Saturday, December 26, 2015

Recipe For Education Disaster

Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss writes

Please. Like Clinton or not, she hasn’t been a big advocate for large-scale school closures, and her words, in context with the remarks before and after, don’t suggest that she is planning on advocating the closure of public schools. (See transcript below.)

Certainly her language wasn’t artful, and she might wish she hadn’t said what she said. But according to her campaign, she doesn’t favor closing all of the schools that don’t do a “better-than-average job” and has never been an advocate for school closings.

Clinton, Strauss assures us, "hasn't been a big advocate for large-scale school closures." That suggests two questions, whether Clinton has been an average-sized advocate for large-scale school closures and whether she been a big advocate for medium-sized school closures?

These are not academic questions (well, yes, they are academic in nature) but critical, given the ongoing effort of the "reform" movement to end teacher tenure, assess student performance by tests for which students from poor communities are ill equipped, privatize education, and close public schools.  At the rally Tuesday in Keota , Iowa, Mrs. Clinton stated (short excerpt and full remarks, below)

Now, I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better-than-average job.  If a school’s not doing a good job, then, y’know, that may not be good for the kids. But when you have a district that is doing a good job, it seems kinda counterproductive to impose financial burdens on it.

There would be, y'know, approximately half of schools (actually, probably slightly more than half) which would not be "doing a better-than-average job."  Leave for now the assumption that when children in schools are performing at a below average level, that it is the schools which are doing poorly. Students should have at least a little bit of accountability, notwithstanding the assumption of most centrists and conservatives that they have none.

USA Today's Lauren Camera, who like Strauss doesn't believe Clinton said what she said, doesn't make it any better when she quotes Clinton maintaining "The federal government doesn't have a whole lot to do with it.... This is mostly local decision-making. Therefore this is primarily a state issue, but as president, what I'm looking for is schools that exceed expectations. I don't care if they're urban, suburban or rural."

If the former Senator were harmlessly noting that, like everyone, she is more pleased with good schools than with bad, she would have stated "what we're looking for is schools that exceed expectations. I don't care if they're urban, suburban or rural." Instead, she added "but as president," confirming that the presumptive Democratic nominee is interested in closing schools.

As if to provide further confirmation, Clinton argued "And where there are small districts like this one, I know you’ve got online opportunities, and maybe there should be exploration about how you can also share teachers and all the rest of it."  When someone refers to sharing teachers, she is talking about reducing the number of teachers, hence the number of classrooms- and the number of schools. It's a neo-liberal approach which played a role in bringing on the Great Recession, now applied to education. It also is a recipe for increasing class size and decreasing teacher-to-student ratio.

Perhaps in Mrs. Clinton's sheltered world, there are lots of school administrators looking for qualified teachers. In the real world, there are lots of qualified teachers looking for jobs. But that itself is part of the neo-liberal mindset, in which it is imagined there are not enough talented or hard-working Americans to go around.

As Strauss notes, the candidate's spokesperson cleaned her remarks up. However, we haven't heard from the former Senator herself.

Clinton did not explain what she  meant by "all the rest of it."  Nonetheless, judging by her other thoughts, it's nothing good for America's students or teachers.

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