Gayle Green: Corporate School Reform and the Cynical Manipulation of the English Language

Gayle Green is a professor of English at Scripps College. She is writing a book about the corporate reform in higher education.

In this article, she describes how corporate reformers have taken guidance from Orwell’s “1984” in their deliberate distortion of language to mask reality.

She writes:

“In this post-truth age that’s done away with facts, George Orwell’s 1984 has soared to the top of the charts. But in the world of public education, it’s been 1984 for quite some time. And we didn’t even need the clumsy apparatus of a totalitarian dictatorship to bring it about. All we needed was some slick PR and smiley corporate faces and a media ready to spit back the buzzwords they’d been fed – failing public schools, no excuses, accountability, choice, access for every child, closing the achievement gap – repeating them so often that they passed for truth.”

In the current dystopian world of public education, the new Secretary of Education is the leading enemy of the nation’s public schools.

DeVos should be no surprise. She is the culmination of nearly two decades of creeping privatization.

“But DeVos should come as no surprise: she is the culmination of the way things have long been headed. No Child Left Behind, signed into law in January 2002, brought to us by George W. Bush and the moneyed interests he represented, arrived in clouds of rhetoric about “access” and “civil rights.” It announced itself as “an act to close the achievement gap with accountability, choice, flexibility, so that no child is left behind.” But this was never about reform or access or leveling the playing field: it was about opening up public education as a market, siphoning off tax dollars to charters and for-profit vendors, shifting public funds from a system that had public oversight and control to private interests. Education was a rich, untapped market with billions of federal dollars there for the taking. Schools, panicked at having their survival based on standardized test scores, invested heavily in testing technology. Multinational testing corporations, publishing companies, ed-tech ventures rushed in with their wares: software for administering tests, test preps, pre-tests, post-tests, tests scoring, lesson plans, teaching modules, assessment devices; entire new industries sprang into being….

“It’s been quite a feat, transforming teachers, who were once our friends and allies, to the enemy. A real sleight of hand, getting the public to trust those altruistic billionaires over those greedy, opportunistic teachers. Trust a billionaire to have the public’s interest at heart – that spin worked so well it landed us with Trump. But in the world of 1984, two plus two equals five: “Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by [the Party’s] philosophy.”

Put kids in front of computers, increase screen time, increase class size – and call it personalized. Depersonalized might be a better word – or perhaps personalised, for Pearsons, the multibillion-dollar transnational corporation that’s siphoned off untold billions of federal money. When teachers protested that students from disadvantaged backgrounds tend not to test well, having not had the benefit of tutors and test-prep programs, GWB said they were making “excuses,” showing “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Yet it’s painfully clear that using test scores to determine the survival of schools only further disadvantages the disadvantaged, and, far from leveling the playing field, tilts it even more. “No excuses” became a mantra of corporate reformers, an excuse for shutting down public schools and moving in with charters, an excuse to ignore poverty and blame teachers for conditions that make teaching impossible – conditions assured by inequities that billionaire reformers have themselves brought about.”

Hundreds of schools have been closed. Thousands of teachers drummed out of their profession. Philadelphia’s Rescue Plan devastated the public schools. Arne Duncan’s Renaissance 2010 came and went with more public schools closed, more children sent to privately managed charter schools. “Choice, choice, choice,” the corporate reformers say, but neglect to mention that the schools make the choices, not the families. The one choice that is off the table is the neighborhood school.

“The confounding of language at its most basic level reduces us to a state of civic catatonia: we can’t think about these issues, let alone discuss them or act against them, when they’ve been so obfuscated, when words have been so twisted.”

The deliberate distortion of language has enabled a corporate coup, the selling out of public education to billionaires and entrepreneurs.

This is an article you can send to your friends who want a short summary of one of the biggest scam of our lifetimes.

from sarah


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