Thursday, July 21, 2011

Caveat Emptor: Buyer Beware of Some Interagency and Non-profit Collaboration with Neoliberal Foundations and Think Tanks - Part Two of Three

This is the second of a three part post.  Check back soon for part three.

Fenwick W. English
R. Wendell Eaves Senior Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership
School of Education
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Current Neoliberal Targets
Target 1:Traditional Democratic Forms of Governance in Public Education: School Boards
The neoliberal attack has focused on the governance structure of public education. This includes elected school boards, teacher unions, state departments of education and the role of the respective states in determining teacher and administrative preparation and licensure, and the differences among the states in establishing testing programs and different educational standards.
Teacher unions have been targeted as representing major barriers to “educational reform,” which simply translates into the kind of changes the neoliberals and their allies see as necessary to “improve education.” The Gates Foundation gave $2 million dollars to support the controversial film Waiting for Superman, “which demonized Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. Gates also gave $500,000 to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and to his Foundation for Educational Excellence (Dillon, 2011, 11A). Bush is pushing hard for the common core curriculum standards (Bush & Klein, 2011). According to Gates  officials, the Foundation is expected to allocate approximately 15 percent of the $3.5 billion it expects to spend on education for various forms of advocacy (Dillon, 2011, p. 11A).
Target 2: Schools of Education
Neoliberals find schools of education to be irritants to their corporate preferred changes in education. They see schools of education as places where their intellectual agenda is consistently challenged. Neoliberal assault has taken place as a flanking movement by (a) pushing for alternative certification and programs which prepare teachers and administrators outside schools of education because schools of education are seen to be agents functioning with a “harmful monopoly” and which have failed to produce leaders as part of a “faulty pipeline” (Broad Foundation,2003, and; (b) criticism that schools of education appeal to the lowest level of student as judged by college exam test scores.
The linkage between test scores and eugenics is one which is part and parcel of neoliberal ideology. Genetic arguments are used to indicate that test scores represent innate capacities, from the infamous Hernstein and Murray,(1994) the Bell Curve to the Broad Foundation’s (2003) broadside describing the innate capacities of “great” leaders.
This propensity to present prospective teachers prepared in schools of education as simply a task involving genetic sorting, circumvents arguments regarding low wages for teachers as a profession by suggesting merit pay and for profit models of compensation as an antidote which will then draw “the best and brightest” to teaching. The “best and the brightest” angle is a retreat to a genetic or eugenic model of those entering teaching.
By definition such traits are rare and would never apply to the entire teaching force. This is an economic-eugenic model for blunting the criticism that teaching as a profession is underpaid in America, i.e., they’d be better paid if they were “better” meaning more intelligent.
The actual political agenda of the neo-liberals is that they despise the causes often discussed in schools of education. Chester Finn Jr., a conservative fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an executive with a Broad supported institute, singled out schools of education because they are places where journals are published which emphasize topics such as “racism, homophobia, Eurocentrism, sexism and conservatism” (Finn, 1991, p. 225).
Target 3: Educational Leadership Programs
The neoliberal attack on the governance of public education as well as schools of education include an assault on programs which prepare school leaders. This attack has been epitomized by Eli Broad and the Broad Foundation which has funded efforts to de-legitimize leadership preparation in the release of position papers which make all kinds of allegations regarding their alleged shortcomings (Broad, 2003). Broad has focused on getting non-educators into positions of leadership in urban school systems to prove his point.
A frequent critic of leadership programs has been Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank that also supports Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve (Hernstein & Murray, 1994), a text which advocated doing away with federal programs for poor African-Americans on the rationale that their lack of intelligence makes the use of such support negligible. Hess has received up to $500,000 from the Gates Foundation to “influence the national education debates” (Dillon, 2011,11A).
The Alliance to Reform Education Leadership, an arm of the George W. Bush Institute, aims to influence the preparation of 50,000 K-12 principals by 2020. The AREL approach is estimated to cost $500 million over a decade. It enjoys funding from the Bradley Foundation, one of the four “big sister” hard right foundations that support right wing causes.
The neoliberals like to argue that leadership is also largely a genetic capacity. They use such terms as “talent”, “attributes”, “qualities”, “traits” “endowments”, “capabilities” in describing great leaders (Broad Foundation, 2003). These are not acquired skills but innate characteristics. They are genetic endowments. Since they are rare the argument goes, education must be “opened up” in order to find such scarce talent wherever it might exist. The Broad Foundation takes the same approach in bringing in former business CEO’s and retired military brass to become school superintendents. Who cares if they don’t know anything about learning or curriculum? The Broad people see the simple antidote of imposed corporate style management as the solution to learning problems in the schools.
The same economic-eugenics approach to the selection of leadership is that proffered by the Alliance for Reform of Educational Leadership of the George Bush Institute, when the Director, James W. Guthrie, formerly a professor at Berkeley and Vanderbilt, explained that in not selecting more schools of education, the reason was that “education schools [were] not selective enough about who is allowed to enter their programs”. (Aarons, 2010, p. 16).  This perspective is the same advanced by the Broad Foundation in their attack on schools of education and leadership programs in indicating that they want non-educators in leadership positions because they have superior endowments, i.e. genetic capacities.
The de-professionalization agenda of the neoliberals is pursued on a variety of fronts and from a variety of angles. Frederick Hess indicates that that “deregulating the recruitment and training of school managers is especially crucial” (2004, p. 39). This is classic neoliberalist thinking. “De-regulation” is part of the ideology of neoliberalism in breaking the public service ethic ensured via state regulation and superimposing a business, “for-profit” mindset. It is the relentless commodification of public space (See Anderson & Pini, 2011).

