Over here at the COOP, we’re not getting paid to “influence” the reform discourse in education.
Are we ever missing the gravy train.
Returning from a weekend practicing mindfulness for educators (so wrong side of the tracks), I blithely take some deep breaths, settle onto my ergonomic knee chair, and catch up on my emails from the last two days. Only to discover, to the detriment of our personal bank accounts, that none of us here at the COOP have been receiving half a million dollars a year from the Gates Foundation to personally influence public opinion to promote favored educational reform initiatives.
In an straightforward, just-the-facts-ma’am expose in the Sunday New York Times, Sam Dillon takes the reader through the rise of “The Big Three” educational foundation’s increasing focus on not just funding projects strategically designed to affect the shape of educational reform, but to influence the formation of opinion about those projects themselves. “We’ve learned that school-level investments aren’t enough to drive systemic changes,” the Times article quotes the president of the Gates Foundation’s United States program saying. “The importance of advocacy has gotten clearer and clearer.”
Since 2005, Gates has quadrupled the amount spent on opinion and influence advocacy, for instance paying the always-passionate, and always-passionate-that-he-is right Rick Hess $500,000 in 2009 “to influence the national educational debates.” And we thought all those Ed Week blog posts, edited volumes, books, research papers and endless opinion pieces were coming straight from his heart and sense of moral purpose.
“Given the scale of the philanthropy,” the Times article notes drily, “some worry that the Foundation’s assertive philanthropy is squelching independent thought.” Hmmm.
Gates in fact gave 360 educational grants in 2009, many to EdWeek, research organizations that produce papers that support their initiatives, and “grassroots advocates” who are paid to organize in their local communities to support their priorities and initiatives. Ever wonder why the common core and the Gates Foundation are featured so prominently on the first page of EdWeek? Ever wonder why those lengthy pieces on new teacher evaluation efforts seem so in bed with the objectives of “value added” research, also funded by Gates? The Times article also notes that Fordham Foundation’s president, Checker Finn, long-time advocate of national standards and test-based accountability back from my graduate school days, received $959,000 from Gates to “review common core materials and develop supportive materials,” which I found amusing since I had JUST sent Chad a seemingly impartial blog post by Checker Finn from last week, in which Finn calls critiques of national testing and the common core “silliness” (okay, Dad) and a bit later, agrees with none other than–Rick Hess! (Small world, ain’t it?). Arne Duncan himself often quotes a study about teacher evaluation effectiveness produced by the New Teacher Project, which received funding from the Gates Foundation. While one funder says he feels “free to speak out” when he thinks the Foundation is wrongheaded, the influence of half to a million dollars may quell some folk’s appetite for dispassionate analysis. In the Times piece again, Rick Hess says, “everyone is implicated.”
To influence public opinion and push its reform agenda, the Gates Foundation, “establish[es] strong ties to local journalists” who are paid, for instance, to “go toe to toe” with union officials say, about the policies of teachers unions, presumably to discredit them. But to avoid appearing to be a “tool of the foundation,” grantees are urged to “maintain a low public profile,” about their funding sources.
So what do the BIG THREE (Gates, Broad, Wallace) generally like to fund, and how has their influence grow? In another great post by Dana Goldstein, the big three educational foundations have aggressively quadrupled their educational spending overall to since 2005 to support their priorities. And what are their priorities? Sound familiar? Common core standards, aggressive advocacy for school choice and charter schools, mayoral control of educational systems, and teacher evaluation tied to test scores, among others. Add this to the aggressive opinion intervention techniques and priorities, and you realize how dramatically the entire mainstream discourse is affected, and perhaps controlled by, big money. In fact, what is talked about, what kinds of knowledge is considered acceptable and valid, whose research gets play, and whose experiences and perceptions are honored, is all a part of this strategic funding and influence web.
Ever feel like you are a voice in the wilderness? It isn’t just your imagination. Others are being paid to make you feel that way.
Are we here at the COOP–we, the humble UNPAID–talking back to this effectively? Have our priorities: a consistent focus on the classroom experiences of teachers, parents, and administrators, as we reflect about learning; our profound interest in students’ experiences of learning; our acknowledgement of the complexity of teaching and the mysteries of learning; and the effect of policy on people who are deeply committed to teaching; being expressed as vociferously and effectively as we can possibly articulate?
