Friday, September 19, 2008

AIG & Broad: No Excuses!

Last time I was visiting with Chris, he brought up that progressive school reform has been losing the PR battle lately. Not that it is ever really ascendant in PR, but I think we're both particularly appalled by the fact that somehow one week in July the thoughtful, ambitious, innovative reformers we'd been following our whole careers were successfully re-labeled in the press as representatives of the status quo.

My best idea at the time seemed pretty weak -- hoping that an Obama victory will trigger a such a broad based backlash against the policies of the Bush administration that everything that happened the past seven will be tainted and fundamentally re-considered. Those of you who are not children or dilettantes know that "accountability," charter schools and many other reforms are, in fact, much older.

However, the conventional wisdom is unwinding with alarming speed. Market uber alles is in shambles. The nationalization of large chunks of our financial sector shatters the privatizer's notion that everything government employees do is wrong and everything businessmen do is right. Their authority is in tatters -- a 30 year run is ending. Most deliciously, philanthropist Eli Broad's AIG would have collapsed if the US government hadn't stepped in an essentially taken an 80% stake in the company (whether that was sane, prudent or legal, I don't know). So while Broad's foundation is leveraging his wealth to shift American school systems to a more business-like footing, his business is collapsing into the arms of the public sector.

Perhaps it is unfair to Mr. Broad to pin the AIG collapse on him. To which I say (gleefully), No Excuses! We've accepted the status quo long enough! Any change would be better than what led AIG to this point! This complacent acceptance of free market cant must end -- think of the children, whose futures are being mortgaged to bail out our financiers!


  • Despite the urgency of the need and the righteousness of the cause, public education the American financial system today remains mired in a status quo that not only ill serves most poor children, but shows little prospect of meaningful improvement.
  • We must have an honest and forthright conversation about the root causes of this national failure. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That is the trap we must avoid or risk losing another generation of our children('s money).
  • The sad reality is that these systems are not broken. Rather, they are doing what we have designed them to do over time. The systems were not designed with the goal of student learning enhancing the public good first and foremost, so they are ill-equipped to accomplish what is demanded of them today.
  • Changing the system so that it better meets the needs of students the American people will require not only a shift in our collective thinking, but also a shift in power. As the civil rights movement itself makes clear, such transformations inevitably generate resistance and political conflict. We must no longer shirk from that struggle. The stakes are simply too high.

Well put.

Perhaps our newly nationalized financial sector will consider applying the AYP system of evaluation to their enterprises. It is pretty simple, really. If every sub-unit of the corporation is profitable, you're fine. If not, declare the corporation a failure and start firing executives. Actually, I've been told for years that this is what it is like in the private sector anyhow, so it shouldn't be much of a change.

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