About this blog Subscribe to this blog

It's Not Educators' Faults, Says Bracey

It's been a big week for economic concerns and possible responses.  Commentator Gerry Bracey says that the subrpime mortgage meltdown and everything else aren't educators' faults, and that other countries with better test scores don't necessarily have better economies.  Check it out below.

We Didn’t Do It!

Gerald W. Bracey

American educators are, by and large, a passive bunch.  Comes the lashing over our alleged failures and we mostly take a “this, too will pass,” or an “I will work harder” attitude (the latter after the horse in Animal Farm and we know what happened to him).  Educators were blamed for letting the Russians get into space first (Eisenhower wanted them to do that; we had a satellite capable rocket 862 miles in the air traveling at 13,000 miles an hour over a year prior to Sputnik, but Eisenhower nixed a satellite launch), for the urban riots of the 60’s, for the SAT decline (mostly due to changes in the demographics of who was taking the SAT), for letting us become threatened by “a rising tide of mediocrity” and therefore “A Nation at Risk.”  Lately myriad reports have exhorted teachers to do more lest we be felled economically by China or India (enter “Believing the Worst” and “Bracey” into Google to get a chronicle of these events that appeared in Stanford Magazine summer of 2006).

Well, right now we have a chance to blow some air-clearing reality onto the fog of how education is perceived.  Make a sign that sits above your head strapped comfortably around your chest or waist proclaiming some version of “We Didn’t Make This Mess!”  “This Mess” being the global economic crisis brought on by the subprime mortgage debacle whose full scope even now is not yet known.

So far, no one has figured out how to lay this one on the schools although I’m sure Bush and Spellings have Karl Rove locked in an undisclosed location with Cheney to construct some scenario whereby blame accrues to the NEA.  (The schools will likely be involved in some odd way in alleviating the problem.  On Tuesday, January 22, Bush appeared with Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, and financial guru Charles Schwab to announce the formation of an advisory committee on “financial literacy.”)

In the meantime, when someone at a dinner party says, “You idiot educators have really done it this time,” you have some comebacks:

  1. Schools didn’t   produce the cheap credit which financed the housing bubble.  Cheap   credit was available because we were borrowing $2 billion a day, mostly   from China (boy, if they ever cash in their chits…).

  1. Schools didn’t   produce the cheap credit as Greenspan kept rates low as a matter of   policy and denied the existence of the bubble (just some “froth”).

  1. Unchecked Financial   “Innovation.”  Shoddy products such as “Collateralized Debt   Obligations” and “Structured Investment Vehicles” were packaged   by banks and sold on Wall Street, and not by high schoolers trying to   raise money for their class trip.  Some of these things appear   to be so complex that nobody   knows how they work.

  1. The ratings agencies—Standard   & Poor’s, Moody’s, etc.—were asleep at the wheel.  At   best.  They might have known all along what was happening but looked   the other way or winked in order to maintain good relations with the   banks issuing the garbage noted in #3.  Because of the ratings   agencies bogus high grades, not only has personal credit tightened,   but banks are skittish about lending to each other because they don’t   know how much of an institution is just a house of cards, toppling at   the next cold fiscal breeze.

  1. Predatory lending.    American high schoolers might be middling at math, but I bet most of   them would have seen the flaw in a implicit and sometimes even explicit   promise:  Home values will rise forever!  So it doesn’t   matter what the terms of the loan are because you’re sure to get   rich from increasing equity and soaring prices.  I am not a financial   maven, but I’m not a novice either, but when one outfit offered me   one of these interest-only-option deals, it took some very close reading   of the fine print to see that I would be in a negative amortization   situation (the principal of my loan would grow over time; I would owe   more money than I borrowed) and that the interest rate could jump from   5.5% to 10.5% in a single year.  No thanks.

In the meantime, the military wants to expand by 92,000 troops with an estimated annual cost of $1.2 billion per 10,000.  As of 2005 the Pentagon’s Base Structure Report—the government’s own official count--listed 737 bases around the world not counting those in Kosovo, Israel, Kyrgistan, Qatar, Uzbekistan or Iraq (106 just by itself).  Some peace-loving nation, huh?  At the height of their power, the Roman Empire in 117 A. D. had 37 bases, Great Britain in 1898, 36.  And, of course, the Pentagon’s list doesn’t include “black” sites. 

So, educators, take the initiative (but don’t be “pro-active,” perhaps the ugliest word in the English language).  Show people what’s happening in Japan and Hong Kong and other nations where high scores allegedly produce prosperity.  You might remind anyone you’re speaking with that in the 1990’s once the Japanese discovered that the Emperor’s palace and grounds were not worth more than the entire state of California, Japan’s economy tanked, but its kids continued to ace tests.

Comments

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00e54f8c25c9883400e54ff363248833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference It's Not Educators' Faults, Says Bracey:

Permalink

Permalink URL for this entry:
https://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2008/01/its-not-educato.html

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

When the brains that be examine the international economic competitiveness of countries, they often look at some 35 factors. Formal education and other strategies for developing human capital constitute just one of these categories. How you manage your currency, trade, research investment, etc are all as important, if not more important, than education. Nonetheless, a wide range of economic and social woes are laid at education's doorstep, and nobody challenges this line of reasoning. I think educators tend to embrace this approach because it makes them more important in the big picture.

No amount of improvement in public education will radically transform the economy, period. Elevating education's economic importance is tempting, but it ultimately limits the range of policies that can be pursued. Who is going to challenge this flawed idea if not educators? Business leaders whip it out at least as often as politicians, probably more so. Ed policy types may ultimately diminsh their own standing by challenging this "common sense" line of reasoning, but until they do, preparing citizens will never be a high priority in public education.

Rothstein's Out of Balance paper is a very important work that unfortunately has had little or no effect in the political arena. Get it here
http://www.spencer.org/publications/conferences/traditions_of_scholarships/traditions_of_scholships.pdf

When the brains that be examine the international economic competitiveness of countries, they often look at some 35 factors. Formal education and other strategies for developing human capital constitute just one of these categories. How you manage your currency, trade, research investment, etc are all as important, if not more important, than education. Nonetheless, a wide range of economic and social woes are laid at education's doorstep, and nobody challenges this line of reasoning. I think educators tend to embrace this approach because it makes them more important in the big picture.

No amount of improvement in public education will radically transform the economy, period. Elevating education's economic importance is tempting, but it ultimately limits the range of policies that can be pursued. Who is going to challenge this flawed idea if not educators? Business leaders whip it out at least as often as politicians, probably more so. Ed policy types may ultimately diminsh their own standing by challenging this "common sense" line of reasoning, but until they do, preparing citizens will never be a high priority in public education.

Rothstein's Out of Balance paper is a very important work that unfortunately has had little or no effect in the political arena. Get it here
http://www.spencer.org/publications/conferences/traditions_of_scholarships/traditions_of_scholships.pdf

The comments to this entry are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.