It's Academic

Readers of Errant musings know that my primary focus seems to always have a common theme: the loss of local human good to the abstractions of wealth and power.  We are seeing a very rapid decline in social goods “produced” by human economy replaced rapidly and without check by the externally and mechanically produced “cultural” goods of capital economy in the hands of corporate interests.

Obvious examples abound.  They are not “political” by nature.  They are structurally ideological but they are in service to domination.  These are coercive worldviews and we are encased almost as in amber; suspended and singular without support except by our suspension.

I’m sure you can name examples yourself.  But I would stress that these are not political.  I will focus on the “business” of our lives rather than the state dominance of surveillance and extra-judicial actions.  You can read Glenn Greenwald, Arthur Silber, Chris Floyd for examples of our National Military-Surveillance State.  We can tie this new state control to ways, over time, we have given up our human freedoms to the glory of the corporate state.

  • Corporations as persons under the law.  This is not political.  It is a worldview that perpetuates a totalitarian hierarchy of subservience.  As many point out, what organization is more totalitarian than a corporation in its structure?
  • Education systems graded by external corporate agents.  The benefactor of this process is the testing and publishing industry (the information industry) along with newly minted “educational management systems” corporations.  States are corrupting their public institutions to open education at all levels to be plundered as a resource.
  • Anti-Union laws fallaciously and contemptuously named “right to work.”
  • Anti-female health laws.
  • I cannot even begin to list the numerous laws that dominate and coerce the lives of our minority populations, primarily African-American and Hispanic: obvious are the drug laws and the resultant prison population that is one of two ways the US is truly exceptional, the other being our military budget and the violent aggression it serves.

As I noted we could just keep listing items that are becoming codified as law that citizens will labor under.  Laws that very clearly manage our lives in ways that if applied in a singular fashion to each and every one of us in turn we would be strongly opposed and find it necessary to stand against them.  The result would bankrupt us all and put us all in prison labor camps.

To my thinking, all of these are related and to oppose one would necessitate a rejection of them all.  We are not a land of the free or of the brave.  Perhaps there were two periods in the history of this country where that might have been so: initial occupation and western expansion.  You can readily understand that even this easy characterization is muddled by so much venality in the accomplishments of self-interested groups acting on a larger and very complex stage of burgeoning national identity.

But there’s no need to get lost in the weeds of history.  We can simply do our work of connecting dots.  I know I cannot change anyone’s mind by connecting dots.  My wish is to connect you to the complicity of acceptance.  Once you are aware of the way these things are working from the top right on down to the newspaper on your stoop or porch and the classroom iPad in your child’s 2nd grade class, you must agree to oppose these things or agree to acquiesce and/or embrace the path you are set upon and that moves beneath your feet.

I have decided that I would as soon be walking the wrong way on the treadmill than standing facing forward and accepting identifiable malfeasance as it acts upon me.

Yesterday I posted about Pearson Learning a subsidiary or “member” of a larger group of information industry corporations.  On its face it cannot surprise one that Pearson is an “interested” party in the dissemination of content and the systems that create and promulgate content.  The “bottom line” of Pearson PLC requires an interest in all of these.  All other facets of those systems are relegated to the first principle of the corporation, make profits and replicate in order to make further profits.  Hence, as I said earlier, all that we might see as “good” produced by this singular interest is incidental to its primary purpose and will only be pursued and maintained if it continues to suit the primary purpose.

Last night I was made aware of an academic project called “The National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education” (NCSPE) which is organized under the banner of the Teachers College of Columbia University.  As a man opposed to the privatization of publicly funded education systems (which makes that an oxymoron on its face and one would be advised to be very suspicious of any oxymoron) I hoped to find a very clear-eyed and disinterested examination of the very well-funded corporate and government collusion that is privatizing education with great speed.

Unfortunately, this hope was dashed fairly immediately.  One need only examine funding to begin to assess interest.

The NCSPE receives generous funding from the Ford Foundation, the Educational Testing Service, Kaplan, Inc., and NIEER at Rutgers University . The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Acheles [sic] and Bodman Foundations also generously provided support to the Center. The Center also receives generous funding for an Iscol Research Fellow for Educational Equity and Policy.

