In Search of a Tipping Point

I was never an Obama supporter and never will be. Towards the beginning of his term, his supporters excused the sad state of the country by blaming Bush. We are now three years in, which means that Obama owns a large part of the mess that is the United States of America. Through poor leadership, cowardice and, most importantly, being bought off by the same people that buy off every other politician, Obama has allowed this country to remain in the toilet. Somewhere along the way, Obama reached a tipping point where every problem could no longer be blamed on Bush.

The education deformers have reached their tipping point as well.

For the sake of convenience, let’s take No Child Left Behind (which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary), as the seminal point where the education deformers took the driver’s seat. In certain areas of the country, the deformers had already been in charge much longer. However, NCLB was the point where no public school child could escape the standardized testing regime that became a hallmark of deformer policy.

If Obama reached his tipping point in 3 years, then the deformers have certainly reached theirs in 10.

In the same year as NCLB, the nation’s largest school system in New York City fell into the hands of the new Mayor, Michael Bloomberg. He would eliminate the democratically elected Board of Education, who voted on all important matters of schooling policy for the city, and replaced it with a Panel for Educational Policy whose members were all appointed by him. They rubber stamped all of his reforms. His first war was against “social promotion”, which was the practice of moving kids to the next grade even when they had not passed. It was the first manifestation of the “no excuses” mantra the deformers would recite so much in the coming years. In his 10 years as overlord of education, 21 large public high schools have been closed while nearly 61 new charter schools were opened by 2008. He has waged a perpetual public relations war against the teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers, causing them to be complicit in a new contract that stripped them of many due process rights.

10 years of rampant reform in New York City, and what has become of the schools?

According to the results of the NAEP exams, which Diane Ravitch calls the “gold standard” of testing, no appreciable gains in math or reading since the reforms have taken place. By 2009, “just 24% of eighth-graders were deemed proficient or above on the reading test this year compared with 22% in 2003. In math, just 24% scored a proficient score compared with 20% in 2003.” The gutting of the large high schools also gutted the many programs only possible in large high schools: football, baseball, band, clubs and academic competitions. These were the things that brought spirit not only to the school building, but to the entire community. Walking the hallways now of the large high school buildings will take you through the several small schools that co-habitate there (or “co-locate”, if it is a charter). They jealously guard their space, competing over classrooms, laboratories, cafeterias, gyms and auditoriums. Instead of the community coming together, like they did in the large high schools, communities are ripped apart.

Teachers, owing to a contract that took away their rights to legitimately grieve unfair practices of administrators, live in fear of speaking their minds. Those who speak out are harangued out of the system on trumped up charges. The last 10 years have produced story upon story of veteran teachers being slapped with trumped up charges. Our “due process” now involves waiting forever for a termination hearing where well over 90% of teachers are found guilty. At the same time, principals like the one who sexually harassed his staff, or the one tampering with credits and dancing with strippers on facebook, go unpunished. It is a system of corruption and cronyism, harassment and intimidation, bureaucracy and dictatorship that we have been left with after 10 years of Bloomberg’s education deforms.

And yet, in his State of the City address, Bloomberg has called for ramping up  his reforms. Instead, Bloomberg should have done the honorable thing and acknowledge that he has reached the tipping point. He has been running the system for 10 years and still acts like a reformer. In reality, 10 years makes him the status quo. He is the education crisis. There is nobody else to blame.

If Obama reached his tipping point after three years, what about Michelle Rhee, who was the chancellor of Washington D.C.’s schools for three and a half? Her teacher evaluation system threw D.C. into a neo-Jim Crow era where inexperienced teachers ended up in poor neighborhoods while veterans ended up in gentrifying areas. She pulled off perhaps the darkest, most cruel irony in the history of education: bringing Jim Crow to the city in which Brown v. Board of Education was decided.

Where is the tipping point for education reform? The fact that we even use the term “reform” speaks to the utter victory of their propaganda campaign. Reformers are fresh with innovative ideas that inject new life into stale institutions. The deformers have injected poison into education, causing it to go backwards towards a musty and oppressive era of segregation. The blame is squarely on their shoulders, since they are the status quo.

In the end, there is one important overlap between Obama and the deformers besides both reaching their tipping points. Despite both of their promises of change, they brought nothing but tired ideas advocated for by a narrow elite. The reasons why CEOs can count on billions in bonuses while people get thrown out on the street are the same reasons why millionaires profit off of education deform while our schools are ravaged before our eyes. Is there any wonder why Obama and his buddy Arne are pushing Race to the Top?

The politicians and the corporate reformers have reached their tipping points. It is time we give them a little push so that they topple over.

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17 responses to “In Search of a Tipping Point

  1. It took the failure of ed deform to reach this tipping point. The deformers had the field to themselves but with every school closure and charter reloco they are actually helping real reformers educate and activate people. Still too few activists out there but ranks are growing.

  2. I am with you on Obama. If he drops Duncan and replaces him with Linda Darling Hammond, who was on his freaking transition team, I will support him. That is, we both know, not going to happen.

    Great piece…I share your angst.

    • That’s how I knew Obama was not serious: when he fired the good people on his transition team and only kept Wall Streeters and trust-funders. I never had any expectations that he was going to “change” anything.

      And yes, anyone would be better than Duncan at this point.

  3. Reblogged this on Dots Of Color and commented:
    I enjoy reading your posts figured I would share some light reading. Our education system is horrid and the amount of money used to educate the children and adults in America is disgraceful. America needs to wake up and take education seriously provided the needed resources to compete in the world.

    http://www.heritage.org/budgetchartbook/

    Also another good read is the Pig Book http://www.cagw.org/reports/pig-book/2010/ I could list hundreds of other charts, sites, articles and and government waste in all it’s glory.

    The problem didn’t start with Obama and won’t end with Obama. Its been going on for many years and now we are paying the price and the children will be paying the bigger one.

    Another awesome site http://costofwar.com/en/ to check out.

    Here is another that really shows how disconnected some of the politicians are with the common tax payer http://www.opensecrets.org/pfds/overview.php and it’s on both sides of the isle.

    Some long term offenders

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_members_of_the_United_States_Congress_by_longevity_of_service

    On the Index of economic freedom China has been #1 for a while now and we have been sucking wind for many years.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_of_Economic_Freedom

    The situation has been going on for a long time and is only going to get better so fasten your seat belts. As long as the House and Senate can’t get any work done that is helpful to America then I gather we just keep loving the economic beat down.

    Good page, thanks for posting.

    Cheers!

  4. william wallace

    One can’t blame you in giving judgement / however your
    a mite hard on BARACK. T’was the republicans in getting
    the nation into it’s present state. // They removed banking
    regulations thus / bringing a banking collapse. T’was such
    republican party in having directed the nations resources
    unto illegal wars / the invasion of other nations in seeking
    world military domination / which having brought the USA
    its people to their knees in poverty a state of moral decay.

    The situation for the USA its people ‘s being dire which in
    main being the fault of a republican party via corrupt govt.

    To say BARACK has made little change in improving such
    situation for the american people /be most unjust as unfair.

    The republican party left govt in a dire siuation a bankrupt
    nation // guilty of appalling destruction injustice being done
    to nations worldwide / great suffering that remaining untold.

    T’willl take decades in putting the nation back on track / its
    being forgiven for // great wrongs having done to humanity.

    Your judgement upon BARACK is unfair / unjust / in lacking
    compassion the praise which BARACK deserving/ his taking
    the USA through a time of darkness / a time where its needs
    t’was great BARACK has fullfilled such need he be americas
    guiding light // and has maintained hope of a brighter future.

    • I understand your points. Everything you mentioned was done with the complicity of the Democrats. Ending Glass-Stegall was signed off on by Clinton. The wars in the Middle East and the War on Terror at home were rammed down our throats with the active support of the Democrats. The Democrats are bought and paid for.

      Obama put Social Security on the table as a negotiating tool, something no president of any party would have even considered before. Obama continued and intensified the war on teachers and public sector workers. He has yet to restore habeas corpus. He threw cold water on the movement to prosecute the Bush Administration for war crimes, just so he could have the freedom to commit the same war crimes himself.

      No, I’m not fooled by Obama or the Democrats.

  5. I do agree that the system is in great need for realistic reforms.. I just wish the reforms will begin while mothers are pregnant.. I say this because it is unbelievable to teach children that are overwhelm with social issue. Parents needs to be more responsible and should be thought out to be parents ….How can it be the role of the teacher to make phons calls to parent daily for a child to come to school? This is just one reason I strongly feel that better parent involvment is necessary.

    • Absolutely. This is one of the reasons education deform is so popular. It takes the heat off of parents and everyone else when the onus is all on the teachers.

      • With all these deforms and accountability teachers are finding it more difficult to focus on the art of teaching. Teachers have no choice in choosing how they want to spend their professional time..instead teachers are spending their time covering their behinds.

      • Teachers are the most repressed professionals around. We are even in danger of losing the privilege of being called professionals at all.

    • Something more comprehensive has to hapepn. Change needs to hapepn. Sanity needs to be restored to education. Mainly, no matter what the LAW states, if it isn’t really possible to accomplish, teachers, administrators, school districts, etc. will all find a way to make it appear so on paper. It’s a matter of survival. If they didn’t do that, there would be total chaos. But there is still a level of chaos. Look at all the lawsuits against schools all because education has lost its sanity. I could tell you stories .