Table 1
A Partial List of Neoliberal Goals Regarding Public Education and the Agents and Agencies Engaged in Pursuit of those Goals

Aspect of Society, Education and/or Schooling
Neoliberal View
Neoliberal Agents & Agencies
Role of government (state & federal)
-Limited only to creating legislation to permit alternatives and competition to be created if they did not exist before
-Chester Finn, Heritage Foundation, Fordham Institute
-Frederick Hess, American Enterprise Institute
View of school boards
-An outdated appendage and a hindrance to corporate models of governance-should be abolished
--Also push for more mayoral control of school systems
-Eli Broad- Broad Foundation/Fordham Institute
-Lou Gerstner, Jr.
-Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
View of Schooling
The purpose of schooling is to enable the nation to remain economically competitive in a capitalistic society and world-globalization
-Jeb Bush, Foundation for Educational Excellence (Gates Foundation)
-Chester Finn, Jr. Heritage, Hoover Inst.
-Rupert Murdoch, News Corp.
The Necessity for Competition and Alternatives for Public Schools
Without competition the harmful “monopoly” of the public schools have no incentive to become more efficient and effective-must have charter schools and vouchers
-Chester Finn, Jr. Heritage
-Frederick Hess, AEI
-John Walton, (Wal-Mart)
-Joel Klein, News Corp (Murdoch)
-Rick Scott, Rep. of Gov.Florida
-Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of D.C. schools
View of Teachers and the Teaching Work Force
Anyone can be a teacher as it is primarily genetic endowment that is important; abolish all but minimal teacher training and licensure requirements
-Chester Finn, Jr., Heritage Foundation, Fordham Institute, Hoover Institution
Teacher unions
Abolish teacher unions or strip them of any power to engage in collective bargaining as they pose barriers to corporate governance models; abolish seniority systems and connect teacher pay to test results
-Bill Gates-Gates Foundation
-Eli Broad-Broad Foundation
-Frederick Hess, AEI
-Tom Pawlenty, Reb. Gov. of Minnesota
-Jeb Bush, former Rep.Gov, Florida
-John Kasich, Rep.Gov.Ohio
-Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of Wash. D.C. schools
-Eric Hanushek, Hoover Institution
-Rupert Murdoch, News Corp.
School curriculum
Identify the “core” curriculum to be learned by all students; consists of time honored “Western” perspectives as the only legitimate form of knowledge
Jeb Bush-Foundation for Educational Excellence (Gates)
Joel Klein-(Rupert Murdoch)
Extensive testing is necessary in order to know if students are progressing and to serve as the mechanisms to reward teachers and administrators whose students score the highest.
-Business Round Table
-U.S. Chamber of Commerce
-Bill Gates
View of Schools of Education
Unnecessary and should be abolished; teachers do not have to be professionally prepared; Teach for America is adequate
-Chester Finn, Jr. Heritage Foundation, Fordham Institute
-Eli Broad- Broad Foundation
-Arnold Foundation
-Robertson Foundation
University educational leadership programs
-Must be radically changed or closed down
-More business techniques instilled in preparation programs
-Frederick Hess, AEI
-Eli Broad, Broad Foundation
-James Guthrie, Bush Foundation
-Arthur Levine, Woodrow Wilson Institute, NY
Note: Some of the data in this exhibit were extrapolated from F. English (2010, October) 

This is the second of a three part post.  Check back soon for part three.

No comments: