Two Schools of Thought on Education

One, admittedly old school:

Another neo-liberal interpretation (boldface mine):

But Tillerson articulates his view in a fashion unlikely to resonate with the average parent. “I’m not sure public schools understand that we’re their customer—that we, the business community, are your customer,” said Tillerson during the panel discussion. “What they don’t understand is they are producing a product at the end of that high school graduation.”

The Exxon CEO didn’t hesitate to extend his analogy. “Now is that product in a form that we, the customer, can use it? Or is it defective, and we’re not interested?” American schools, Tillerson declared, “have got to step up the performance level—or they’re basically turning out defective products that have no future. Unfortunately, the defective products are human beings. So it’s really serious. It’s tragic. But that’s where we find ourselves today.”

One good reason not to trust these captain of industry is that, in historical context, U.S. education is doing much better than it has in the past. What’s also bizarre is that I’m guessing Exxon isn’t hiring too many geologists straight out of high school.

Of course, structural poverty, below-full employment policies, and the like has nothing to do with ‘defective products’ (boldface mine; emphasis original):

Maybe you think our schools are wasting money and have all they need to be awesome, in spite of the fact that many aren’t even funding their own laws when it comes to school funding. OK — I think you’re totally misguided and the facts are completely in my favor, but fine, we can debate. But not if you’re in Peter Elkind’s world — the issue doesn’t even come up.

I know I’m going to piss off some people by saying this yet again — and that includes some people I genuinely respect. But the debate about the Common Core is largely superfluous. Yes, we need well-written, rigorous standards that are developmentally appropriate. I have my doubts as to whether the Common Core standards are the ones we want (pi introduced in Grade 7? Seems late to me…), but, as I’ve said before, I’m not the guy to lead that discussion (I wish others shared my humility).

But there is no point in implementing any standards if we’re not willing to:

1) Pay for schools that can implement them.

2) Reconfigure our society so all children arrive at those schools with full bellies, good health care, and adequate community infrastructure so they are ready to learn.

Rex Tillerson is willing to spend money to run commercials during the Masters tournament to promote the Common Core. Is he willing to change US law so Exxon can be taxed at rates that provide enough funds to address America’s 22 percent child poverty rate?

According to Elkind, Tillerson was willing to threaten state legislatures with the withdrawal of his company if they didn’t get in line with the Common Core. Is he willing to write letters threatening to pull Exxon out of states that don’t follow their own laws when it comes to ensuring adequate and equitable school funding?

It’s almost as if the emphasis on cheap educational interventions is designed to distract from real poverty reduction programs.

But teachers unions and an unproven Common Core. Or something.

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