Will Progressive Education ‘Reformers’ Prevent Conservative Curriculum Infiltration?

Of course not. While there’s many kudos (and profit!) to be had bashing teachers, preventing the dumbing down of curricula–or preventing outright falsehoods such as creationism from being taken seriously–is never on the agenda. Because if ‘reform’ were really about education and not a neo-liberal managerial ideology, some of the reformers might be concerned about Peter Peterson’s (whom we love so much around these parts) infiltration into high school curricula (boldface mine):

I was not surprised to discover that David Walker and the Peterson Foundation were behind a new, widely distributed, high school economics curriculum, that purports to be non-partisan, but in its vocabulary and the material in presents to students tries legitimize the views of Krugman’s “deficit scolds.”

…Curiously, this “research-based” curriculum” did not list Krugman or Columbia’s Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz on its “Understanding Fiscal Responsibility Team” or its Advisory Board. In fact, the only professional economist I could identify on either the “team” or “advisory board,” Henry Levin, is actually a Professor of Education whose area of interest is the privatization of education, not the federal budget….

…They gave a three-year, $2.45 million grant to Teachers College at Columbia University to develop a high school economics curriculum that they call “Understanding Fiscal Responsibility.” It is supposed to be a non-partisan curriculum that “teaches students to think past the political rhetoric they hear about the economic challenges we face as a nation and learn to think for themselves.”

To promote the plan, free copies of selections from the curriculum package have been distributed to 18,000 high school principals, 6,000 school superintendents, and 10,000 social studies teachers to promote the plan. The goal of the project is to eventually involve 40,000 high schools across the country. Meanwhile, the full curriculum with supporting material is available online.

According to a release from Teachers College the “Understanding Fiscal Responsibility” curriculum consists of twenty-four lesson plans covering information about taxation, debt, and deficit. The vocabulary of the sample lessons suggests that students will be introduced to the technical language needed to understand the present debate. The reality is that the political right is using the lessons to shape the terms of the debate itself.

Over and over again the lessons focus on costs and trade-offs, but do not involve students in a discussion of the responsibility of government to meet the needs of people or the purpose of government and society. The forward to the curriculum says it will “help students cut through the partisan obfuscation of both sides” and understand the “accounting identity” that there is “no free lunch.” But by suggesting that the poor, Occupy Wall Street, and liberals want free lunch, the curriculum is identifying, not with accounting principals, but with right-wing rhetoric.

Sample lessons show how social security, Medicare, and foreign aid contribute to the national debt, but not how tax policy and Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy or military expenditures are responsible. Lesson 1 claims to explore “What costs and trade-offs are we willing to accept to ensure the benefits of income security to Social Security recipients?”, but among the options students are asked to consider is whether social security is a “Ponzi scheme.” Setting up the debate this way is akin to requiring students consider creationism in a discussion of biological evolution.

Keep in mind this is exactly the kind of thing the batshitloonitarian right does when they promote Ayn Rand: this is nothing more than warping of children into tomorrow’s deficit scolds.

The battle to reverse the gains of 1932 (and don’t forget the profit!) never ends….

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2 Responses to Will Progressive Education ‘Reformers’ Prevent Conservative Curriculum Infiltration?

  1. joemac53 says:

    I’m glad I taught math and physics. Also that I’m retired.

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