Mr. President, Education Is a Human Right, Not a Product

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on education and budget priorities, while Jack Lew, Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget, right, and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, look on at the Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology, in Baltimore on February 14, 2011. (Photo: Drew Angerer / The New York Times)

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on education and budget priorities, while Jack Lew, Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget, right, and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, look on at the Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology, in Baltimore on February 14, 2011. (Photo: Drew Angerer / The New York Times)

Thursday, 10 January 2013 09:10 By Bill Ayers, Truthout | Op-Ed

The landscape of “educational reform” is currently littered with rubble and ruin and wreckage on all sides. Sadly, your administration has contributed significantly to the mounting catastrophe. You’re not alone: The toxic materials have been assembled as a bipartisan endeavor over many years, and the efforts of the last several administrations are now organized into a coherent push mobilized and led by a merry band of billionaires including Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Sam Walton, and Eli Broad.

Whether inept or clueless or malevolent—who’s to say?—these titans have worked relentlessly to take up all the available space, preaching, persuading, promoting, and, when all else fails, spreading around massive amounts of cash to promote their particular brand of school change as common sense. You and Secretary Arne Duncan—endorsed in your efforts by Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, and a host of reactionary politicians and pundits—now bear a major responsibility for that agenda.

The three most trumpeted and simultaneously most destructive aspects of the united “school reform” agenda are these: turning over public assets and spaces to private management; dismantling and opposing any independent, collective voice of teachers; and reducing education to a single narrow metric that claims to recognize an educated person through a test score. While there’s absolutely no substantive proof that this approach improves schooling for children, it chugs along unfazed—fact-free, faith-based reform at its core, resting firmly on rank ideology rather than any evidence whatsoever.

Continue reading