I don't know why I read David Brooks' New York Times column. He is that kind of faux intellectual who mistakes travel for observation, and reading for learning, and no matter what he discusses, his conclusions drive me wild.
Today I read his love letter to "educators" Joel Klein (of New York City's school system) and Michelle Rhee (of Washington, DC). You can tell by Brooks' tone that he really wants President-Elect Obama to pick Michelle Rhee (or "Ms. Merit Pay" as we might call her) as Secretary of Education, though he is nervous about coming out and saying it, lest his dreams not come true.
Read this paragraph: "On the one hand, there are the reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, who support merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards. On the other hand, there are the teachers’ unions and the members of the Ed School establishment, who emphasize greater funding, smaller class sizes and superficial reforms."
Wow. Here's what Brooks is in favor of, the very same system that has worked so well for Wall Street this year, that "market-based solution," that has caused us to spend about $550 billion dollars to save Brooks' Manhattan and Connecticut friends and leave us with no money to save ten million manufacturing jobs.
"Merit Pay" - which brings to education the same "bonus for short term gain" strategy that enabled AIG, Bear Sterns, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, et al, to somehow misplace $7 trillion. we are already awash in the nonsense of "Scientific Research in Education" which provides studies that prove that if you do this this month the results on a perfectly matched test will improve next month (so what if the kid drops out five years later and hates reading for his lifetime?).
"Tough Accountability" - which means we offer educators incentives to teach to the test, to fake student results, to lie about what is going on in their schools, to limit what the forms of inquiry and education which are happening on in their schools. This is the same incentive system which encouraged Wall Street bond raters to claim everything was "AAA" and local real estate appraisers to claim that every house was worth double its value the previous year.
Michelle Rhee is also a graduate of the worst bit of in-nation colonialism currently being practiced, the Teach for America program. The basic assumption behind TFA is that teaching is so easy, any rich kid can do it with six weeks of preparation, but the basic philosophy is that if only poor kids had rich white kids to model themselves after, they'd be fine. No need to change education, no sir, changing education would (to use Brooks's words) be "superficial. Let's insist that the kids change instead - change into, well, yes, people just like David Brooks - white, male, wealthy, and comfortable at a cocktail party on Fifth Avenue.
And Rhee believes in compliance. It has not mattered whether schools "work" or not in DC, what matters is that her administrators follow her rules.
Yup, that's the "reform we need." That's all much less superficial than, say, funding education as if it was a national priority, or paying beginning and experienced teachers in a way which suggests the value of all the education they need to be good at their jobs (thus upping status and helping recruiting and retention - would we have gotten more out of our money if teachers had been paid like bankers and brokers this decade, and vise-versa?), or bringing global technology into our schools, or decreasing class size to allow for greater individualization, or providing better support for parents so they could spend more time with their children, or even rethinking when we teach what we teach (consider Scandinavia and literacy).
Yes, Mr. Brooks, superficial indeed.
Now I don't really know Michelle Rhee. But I do know that the depths of the challenges faced by the District of Columbia cannot be solved by schools alone, nor by the application of "market-based solutions" to a fundamental function of our society. And I know what Michelle Rhee has come to represent - another generation lost while conservatives try to prove that government doesn't - and shouldn't - work.
And I think our children, and our future, are too important for this kind of nonsense.
- Ira Socol
for reasons I can't quite explain, Roger Cohen's name was in this blog post rather than David Brooks's. While this post isn't really fair to David Brooks either, blaming another - unrelated, New York Times columnist, was surely bizarre and very wrong. I apologize to all.
- About Ira David Socol
- Freedom Stick and Firefox Accessibility
- The Change.Org Posts
- IdeaChat 11 February 2012
- Counting the Origins of Failure
- Technology: The Wrong Questions and the Right Questions
- Today's "School Reformers" vs Real Change for Education - I
- Today’s “School Reformers” vs Real Change for Education - II
- The Toolbelt and Universal Design - Education For Everyone
- "Evaluate that!" - Schools for Children