Education Reform Now! (Or Not)

This morning, I received an e-mail from a regular reader noting that this might be a boom time for my Case Against Public Education, given that there is a lot of “chatter” these days about “the dangers of public education.” 

My immediate reply:

The “dangers of public education” chatter is just that — chatter. Nothing will happen, no one will change. Everyone is owned now. Next year, some profiteering fraud like Ben Shapiro or Mark Levin will write a book saying in moron terms the stuff I explain in my book in adult terms, or that John Taylor Gatto explained for years in his books. The fraud will sell a million copies, he’ll make a ton of money, and the million people who buy the book will spend a lot of time saying “Yeah!” and “This is insane!” And then they’ll say, “Luckily in my case, the local school board is not so progressive. And anyway, my wife and I are both working, so it isn’t really practical to take the kids out of school.” I’m tired of pretending to have faith in humans. 

(By the way, I have noticed a slight uptick in book downloads over the past couple of months, not only from the U.S. but also Russia and Western Europe. I think that’s a fair representation of the real effect this totalitarian moment will have on the thinking of people in general: slight.)

I then carried on with my morning, until, about three hours after sending that reply to my e-mail friend, I found another e-mail in my inbox, this one from The Independent Institute, a think tank style organization that alleges to be a non-partisan group dedicated to advancing the cause of freedom in America, and on whose mailing list I somehow ended up years ago.

The latest important communication from the Independent Institute announces a live streaming event entitled “Better Than Common Core.” When someone tells you they have developed something “better than” a tyrannical law, what they typically mean is that they have developed a newer, more efficient form of tyranny. Hence, it was without the slightest blink of surprise that I read the following blurb detailing the upcoming live stream:

The Independent Institute has published the new Briefing, Better than Common Core, that vindicates Florida’s K-12 curriculum-content standards. A team of education policy experts demonstrates that Florida’s standards have particular strengths relative to their national predecessor Common Core in areas such as knowledge acquisition and guidance for teachers. The guidelines actually offer a new gold standard that other states may well choose to emulate.

In the Spring of 2020, the Florida Department of Education announced its new state standards called “B.E.S.T.”, for Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking. B.E.S.T. is a replacement for the Obama-era Common Core Standards in English and mathematics. The change came after Governor Ron DeSantis, who had vowed to “eliminate the Common Core from Florida schools,” issued a 2019 executive order to create new curriculum-content standards.

Such a switch was controversial, with academics and parents expressing concerns. A critical report published by the Fordham Institute even warned that the B.E.S.T standards “aren’t ready for prime time.”

The Independent Institute’s positive review was written by Ze’ev Wurman, former senior policy adviser with the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education; Dr. David Steiner, Executive Director, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy; with Dr. Ashley Berner, Deputy Director, the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy; and Dr. James Milgram, emeritus professor of mathematics at Stanford University and one of the 23 members of the Common Core Validation Committee. Steiner is former commissioner of education for the State of New York and former dean of the school of education of Hunter College in New York City.

The first thing I notice is that the word “standards” or “standard” (used in a positive, sales-pitch sense) appears six times in the first three short paragraphs. Other words or phrases that immediately leap out at me: “a team of education policy experts”; “guidelines”; “executive order”; “curriculum-content standards”; and “a replacement for the Obama-era Common Core Standards” (beware all alleged conservatives who use the word “replace”).

Then I notice that the two lead “experts” on the review panel pushing these strengthened Florida curriculum standards — as usual, the government-friendly solution to excessive government being stronger government — are a former senior adviser on planning and evaluation at the U.S. Department of Education and a former commissioner of education for, of all places, New York State! And the two supporting “experts” on this review committee are the deputy director of the same university institute led by the former New York State education commissioner, and a member of the Common Core Validation Committee.

Frauds and paternalists all around, folks. And these are the “experts” claiming to speak on behalf of freedom and educational excellence. 

If the expert credentials of those reviewers impress you, then you are in the great majority of mankind, i.e., too far gone to waste my breath on. If, on the other hand, you are one of the handful of souls who still believe that an education philosophy aimed at something better than tyranny is preferable to one merely promising a better tyranny, then I recommend that you skip The Independent Institute’s trip up the live stream without a paddle in favor of taking a moment to download a free copy of The Case Against Public Education, where you can read about what really needs to be done for your children, rather than what your friendly state paternalists would like to do to them.

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