Because our David, to their Goliath, is real. This funding web of influence and control is, “Orwellian,” says Bruce Fuller, education professor at UC Berkley, also in the Times piece. “Through this vast funding they start to control even how we tacitly think about the problems facing public education,” Fuller notes.
Perhaps instead of a COOP badge, our blog should feature a badge that says, “The COOP does not receive funds from major educational foundations to forward their opinions and objectives?”
Are we standing up?
WOW! This is a mind full! WoW! I am not sure what else to say!
Thanks for sharing this! Please send this article to Huffington Post! But I am guessing they might be funded by Gates too, since Michelle Rhee gets a article a week on there…
Thanks David! You the man. I wonder how we might expand this conversation more publically to try to track and name all the ways in which WHAT we are authorized to think about in terms of “educational problems,” and “educational solutions” are being actively shaped and agendized?
Ken or Sam Chaltain or John Thompson should re-post this on HuffPo if Kirsten is somehow disallowed.
No doubt I am disallowed!
Did anyone ever contact Sam?
Thanks for this excellent post, Kirsten. The most critical part of that NYT piece, which you mentioned, is how Gates influences the way people think about education – the words Gates uses have spread over the educational world from think-tank pundits to policy-makers to charter school developers and more.
It’s a shame too, because 10 years ago when Gates began their education funding their focus was on personalized learning and small schools, funding leading models of student engagement such as Edvisions Schools, Big Picture schools, and small school projects in many cities around the country. When some of those large-scale efforts didn’t immediately show the kind of achievement gains Gates was looking for, he essentially abandoned that approach, moving to their current focus on students being “ready for college and career” and the need for “effective teaching,” (code-word for rating teachers based on standardized test results).
Imagine if Gates had realized during his initial investments that change takes time and that he needed to further support communities to learn and develop their personalized programs, and he then funded advocates like Linda Darling-Hammond, Pedro Noguera and the thousands of others who know this is best way to learn and structure schools?
This all just reminds me that what we lots to do. We know we have strength in numbers – students, parents, teachers, administrators, academics, and more who know that merit pay and more tests are not the solution. Let’s use that strength strategically and keep moving together.
Dana, Thank you for being here. This is such an important comment, and speaks very much to my own experiences with Gates. Back in 2000, when they were interested in their small schools initiative and innovative school models, I did a project for them in which I got to write and think and talk to the folks who started the truly amazing Minnesota New Country School, part of Edvisions http://www.newcountryschool.com/. MNCS is a school in which high school students design their own learning projects, have deep, intensive relationships with each other and their teacher coaches, and establish their own learning goals (yes and they kick ass on the state tests too). All that funding, and interest, as you note, has gone away, to be replaced by their new darling initiatives, measures of teacher effectiveness, merit pay, quantitative analyses of teacher effect. Growing cultures of effective schooling is off the agenda.
I am with you that we have great strength in numbers, and can only be marginalized if we allow ourselves to be marginalized. This has been a powerful realization for me.
These articles and Kirsten’s blog confirm for me that applying pressure and disrupting the school system by providing alternatives for people to use outside of school are likely to be more effective actions against the tyranny of Big Schooling than watching yet another teacher get sacrificed on the altar of educational standards or watching more research get stifled in the name of institutional conformity. Big money and big organizations have been limiting the debate about education reform for far longer than since the Gates Foundation was founded, and education experts have been associated with efforts to limit nonprofessional opinions for decades (for instance, see Seymour Sarason’s Parental Involvement and the Political Principle, Jossey-Bass, 1995).
Homeschooling and unschooling, as well as parents and teachers who form independent schools and learning centers that are not chartered by the state, have been growing and producing successful graduates for decades, but these classic examples of parental involvement and student engagement in education are consistently ignored and denigrated by Big Schooling and their hired guns.
Hey All, I just want to alert everyone to Pat Farenga’s fantastic Learning Without Schooling blog:
and his decades of work promoting the interests of parents, students and teachers who have decided to work OUTSIDE the mainstream public school system, by choice and as a matter of philosophy. Patrick and his associates worked with the incomparably wise and insightful John Holt through the early 1980s, when Holt died, and Pat has continued on with his legacy and in forwarding Holt’s writing and ideas. Pat is an important ally for us as we try to build bridges between formerly balkanized parts of the education sector.