The brambles get thick when you begin to try to discover individual distinctions in this field; there seems to be a common worldview for most of those working in education management.  You don’t need me to detail the broad spread of the Ford Foundation and you don’t need me to tell you what the ETS or Kaplan services want to fund.  But it gets trickier when we delve into the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and this is true too for the “Iscol Reseach Fellowship.”  NIEER even offers its experts out.  I can’t tell if it’s “for hire” but I’d guess it is–feel free to show me otherwise.

For example, Heather Schwartz of the RAND Corporation, graduated from Teachers College of Columbia University and was an Iscol Research Fellow.  This paper, authored under the auspices of the NCSPE, “Educational vouchers for universal pre-schools,” (pdf) offers the following abstract:

This article considers two issues regarding preschool education. First, it provides a brief set of arguments for government funding of universal, pre-school education. Second, it explores the applicability of a voucher plan using a regulated market approach for the funding of universal, pre-school education. Four criteria are used to assess the approach: freedom of choice, equity, productive efficiency, and social cohesion. The analytic framework is then applied to the Georgia Pre-K program, a statewide and universal approach based upon market competition that enlists government, non-profit, and for-profit educational providers. We conclude that, according to the four criteria set out, the highly regulated Georgia preschool approach appears to produce superior results than one built upon exclusive production of pre-school services by government entities.

Hybridization is the watchword.  Here’s my definition: privatization by state coercion.

And, by the by, the President of the Teachers College is Susan Fuhrman.  Here is her bio found at Pearson as she is a “non-executive Director”:

Susan Fuhrman*~, aged 66, is president of Teachers College at Columbia University, America’s oldest and largest graduate school of education, where she was appointed the school’s 10th president in 2006. She is well known as an authority on school reform and accountability, and teaching excellence.

Susan was previously dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, and has taught at Teachers College and at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

She is president of the National Academy of Education, and served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Susan became a non-executive director of Pearson in July 2004.

That is the tangle of interested interests.

In the main, though, all of these expertise industries might be understood to be only self-generating factories for manipulable data made available under the guise of policy influence.  Again, an Interest with interests.

What all these policy centers and institutes and associations seem intent on is simply being the “one group” that calls the shots.  If the politics of a situation favors school choice and/or vouchers, they’ve got a paper for that.  Likely that paper will explain the ways in which all systems of fail in the same way and that there will need to be an expert to allow the collusion of the private will to own a market and the government will to “serve” the people.  Their research can be of use then.  It is why WalMart Scholar Jay P. Greene fights against Common Core Standards (no centralization in private market land–inhibits “innovation”); and why you can find the opposite argument via the right tank Thomas Fordham Institute.   In betwixt these behemoths we will find ourselves duly “hybridized” to suit our controlling corporate state.

In effect, these institutes are funded by ideological organizations with different approaches to population management.  When you find a paper you think makes a point in favor of local control, you will then be checked by another that shows a failure of local control; one that praises a Mayoral designating option for charters, and one that offers it as a corrupting power.  If you have free time here is that paper on the Indianapolis Charter-designating Mayor’s Office, “Taking Charge of Choice: New Roles for New Leaders 2012″ (pdf).

All of these academic research institutes as well tend to create massive “econometric” sociological samples and “case studies.”  Again, the same “tools” of dissection are applied in “choice” or “centralization,” in anti-standards or common core.

In short, these are simply more symptoms offering further ways to infect the population of human beings with further disease complications under the guise of “unbiased” solutions.

In some ways we might just see this industry in the same light as the pharma industry: simply dispensing medicines to mask the illness.  Possibly with the hope that the illness simply shifts to another field of study to provide more opportunity for employment.

These are the folks who have jobs and the sectors that are burgeoning, after all.

It’s time to stand against abstract entities used to rationalize corporate interests as the only way to think about our local human social goods.

photo credit: kazarelth

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Douglas Storm is a host and producer for Interchange on Bloomington, Indiana's community radio station WFHB. "Why then do you try to 'enlarge' your mind? Subtilize it..."

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  1. What Is American Education? - June 24, 2012

    [...] piece about Common Core State Standards. The Errant has posted before on this (here, and here–the collusion of “divergent” interests) but I want to try to elaborate a bit on what I think are the things that are not said when [...]

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