better if we sought counsel from conservatism?”  He refers to an article by Phillip Wallach and Justus Myers in National Affairs entitled “The Conservative Governing Disposition.”

Smarick discusses the “conservative governing disposition,” citing several of the conservative’s favored political and economic thinkers and philosophers and concludes that a conservative governing disposition embodies a belief that “change ought to advance gradually… .”

While Smarick may be thinking about current education reform initiatives when suggesting that our country should have proceeded more cautiously and circumspectly in adopting the widespread sweeping reforms associated with the current administration, it is simply wrong-headed to look longingly back to conservative thinkers and wonder how much better education would be if we’d heeded their advice.  Smarick would be wise to consider the seminal works of conservatives like Albert J. Nock, Russell Kirk, and Murray Rothbard (to name a few).

In chapter 2 of my upcoming book The Origins of the Common Core:  How the Free Markets Became Public Education Policy (Palgrave Macmillan, January, 2015), I examine the ideas of several conservative thinkers on education policy.  For example, Albert Nock, writing in the 1930s, believed that “the progressive theory of ‘educational equality’ that undergirded America’s education system was particularly troubling because he felt it was based on a socialist model that created a ‘perverse’ popular doctrine leading people to believe that ‘everybody is educable.’”  Russell Kirk (considered a giant of conservatism and revered by President Reagan), likewise considered America’s public school system to be a reflection of “a socialistic federal government in collusion with progressive educators …”.  Murray Rothbard continued the conservative assault on public education in the 1970s, claiming that one of the major problems associated with public schools arises from compulsory education policies.  According to Rothbard, children who are “dull” and “have little aptitude” should not be forced to even attend school because it is a “criminal offense to their natures.”

Are these the conservative people we should be heeding?  Or are these the voices behind A Nation at Risk during the conservative Reagan era that lead the all-out assault on public education and teachers?  I think the latter.

In a previous posting, Smarick attempts to distinguish between free market advocates and the true conservative mindset, claiming that free market ideology is only “one strand of conservatism.”   I disagree.  I find the ideas that undergird free market economics — the supremacy of property ownership and the restriction of government intervention through taxes or regulation — to be an enduring theme throughout conservative thought.  Nonetheless, President Ronald Reagan, the icon of conservatism in America, embraced the free market ideas of Milton Friedman wholeheartedly and ushered in the era of laissez faire, free market policies that have governed our public policies across many sectors since the 1980s.  Friedman’s tenacity in promoting school vouchers, choice, and their latest iteration — school charters garnered him the title “the father of modern school reform” and his Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice continues to advocate for a free market, conservative approach in education reform.

And what of the conservative notion that change is best when it takes place gradually?  Conservative advocates of maintaining the Plessy v. Fergusen “separate but equal” policies certainly embraced that notion when they attacked the Brown v. Board decision in 1954.  Southern segregationists found a home among conservatives during their widespread resistance to desegregation of their public schools.  As a matter of fact the conservative National Review (William F. Buckley’s publication) published an article in 1958 by Anthony Harrigan lauding the “essential conservatism” of the south.  According to Harrigan, “The South … has an essential conservatism …. The original shapers of the Southern tradition believed that progress resulted not from equality of condition, but from fruitful inequalities.”

Let us not forget the terrible price American citizens had to pay while segregationists embraced essential conservatism.  A number of Americans were denied their right to vote, beaten, and even murdered.

In the 1950s Milton Friedman arose as a hero to segregationists when he advocated for the use of tax vouchers to send students to segregated private schools.  For Friedman, the fact that his idea was being embraced as a way to maintain segregated schools was not really a problem.  He believed that “the appropriate activity for those who oppose segregation and racial prejudice is to try to persuade others to their view, if and as they succeed, the mixed schools will grow at the expense of the nonmixed, and a gradual transition will take place.”  That sounds very conservative.  I suppose Ruby Bridges’ parents should have taken more time to “persuade” angry white segregationists to allow their daughter to attend the all-white William Franz Elementary School before sending her to school.  Same with the Little Rock Nine.  Friedman persistently referred to public schools as socialist institutions and government monopolies.  As a matter of fact he generally didn’t use the term public schools, referring to them instead as “government schools.”