What do public school folks have to learn from homeschoolers? How can we help people BE NOT AFRAID of what homeschooling offers?
Thanks for joining us here Patrick!
Hopefully, most have read Clark Aldrich’s book, Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education
If you have not, and have .99 (until the end of May)and a Kindle it is terrific insight into what public education can learn from home/un/schooling. Here’s a taste:
Rather, truly caring schools and parents will instead work to learn themselves from homeschoolers and unschoolers to get new ideas. That is the point of the book.
We are entering a new world where families do have real choices. Homeschooling and unschooling will reform schools because it is the first ever school reform that doesn’t rely on schools reforming.
No surprise here. Check out the following article about TFA: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/2010/03/barbara-miners-article-on-teach-for.html
It seems it is always about money. I call it the big lie. I just began reading Ron Wolk’s book: Wasting Minds. We should title it Wasting Money: Here is a quote from the book about NCLB from Teacher Magazine: “President Bush has justified these tests by saying that “Without yearly testing we do not know who is falling behind and who needs our help.” If that’s what this is all about, we can save lots of time and money. All the President and the Congress need to do is go to the districts and schools that serve the urban and rural poor, immigrants, and racial minorities. They can see with their own eyes the children who we always leave behind and who desperately need our help. And if they need more testing to tell them that, then they haven’t been paying attention. (Wolk, 2001, p. 4)”
Those that serve the educationally disenfranchised know where resources and effort needs to needs to be placed. It is time we stop tinkering around the edges with small technical fixes and create holistic adaptive solutions to arresting this drop out nation.
Thanks for the awesome post. By the way, when can I get my honorarium?
Kirsten, Excellent post as it left me feeling dirty and bamboozled. We squander our trust so blindly onto the education blogs, hoping and believing that these are indeed opinion influenced by the reality of education and not just someone’s money driven agenda. How sad for the ultimate goal to be decided by 3 very rich people. I will continue to voice my opinion, unswayed by the direction some want to push our educational system. Yes, it needs to change, but throwing money at it will not fix everything, particularly if it is thrown blindly.
Pernille, Your powerful voice has already inspired us here! Onward! With fierceness!
Jamie, I loved Barbara Miner’s piece on TFA from last spring and am channeling her here, obviously.
You are so right that it is less about our not knowing what to do to make schools better, and more about our will to do it. Yet as these set of pieces from the weekend also make clear, how we think about what to do is really being shaped by the agendas of major foundations–I think often without folks being consciously aware that the discourse has narrowed, has predetermined outcomes, while other forms of knowledge and knowing are actively marginalized and discredited. How to take back the territory and claim what we know? I think that’s part of our work here at the COOP.
Your check is in the mail.
Here is Diane Ravitch take on the same article…
David, Thanks for this link. From Dana Bennis, I am also alerted to the academic work of Philip Kovacs and his investigation of the priorities of the Gates Foundation. Here’s one article: http://www.jceps.com/index.php?pageID=article&articleID=128
And Gates has replied to the NYT piece, check it out:
It all sounds great, and to be fair I’d even go so far as to say that some of their investments are decent. Yet the overall impact of Gates is what we’ve been talking about here: narrowing the dialogue, increasing high-stakes accountability, and discouraging student engagement and teacher creativity.
I added a comment on the Bill Gates article. Just wanted to make sure that the existing comments had some balance with a different perspective on the Gates Foundation philanthropy.
David, Can you post your comment over here as well? We’d all like to read it.
Agreed completely. It isn’t that everything Gates does is bad, but the influence buying without disclosure is reprehensible, as is the mammoth amounts of money. Crushing amounts of money. Amounts of money that literally end all other discussions.
This quote I found today….seemed right for this discussion….
“Every teacher has a responsibility, as a craftperson, to hone her or his skills and refuse to believe there is one child destined to failure. Similarly, every teacher has a responsibility, as a citizen, to act politically in the name of his or her students for the creation of a just world where children can do rewarding work and live happy lives. If that means being criticized by administrators, becoming involuntarily transferred or even fired, one should be proud of being a troublemaker in a troubled world.”
— Herbert Kohl Point Arena, Calif. March 1988 from introduction of 36 Children!
