Meg Whitman once ran E-bay and now she is running for Governor of California. Her platform: she plans on creating jobs, cutting spending and fixing the education system.

Her fix for the education system?  More testing, more “accountability”, and converting failing schools into charter schools. E-bay must have gotten her best creative years.

I wonder, by the way,  what happens to failing charter schools on the Meg Whitman plan.  I wonder what she thinks charter schools actually are.  I wonder why every candidate running for public office wants to “fix” public schools… and if they can really see what is broken.

She says:

For years, California politicians have talked about building better schools. Few improvements have come despite billions of additional spending. Enough talk, we need action. We will lead the charge to put more control in the hands of local educators and parents.  We will put more dollars directly into the classroom instead of costly bureaucrats. If a school fails to improve after three years, under my plan it will automatically convert to a charter school. It’s time California schools make the grade. The future of our state depends on it.

Remember when Reagan was President and his education commission unleashed “A Nation At Risk?” They were convinced the education system was broken too. They said:

“Our Nation is at risk . . . . The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people . . . . If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war . . . . We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament . . . .”

An act of war?

But what if this notion of failing public schools is a myth?  a complete fabrication?   A distraction from the real root cause of America’s great divide?

If a house burns to the ground, do we blame the architect for the building materials used to construct the house?  Or do we recognize that the real root cause of the destruction… is fire!

If Meg Whitman wants to “fix” California’s schools, she needs to first “fix” the government and then “fix” the economy.  There is a reason why schools in low income areas are consistently outperformed by schools in high income areas: children in low income areas tend to be less ready for school, have less access to health care, be more susceptible to childhood obesity and type II diabetes, enjoy less parent support, have less learning resources and less access to technology.  For starters.  And they have no voice.

And while politicians like to call those ” excuses”… I wonder what would happen if the severe gap in economic prosperity was diminished.  What if all kids enjoyed the exact same benefits and life conditions whether they lived in Compton or Malibu?  What would our education system  look like then?

Politicians can’t fix schools– not with all of the standardized testing schemes in the world. Especially if they aren’t broken.  And there are plenty that aren’t broken.  Yet.

But those same politicians do have an opportunity to significantly improve the quality of life for children.

To tell you the truth, I don’t think Meg Whitman plans on doing that as Governor of California.  I don’t think her fellow politicians in Washington DC plan on improving the quality of life for children either.  Even though my students would benefit mightily from having access to health care, our senators and congressmen can’t seem to get that done.  They are dysfunctional.  They appear to be paralyzed by their own political systems and structures and culture.  They are influenced and driven by a collective greed that blinds them to their opportunity to rescue America’s children… if not their schools.

Bill Moyers wrote:

No wonder people have lost faith in politicians, parties and in our leadership. The power of money drives cynicism deep into the heart of every level of government. Everything, and everyone, comes with a price tag attached: from a seat at the table in the White House to a seat in Congress, to the fate of health care reform, our environment, and efforts to restrain Wall Street’s greed and prevent another financial catastrophe.

The house is burning and the people positioned to extinguish the flames, are instead blaming the builders.  I propose we re-think the the myth:

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre governmental performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”


Filed under California budget, California charter schools, childhood obesity, children at risk, health care, public education, school reform

2 responses to “E-BAY’S LEGACY, AN ACT OF WAR

  1. Kevin, you mention so many good things in this article; first being the problem of low performing students not so much being about “bad teachers”, but more of a problem with society itself. I have always wondered why the root cause of low performing students is always being ignored. Is it due to cowardice on the part of policy makers? To point the blame in an easy direction, teachers, instead of making the – potentially hazardous – decision of tackling the root of the REAL problem? A real problem which – if honestly brought up and discussed and tackled – could point out some severe flaws in our present state of society.

    The second point you bring up is Bill Moyers.
    There are two people that are tackling probably the most important issues, not only of today, but potentially, of our nation’s history. The people: Bill Moyers and Jon Stewart.

    First, Jon Stewart. His shtick is to point out the hypocrisy he sees with humor. However, if you sift through the irony, and the humor, you will see a man who is boiling with rage and frustration.
    Last week’s special report with John Oliver (fastly becoming the funniest man in America) in Hawaii covering the annual Republican National Committee strategy meeting, in Hawaii to solidify their message about fiscal responsibility and to coordinate continuing attacks on Obama’s healthcare reform bill, has gone down in my book as the funniest, saddest, most jaw-dropping, maddening bit of journalism I have ever seen. Oh, and I forgot, obvious examples of hypocrisy and ignorance.
    For those of you who did not see it, John Oliver asks RNC members at the committee meeting what they are doing in Hawaii. They barrage him about the fiscal irresponsibility of President Obama, then Oliver asks them, “so you came to Hawaii to deliver that message? HAWAII?!!???” Each member says yes, seemingly oblivious to the irony of the fact. They then attack the healthcare reform bill while Hawaii has universal healthcare for all of its citizens and it has been very successful there. The hypocrisy, partisan bickering, and sense of hopelessness is obvious in this story, and at one point John Oliver looks at the camera with an expression as if to say, “OMG! Can you believe what this person is saying to me?!!????!!!”
    Seeing through the humor, is heartbreak.

    Where Stewart uses humor, Bill Moyers uses plain, good old fashioned anger and moral outrage. His guests speak eloquently and passionately about issues of today and where we are going as a country. Decisions we make as a society today (case in point the Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to give unlimited donations toward political campaigns) are going to have huge implications on all of us as a society.

    Now what does this have to do with education and low performing students and schools? It has to do with the fact that America, for a long time now, has been unwilling to own up to its responsibilities. Responsibilities to its citizens – ALL citizens – in regards to fairness, access, and opportunity. Instead of Americans feeling that everyone should have an opportunity for (insert here)….. many people say that people should have (insert here) ONLY if they “work hard” for it. No matter the background, circumstances, events in their lifetime, family relationships, sickness or disability of the individual… no matter what. If someone works for it, then they can have it. If they don’t, no matter what, they do not deserve it. “I’m not going to pay for someone else to have (insert here) because they are (insert here)…. NO ONE GIVES ME ANYTHING”!

    That’s how too may people feel. And when real people and real situations are ignored and everyone is clumped together, people are hurt. When America takes no special circumstances into consideration (since Johnny had the opportunity it is assumed that Juan had the same opportunity) what happens is that Juan, and his family, receive nothing.

    My favorite saying is “No Child Left Behind”. This reminds me of Nancy Reagan “Just Say No!” campaign of the 80’s. It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now. By saying that every child can – and will – succeed, you are giving NO ROOM for those who REALLY do not have the opportunities, for whatever reason, to be successful. An incredibly sad truth in our society, is that right now, there will be children left behind. And the greatest crime of our generation is that we are not starting a conversation to help ease the conditions which get in the way of all children really not being left behind.

    Those are going to be tough conversations to have. They are going to involve parents, policy makers, civic and community leaders – from ALL communities, and men, women and children. Realities about race, gender, socio-economic levels, and opportunities for all will have to be discussed. And until we have the political will to even START the conversation, we will nervously laugh along with Jon Stewart and get morally angry while watching Bill Moyers.

  2. Ed

    You nailed it, Kevin. We need to keep digging in this corner of questioning. We will reveal treasure that explains the pathology on “the lower frequencies.” But, when you take a step back and really see what’s going on, it’s all very simple:


    We need a David Simon to focus solely on education but this time get it right. He did so well in analyzing politics and drug wars, but he missed a gem of an opportunity with education.

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