We have been learning about the neoliberal nature of current education reform by reading scholarly articles, but the Washington Post Manifesto represents present discourse among the public rather than the scholars. All of the common words and phrases of propaganda are present within this article: ‘preparing for global economy,’ ‘education crisis,’ ‘big gifts from donors and entrepreneurs,’ ‘performance,’ ‘portfolio,’ ‘business inspired management,’ ‘hard work,’ ‘incentives,’ and ‘evaluations based on data.’ These are all scary. Quite frankly, the entire manifesto scares me because it is a piece of propaganda sprinkled with poorly written attempts at persuasive writing. All of these meritocratic notions are thrown around then the piece concludes with one grand solution: blame the bad teachers. This sorry crew of education experts agree that teacher quality is the most influential factor in a student’s success. This is an idea they almost have correct, but they run off in a strange direction with it calling for a business model. This reform calls for merit based pay and standardized instruction.
Rothstein and Gerson remind us of a few ideas that might help us re-think these proposed solutions. First, Rothstein argues that years of social science research says 2/3 of the factors contributing to student success are outside of the school and not under the control of the teacher. Second, teachers competing for higher test scores and pay incentives will most likely not be in a position to collaborate, something proven to help students as they move between subjects and grades. Finally, an incentive to raise test scores causes teachers to ignore subjects that do not commonly appear on tests. Rothstein points out that we should be applauding teachers that keep the gap from growing anymore when the social climate of the U.S. is becoming worse for underprivileged students and families.
Gerson outlines two myths supporting neoliberal reform. First, public schools are failing and thus the nation is at risk of falling behind other countries and competitors. Second, the reason for this decline is bad teachers and lack of uniformity. We already know why these are not true. Furthermore, Gerson describes how institutional reforms like NCLB and RTTT have received bipartisan support, even from teachers unions (120).
There are a few things here that are disconcerting. The more we learn about education the more we realize that social issues like poverty, marginalization, and exploitation are at the root. We are letting massive amounts of people exist in poverty and unsupported within the country. Education is perhaps the clearest glimpse we have into the vast inequality perhaps because it is the last slightly public institution. If education becomes privatized, it will put unrepresented and under served people in the same position as every other formerly public sphere. They will be accused of personal inadequacy then we will devalue and eventually throw them away. Why is this okay? Why does destroying the livelihood of people not valuable have bipartisan support? How much of our nation is built upon this idea?