Gotta Love Herbert Kohl!
I just want to add something Herb Kohl said to me personally once: “If you’re not making trouble you’re not paying attention.” Herb was a reader on my dissertation committee, and he consistently and lovingly urged everyone to take it up a notch.
The media blitz surrounding public education is testing our society’s level of information literacy and critical thinking skills and is stressing the power balancing ideals of our democracy. If money is the sole source of power, our nation as a whole is at risk. The five freedoms are often left to others to guarantee for us when we must own them for ourselves. Forums like that provided by the COOP are not only nice to have but they are necessary if we are to operate as a democracy. Kirsten’s post serves as a reminder about knowing one’s source and being mindful of the audience being played to at any given moment. Perhaps the best we can do today is prepare our current students to handle the manipulations like this they will encounter in the future.
Or.. perhaps we’re headed to a time of social currency as it were. Rather than fight for the money, the value of money lessens. Perhaps we’re headed to a day that those with money no longer hold the reigns.
People do trump money. This is a people agenda. Rules of the game are changing. [Lisa Gansky’s The Mesh]
Bloodless revolution happening.
Becky and Monika,
I’m really with Monika on this. Power creates resistance, however cleverly power is wielded. Here is Foucault on this:
“There are no relations of power without resistances; the latter are all the more real and effective because they are formed right at the point where relations of power are exercised; resistance to power does not have to come from elsewhere to be real, nor is it inexorably frustrated through being the compatriot of power. It exists all the more by being in the same place as power; hence, like power, resistance is multiple and can be integrated in global strategies” (1980).
Relations of power are also never absolute–as I’ve said above, we can only be marginalized if we allow ourselves to be marginalized. To me that makes the work we do here at the COOP, and elsewhere in our lives, all the more important.
Thanks for both comments,
I wrote some on power from my #blog4nwp perspective:
I think that we have authority, and that gives us power. How do we get authority to go toe to toe with money in American culture?
I like “people agenda.” This conversation brings me back to our stretch goals regarding readership and advocacy. What’s the next step in our perpetual quest to transform public education?
Chad, That’s a great post and I’m going to send it over to Melia Dicker at IDEA. Thanks for that. I can’t figure out how to comment there.
1) What kind of authority do teachers have? To me this depends a lot on context–in relation to whom do they have authority, and what is it based on? When I lived in a very wealthy town in Connecticut, teachers were treated like vassals in relation to the very wealthy folk who populated the public school system. The teachers at the charter school in Chelsea, MA I work with are seen as nearly all-powerful by many of the families of this school, often they have too much authority. So what are you talking about?
2) My partial theory is that being in these powerful conversations here does help people go toe to toe. But how are we moving that out?
I think my idea of authority here is akin to your descriptions of “standing up.” When teachers stand up in the ways you describe, they exercise a kind of moral and ethical authority that gives their collective decisions and actions some shared power to influence change. Does that make sense? Such moves don’t garner individual teachers traditional kinds of power (where’s my check, Bill?), but together those actions can affect political change as traditional power does through through the numbers and money situated in tradition.
I’m looking for ideas about the moving out part – from silence to the Coöp to what? I think the Save Our Schools march is an example of moving out – I wonder, also, about how to create sustained organizations that can push the authentic education counter-narrative daily.
Just started reading Ed Hirsch’s “The Schools We Need” for some balance on the issue of education reform, and all I can say so far is ‘blarf,’ not everyone with bad ideas about education reform is highly paid.
That being said, I’m only a chapter in, so maybe it gets better.
Brilliant, brilliant. And not the only brilliant assessment of these revolting “follow the money” revelations. The fact that so many have been blase’ about this– “the way the world works”–is terrifying to me.
As a fellow member of the Unpaid Voices in the Wilderness Club, I applaud you for some clear thinking. Will share widely.
We need pins or something to identify us to one another as members of that club – well put.
Nancy, It’s great to have you here too, dear woman! Clear thinking like yours is a welcome thing anywhere.
I think your point about people being blase about this: The Opinion/Foundation/Industrial Complex, is exactly right. “There’s nothing we can do about it.” That’s when you know you’re dead.
You’re not dead.
“Not everyone with bad ideas about education reform is highly paid.” David, perhaps that should be another theme for COOP t-shirts? I am so down with you on that, especially in relation to Hirsch.