I would, therefore, urge Andy Smarick to think more deeply about the conservative notion of gradual change.  We may agree about  the current RTTT debacle.  However, it is wrong to begin with an assumption that these reform initiatives are those of progressives or liberals.  There are no clean hands.  When it comes to education reform the apt metaphor may well be “hands across America” as one presidential administration handed off its policies with very little change to the next administration.   And the momentum kept growing with each new administration since Reagan, adding layer upon layer of policies.  The glue that has held the opposing parties together has been the conservative ideal of the free markets and competition as the arbiter of education policy.  And the biggest winners have been those who have financially gained the most from this era of free market education reform — big business and venture capitalists.

I wonder if we removed the profit incentive from education policy how much better our schools could become?  Even those involved in the “non-profit” charter school movement seem to be getting quite fat off the backs of America’s school children.

I’ve spent several years examining the impact of free market ideology on education policy — policies that have been embraced by both Democrats and Republicans since the era of “Reaganomics” and “Friedmanomics.”  The result is “The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy.”   I completed research for this book with one certainty.  Until education policy makers disavow themselves of market based reforms and cast the money lenders from the temple of public education, we will not have true reform.  Our challenge is, therefore, attempting to disentangle ourselves from the mess that has been created in recent decades and get back to the real work of schools — teaching our children to be informed, compassionate, well educated citizens.

 

References:

Deborah Duncan Owens, The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy (Palgrave Macmillan, January, 2015).

Milton Friedman, “The Role of Government in Education” in Robert A. Solo (ed.), Economics and the Public Interest (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1955).

Anthony Harrigan, “The South is Different,” National Review, (March 8, 1958).

Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind, 7th revised edition (Washington D.C.: Regency, 1985).

Albert Jay Nock,  The Theory of Education in the United States.  (reprinted by the Ludwig von Mises Institute in 2007).

Murray N. Rothbard, Education: Free and Compulsory (reprinted by the Ludwig von Mises Institute in 1999).

Chester Finn Steps Down!

On August 1st, 2014,  Chester Finn will resign as leader of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.  He will be replaced by Michael Petrilli.  The Fordham Foundation has been a leader in the creation and promotion of the Common Core State Standards, other conservative education initiatives, and the assault on public schools.  This will not change under the leadership of Petrilli.  As a matter of fact, I think it is fair to say that Petrilli will be a stalwart proponent of the Common Core as well as other free market conservative education reform initiatives such as school vouchers, choice, and charters.  I also think it is fair to say that we can expect the promotion of education policies that further erode the local control over public schools.   On the other hand, Finn, in his farewell address, seems to admit that the privatization of public education is problematic, leading to the feeding frenzy we have seen by those who envision the education of children as a boon to entrepreneurial capitalists.  Finn acquiesced:   “I hail the entry into the ed-reform camp of entrepreneurs with all their energy, imagination, and venture capital, but I’ve seen too many examples of them settling for making their venture profitable for investors or shareholders (or themselves) rather than educationally profitable for the kids it serves. That’s not so very different from traditional adult interests within the public and nonprofit sectors battling to ensure their own jobs, income, and comfort rather than giving their pupils top priority. …”   Thanks at least for that, Dr. Finn.  Professional educators and public school supporters will continue to try to clean up the mess you helped make.   Read Dr. Chester Finn’s farewell address at: http://edexcellence.net/articles/education-reform-in-2014 See you on the flip side! Deborah Duncan Owens

Elmira Heights, Church Bells, and a Stop Common Core Sign

As I sat on my little deck in my backyard after work yesterday, I found myself looking forward to the 6:00 hour. My dog had just rested her head on my knee, looking for a good ear scratch, and my husband had just lit the Weber grill.  But at 6:00 every day something magical happens in my small town of Elmira Heights, New York.  Church bells emanate from the Methodist church a block from my house.  They are lovely and while it is true that they are prerecorded – not the old fashioned bells produced by bell ringers of yesteryear – they are lovely and always remind me of Thorton Wilder’s play “Our Town” and why I love living in a small town.  I am new to Elmira Heights. I have become friends with several of my neighbors.  While we are very different in some respects, we share a common bond in that we enjoy living in our little community and going about our lives doing those things people do to make our lives enjoyable and meaningful, like cutting our grass, planting petunias and impatiens in the summer, grilling outdoors, and watching the neighborhood kids playing and walking up and down the streets of our neighborhood.  I can say with all honesty that when I bought my old house, a house in much need of love and repair, I didn’t just buy a house, I bought a neighborhood and a community.