  6. Interesting … I can’t comprehend how this is an economics article (that’s how I landed up here) as its purely about politics. to your credit, you did include politics tag. I don’t really understand the reforms/deforms you are talking about. So, I will leave that to you. What I don’t understand is why you say that only Obama/democrat are bought/paid for. So was Bush/are Republicans! The difference is which set of rich people buys them. With the amount of money that needs to be raised for the campaigning, the contribution has to be coming from the rich people (commoners like us don’t have that kinda money). So, these rich people are going to support the party whose “ideology” will bring them the biggest profits — none care about the jobs e.g. coal mining jobs have gone down drastically despite increased coal mining. That’s where the economics is. Another thing that bothered me about your article was associating the tipping points in your two e.g.s with that of Obama (as per your arguments in this article, I see no connection). Whether the tipping points you have presented are valid or not, I don’t know. That’s your perspective and an interesting one … unfortunately, it got muddled in the politics you presented!

    • So are you suggesting that any mention of Obama being paid for has to be offset with mentions of Bush being paid for? To save you the trouble of perusing some of my other posts, they are ALL paid for, Democrats and Republicans. They both serve an elite and, yes, it has everything to do with campaign funding.

      This article is about education reform more than anything else. Yes, education is an economics issue to a great extent. Some of the most lauded studies in education have been done by economists.

      The Tipping Point merely refers to the point where the people in power have to take responsibility for the existing state of affairs. Obama and his supporters were able to blame Bush to a certain extent but at this point they take ownership of the country as it is now. Same thing with reformers in education. They cannot be labeled reformers anymore. They are the status quo.

      Because I am neither Democrat or Republican, I do not feel the need to offset every bad thing I say about one of the two major parties with something bad about the other.

  7. eightypercentofstatistics

    Cowardice? If a coward got Osama Bin Laden while the cowboy-pretending Bush threw thousands of lives into a meaningless war for a nonexistent weapon of mass destruction but never got Osama, then I think I’ll go with the coward.
    Yes, my best friend spent 5 years in Iraq to the point that he lost his hearing, only to came home and realized that the war was pointless. He switched from Republican to independent.
    Cowardice? That’s rich considering Bush is a rich spoiled brat who was utterly useless and ineffective when it comes to protect the country from 9-11 or catching Osama.
    People sure have short memory.
    And yes, this country sure has a horrible education system when a zounderkite like Bush got in Yale for 4 years. But we all know why, his family has money. Bush also got out of military service by his daddy’s money as well.

    • A criticism of Obama does not constitute an endorsement of Bush. Yes, I prefer Obama over Bush as well. It does not mean I will vote or support Obama.

      Obama got Bin Laden and he should get all the praise for it. Bush ignored Bin Laden in order to go attack Iraq and make billions for his puppet masters. The wars have been tragedies for the U.S., its military and the people of the Middle East.

      But that does not mean Obama is not a coward. He squelched any and all talk of investigating the Bush Administration for war crimes and violation of citizen rights, just so he could have the same latitude for himself. His “Obamacare” was like a bailout to the insurance industry, promising to enrich them even more if that is possible. During the debt ceiling debacle, he put Social Security on the table as a bargaining chip, something no president from either party has been able to do.

      The truth is that Obama’s politics are what would have been considered “right wing” 30 years ago. The Democrats have always played the “if not us, then who?” game. They know they are the lesser of two evils and the progressives will vote for them to prevent a Republican Dark Age. That means they can ignore the progressives like they have been doing for decades.

      Obama and Bush are two heads of the same monster. Obama has solidified and extended many of Bush’s legacies. I am not going to give him a pass because he has a “D” next to his name or because he is not as bad as Bush. Anyone would have been an improvement over Bush. What has Obama done for education except extend the Jim Crowing of our school system through charters, the same tired thing Bush was doing.

      Bush was a tragedy. Unfortunately, Obama is a different type of tragedy.

  8. Reblogged this on MarkBryers.com and commented:
    The “assailed teacher” makes some interesting points on education reformers in the US, particularly with reference to Bush. It’s difficult for us now, considering what has happened, to predict how today could have been different if Bush had not had to deal with the crisis of credit and confidence that has befallen the American people – a crisis that has proven that even a charismatic leader hell-bent on “change” could not find a way to find grip on the slippery slope of capitol hill. The main issue I take with this article, however, is its attack on the “No Child Left Behind Policy” – which is by no means an ideal way to encourage education in lower socio-economic communities, I admit – but having seen the drain that a “participation” based education system has had on my home country, New Zealand in the last 10 years (watching the average New Zealand wage fall from 97% of the Australian wage in 1997 to less than 50% in 2011) I find it difficult to justify such practices as “social promotion” as alluded to in the article.

    In a nutshell, I am of the belief that an achievement based education system, that can also provide paths to forms of tertiary education such as TAFE or distance-learning, is the way America, and the developed Western world can dig ourselves out of this hole that greedy and speculative investors, bankers and politicians have created.

    Read the article!

    Cheers,
    MB

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