You should do a post on the book, just for all to see?
Nice work, Kirsten. Way to pull back the sheets a bit and expose the bed mates.
I was somewhat impressed that Sam Dillon pulled of a relatively “dry” piece in NY Times, though his bias was still quite obvious. Perhaps his own reporting will change his lean. We’ll see.
Thanks for the enlightening post.
Talk to us some more about your idea of “standing up” and “fiercely”. What ideas are you considering?
I think anytime one of us articulates clearly, beautifully, compellingly, complexly, with a sense of justice, what is wrong with the educational system we are in, and the reform currents that surrounds it and shape it, that’s standing up. I also believe when people decide to speak truth to power, to call things as they really are, to not be cowed by the fear of losing a job or being “different” from their colleagues by speaking up, that’s standing up. Standing up happens in lots of ways, from a student refusing to be classified by a test score, to a teacher objecting to a tracking and labeling system (and doing something about it), or a group of educators deciding to establish an alternative program within their school to create a lab for their own educational ideas (like Monika Hardy is doing at her school, and telling us about here at the blog).
Fierce means not backing off, and not being afraid, and challenging ourselves to take risks.
What say you to these ideas?
Here is another link…
that adds to the story and discussion
thanks “August to June” for sharing!
Thanks David, another great link!
Love Susan’s work! She is one of the lights that have guided us progressive in MN for years.
great post by Lyndsay on the whole school as business issue: http://dmlcentral.net/blog/lyndsay-grant/hacking-higher-education
really free school is a wonderful idea.
and sure – we’d screw it up good at first. but once we realized it was a legit – well – how cool would that be?
Monika, Could this idea work where you live? To collect interested folks in unused buildings to house “free” learning communities? Would people go for it?
PS Excellent post by Lyndsay
that’s where the kids’ 4-year plan of disruption takes us. we’re hoping to secure one of those buildings next year – as we’re heading into year two. http://www.slideshare.net/monk51295/findings-in-failings
Monika, Can you post about this? Describe it for us all?
yes – working on it here: http://www.slideshare.net/monk51295/city-as-floorplan
would love critique on describing it more clearly..
Perhaps if your badge said something like ‘organic’? I wonder if our ideal vs corporate/institutional education experience in some way is similar to the organic/sustainable vs commercial food relationship recently described by Michael P? Would it be helpful to use it as a model?
Gingerguy, Your comment reminds me of an excellent post by one of our founding bloggers, Adam Burk, using the image of permaculture for a new model of education.
I recently visited a school outside of Portland, OR that was using a permaculture garden as a tacit model for school transformation. It featured these ideas:
1. It’s the connections between things that matter
2. Waste means you’re not being creative enough
3. Use natural processes to “accelerate maturation”
I found all these ideas incredibly powerful in thinking about how to more organically conceive of school reform. Is this what you’re thinking of?
Kristin, I’m not sure what “accelerate maturation” means, but I think the answer to your question is yes and no; that is, yes, the permaculture (organic) model seems to me to be an ideal way of visualizing education, and change in general;
and no, I was trying to convey the idea of ‘organic’ as a brand; in education a word or phrase that describes the type of educational experience you are providing or represent or is experienced distinct from the std institutional experience. A descriptive logo.
You might not say we offer a permaculture education, for instance.
Perhaps I’m missing the mark here, but I’m wondering if it might help people think about this unique education experience if it had a name.
Joel, you might also be interested in these posts – I’ld love to hear your thinking on them:
It is hard to know where to start as a teacher wading through the swamp of ed reform. I would like to believe that, like politics, all education is local, burt everywhere it seems to be under the spell of hierarchy.
“Reformers” against collective bargaining, educational experts with no authentic connection to students, ‘advocates’ who are lining their own pockets–wolves in sheepskin clothing–these are Orwell’s progeny. Their attacks have been unexpected and until very recently unremarked upon.
So, thanks for the awareness. I choose the pink pill and that has made all the difference. Once aware we are compelled to act. And those acts must happen every day in school and out. What are we acting to do and how can we measure what we are doing and have done? We need to do what we do in the classroom or in the training room or in our homes with our friends and family–we need to assess where we are in the journey to counter the se secret agendas, we need to share ways to act for our learners and each other, and we need to act and then re-assess. As the sales folk say, “Plan your work then work your plan.” To which I might add, “Then re-plan and work some more.”