 

Parents I speak to in Elmira Heights like their local schools.  They like the principals, the teachers, and the school buildings.  In the morning I often see dads and moms walking their young children to school and in the afternoon I see the promenade in reverse.  A few months ago, a sign appeared in one of my neighbor’s front yard.  It’s pencil yellow with bold black words simply stating, “Stop Common Core.”  I haven’t formally met these neighbors yet, but I do see them outside regularly, so I know they have young children.  It’s not without irony that as they engage in their own simple form of protest I have been huddled inside my house over the past few months, using every spare minute trying to decipher the decades long political wranglings that have culminated in the Common Core and all the other education policies that accompany the standards.

 

I often wonder about the individual parents who are resisting the Common Core.  Are they conservatives concerned about government intervention in education?  Are they liberals fighting against the transformation of teaching and learning into days filled with standardized testing and test prep?  Or perhaps they understand that the Common Core, as a set of national standards, represents an attempt to dismantle the public school system and wrestle control of their public schools from local school boards.  Perhaps the anti-Common Core movement reflects parents’ concerns about the influence of corporations over education reform and the use of their children as capital to fatten the wallets of CEOs and venture capitalists.

 

As I read the growing number of blogs devoted to efforts to resist Common Core I have come to believe that the answer is somewhere in the middle and that parents on both sides of the political spectrum are uniting over their concerns about current education policies.  They speak for their children, citizens who have no vote or ability to impact education policy.  And perhaps they understand that current education policies will inevitably result in their diminished capacity to have a voice in how their schools will be governed.  Current policies are squeezing the life out of community schools.  State budgets are stretched almost to the limit, leaving local school boards no option but to either raise local taxes or find alternative ways to finance their schools.  With much of the public money being funneled into expensive testing schemes and purchasing the technology required to administer these tests, local schools districts are scrambling to maintain some kind of autonomy over how they spend what remains of their budgets.

 

With my book finally written and in production, I plan to get to know more of my neighbors.  One of my students enrolled in the graduate literacy program at Elmira College where I teach is starting a preschool program at the Methodist Church in my neighborhood, the one with the lovely bells.  I plan to visit her new preschool and offer her assistance and support.  She tells me that the church has a little room that serves as a museum dedicated to the church’s history and that, yes, the original church bell is still there with a bell pull still in place.  I can’t wait to see it and learn more about that old church and my community.  I plan to introduce myself to the young family who has posted the Stop Common Core sign in their front yard.  And I plan to continue in my quest to help preserve what I believe is one of America’s best institutions — our public schools.

 Deborah Duncan Owens

 

Common Core Origins: A New Book on the Horizon

As a long time supporter of public schools, a former public school teacher, a teacher educator, and a believer in democracy and local school governance of public schools, I am pleased to announce that my book The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy is on the horizon.  It is currently in production with Palgrave Macmillan, with a scheduled release date of January, 2015. While this is scholarly endeavor, it is also written from my heart.  I began researching the impact of free market policies on education fifteen years ago while working as an elementary teacher in Mississippi.  This research led me to Milton Friedman, who has been hailed as the “father of modern school reform” and is often credited with originating the idea of school vouchers and school choice — a concept that has morphed into the charter school movement.  Of course, within this book there is a great deal more  than a discussion about Friedman!

I will discuss further details about my book in future postings on this website as well as further research on this topic.  The goal of this book and website is to add to the efforts of those bloggers and authors who are valiantly defending America’s democratic institution of public schools, an institution that has historically served America well.  I hope my future contributions will help those millions of public school supporters in their quest to maintain the integrity of American public education.

I am providing a few short selections from the book’s forward, which I believe captures the spirit of The Origins of the Common Core: How the Free Market Became Public Education Policy:

“What Owens has been able to accomplish is an explanation of how … the free market became public school policy.  As Owens points out, within this process, America’s public school system has once again become a scapegoat for all that ails American society, while heralding all the ramifications of free market systemic education reform as the means of saving the U.S. from its supposed enemy – the public school system writ large. …

For those individuals on the political and ideological right or left who are militantly wedded to their ideas, however, this book will not provide safe haven.  This is because, as the book makes clear, both political parties have found common ground in a unified allegiance to a free market approach to systemic education reform that has created an educational sea of profit at the expense of America’s most important resource – its children. …

For those who see the numerous reform initiatives such as high stakes testing, charter schools, vouchers, value added measurement, student data collecting, and the disempowerment of citizens in decision-making when it comes to their public schools as the wrong approach to meeting the education challenges confronting the U.S., this is an empowering book. …” (by Thomas J. Fiala)