We have been advocating for personal learning networks in pedagogy, but now I think we need to develop, PAN’s, personal action networks. I think that Coop Catalyst’s function in my life is as a central node in the PAN.
Thanks again, Kirsten. Your post has helped me to a new vantage and a new stance on that vantage. I think this is what real leadership does, unpaid leadership that springs from the heart and not from the wallet.
“I Choose The Pink Pill, And That Has Made All The Difference.”
ANOTHER t-shirt slogan for the COOP?
Tellio, one of the things we’ve been mulling over here at the COOP has been to start a feature on the “anatomy of activism”, where we can track acts of activism in schools or in other educational settings, analyze them, talk about what’s working and what isn’t–get help, in the kind and respectful ways that we help each other–so we can kick ass harder.
Maybe you’d be willing to write a post on your PAN, and your plan, to embolden others and break it down?
Now, this is what I am talking about-anatomies of activism to define and refine a personal action network. A Playbook on how to find the Monika’s of the world, mobilize disillusioned teachers, students and parents, a catalog of ferocity.
Education by the People for the People! Not bought and sold to us by Billionaires and think tanks!
Chad, would this information help?
Click to access emergence_web.pdf
I love emergence. It’s my favorite way to learn from students.
Thank you for this link, Joel!
What’s interesting to me is how the Gates Foundation (and others) support certain voices – and not others. I struggle to find many examples of their foundation putting financial weight behind experienced teachers with truly innovative ideas. It’s even more worrisome that big foundations (with some exceptions) are supportive of test-based teacher evaluations. (On a side note, I think evaluations are necessary and helpful – and I think most teachers would agree – but I don’t believe the current reform wave will help teachers *or* get rid of the small number of truly bad teachers.)
From charter schools to small schools to student assessments to teacher evaluations, the Gates Foundation seems to be great at taking good ideas and twisting them into something very different.
I sometimes wonder how much longer the foundation(s) will support the current “reform” wave. Things may get worse before they get better, and that’s too bad. There is a role for philanthropies in education reform, but I believe there’s enough evidence to suggest some of the biggest players aren’t supporting reforms that will result in sustained improvements.
One question I ask myself occasionally is, “What would you do with Bill’s money?”
So Ken, the question goes back to you: what would YOU do with Bill’s money?
As far as teaching goes, I’d support teacher-led conferences, study groups, and research. Ideally, this would include experienced veterans and newbies. What do young teachers feel like they need? How could we improve the teacher training experience? What do veteran teachers and mid-career professionals see as helpful for improving their craft? (Test scores, of course, would be left out, or only used in no-stakes decisions.) Additionally, I’d focus more on the working conditions that teachers feel allow them to do their best.
I’d also ask more students about their feelings towards school, the qualities of a good teacher, and other general thoughts about education. (In fairness, the Gates Foundation has done a bit of this, but then they tie it back to value-added scores of teachers…ugh.)
Wrap-around services would be another focus. Call me crazy, but I think it’s important to have counselors, nurses, social workers, and other professionals available in schools (particularly in low-income areas where some of these services are not as readily available or affordable).
I’d also support class size reductions, particularly in inner city schools. Sure – it’s expensive, but it’d be worth it. I’d also be in favor of programs like socioeconomically-integrated magnet schools.
The teaching stuff is pretty realistic. Although the Gates Foundation (and others) have a lot of money, they don’t have enough to support social services and class size reductions for all schools, or even all of the nation’s struggling schools. I’d probably have to support advocates of those services/policies, and that’d likely engender a similar response (albeit from the “other” side).
There are other issues, too: I’d support think tanks or advocacy orgs that push for more progressive state tax systems and school finance changes; anti-poverty measures/programs; parent-run organizations; and partner with more locally-based orgs that are knowledgable about their community needs/desires.
We can all be dreamers, right?
Hey Ken, Just to add complexity to what you’ve said, I’m going to point you to this fine, fine classic article from community organizing called, “Why Services Are Bad For People,” by John McKnight. http://oaklandcommunitybuilders.pbworks.com/f/Services+are+Bad+for+People.pdf
The basic argument of the article is that either you’re a citizen or a client, and that communities need citizens, not clients. Are we a community of teachers, or are we receiving services from an authorizing body?
Great Article Kirsten, very thorough. As soon as I learned that Gates had teamed up with Pearson to craft and publish the common core, as well as offer online courses my head began to spin. Who ever knew that the education of children was such big business? What I don’t appreciate about their “influence campaign” is that to me it seems to be modeled on the Fox News “scare you into action” style of influence. Count how many times Gates uses the word failing in an appearance about education. I am given a little hope in the David vs. Goliath battle by observing what has been happening during the Arab spring. Regular people were able to harness the collective will of the masses and speak truth to power. It reminds me of a line from To Kill a Mockingbird, where right before the verdict of Tom Robinson is read Scout thinks that if enough people concentrated hard enough on the same thing at the same time they could change the outcome. Keep fighting the good fight.
My humble artistic response to this post: http://yfrog.com/kk3lxqj
I am late to the conversation, and I want to understand it because of your recent post at IDEA.
I just stumbled across your “We’re Not Getting Paid” post here at the Coop, and the context of being “fierce” has become clearer. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but what you’re getting at is that organizations and groups like the Catalyst should continue to share their messages and perspectives despite the influence and affluence of leading education organizations. Although the smaller groups lack the funding and media coverage of the “big three,” we should be just as active as they are in being voices for strategies and policies in education. The Coop and other groups should not feel as small as they actually are, because its members have legitimate ideas to bring to the table. People need to be “warriors” and find ways to show and demonstrate their ideas more publicly/not letting bigger organizations drown out their voices.
When I found out a couple years ago that Gates had an education foundation, I was surprised. Up until that point he was just the guy who owns Microsoft. I didn’t know he’d stepped down and became a philanthropist. I found out in brief what they support – the charter schools and common core and such – and that didn’t surprise me either. I don’t really know who Rick Hess is or all of these bloggers and journalists, as I am just getting my feet wet with understanding “education policy.” But they are only doing what they think is best. They want the education system to improve too, it’s just that as popular organizations, they are socially required to do what’s popular and trending. Philanthropy is just activism for rich people.
@Dana, isn’t influencing the way people think the point of groups like the coop too? If the Catalyst and similar groups did have the money, wouldn’t it be used to pay for interviews and conventions or things to expose our thoughts about education to the minds of other people? And Kirsten in your first response to Dana when you talk about how Gates used to support the smaller schools, are you are also saying that philanthropic organizations should be more open and inclusive if they are really trying to create change?
Unfortunately, money talks. The only way our motivations will talk is if we all get more aggressive about what we are saying, right? We literally can’t afford to be as cool as a cucumber and buy our way into the spotlight. And this aggression will come about by our will alone. There needs to be more coverage, and we need to reach out to more people. We’re working at it, but we need to turn up the volume. I think this is what you are saying too.
Well, I think that we are working on that as well, and are making progress, but because we do not have money, and we do not have studies behind us (they are available though), or fancy documentaries, it will just take longer to see an effect. How much fiercer can we get without the flash and show and hype to help us? It’s like music. I watch this youtuber called theneedledrop, and he reviewed this indie artist called Tyler the Creator. In this review, theneedledrop made an important observation. Musicians are not noticed for their talents as much as they are noticed for their pizzaz and hype and drama. If they didn’t have those things following them, no one would bother to bat an eye. As an indie enthusiast, I have noticed that there are beautiful and wonderful works out there – outright treasures – but they remain obscure because they don’t have the monetary face lift needed for an acclaim to fame. Drama is obviously not what we need, but again, unless we have the imagery and slogans and pizazz, it’s just going to take a while for people to look the other way. It takes a lot of time and effort to even figure out organizations like IDEA and the COOP even exist. We’re still in the “underground” of the education scene. And from your writing I understand that you want to come up and out and create a presence. We need fierceness, but we need popularity and hype much more.
Who Elected Bill Gates? – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-stager/who-elected-bill-gates_b_829456.html
My 2008 magazine article, “School Wars,” http://www.good.is/post/school-wars/
You ready to write a post for the Cooperative?
The Common Core is being slowly implemented in the schools as of now. It took parents like myself 2.5 years from the date of your post to realize what’s going on. The general public is still unaware.