Republican attack on public education

New documentary "Starving The Beast" a must-see

The right-wing's vigorous attack on higher education:

Who gains when public universities start to think of themselves more like businesses and treat students like customers? Are America's public research universities, long a magnet for brilliant students around the world, in need of reinvention by conservative businessmen? What is education for, anyway? These are just a few of the questions raised in Starving the Beast, Steve Mims' look at trends in higher education that are often poorly understood by a public whose attention is focused on skyrocketing tuition and student debt.

These stories are all so interwoven with statehouse politics that Mims finds himself discussing everything from Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's war on collective bargaining to the vast influence of Art Pope, a businessman described here as North Carolina's version of the Koch brothers.

I'm curious to see which of Pope's efforts to infiltrate universities will be explored. The fact that it could be one of several is in itself an interesting notion.

Subsidizing bigotry: Voucher-receiving Christian schools ban LGBT students

And Skip Stam thinks it's just fine:

The Bible Baptist handbook states: “The school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a current student. This includes, but is not limited to, living in, condoning or supporting any form of sexual immorality (or) practicing or promoting a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity.”

N.C. Rep. Paul Stam, a Republican from Apex who sponsored the voucher program in the state legislature, said the program does not discriminate. “Parents choose where to send children. And parents are free to choose whatever school they want within the hundreds of possibilities,” he said.

While it's very likely Stam does understand the program allows for discrimination, he chooses to pursue the fallacy argumentum ad temperantiam (argument to moderation), in which the statistics are brought into play: More schools don't discriminate than those who do, so it's not a problem. The truth is somewhere in-between. It's actually a clever position (if we allow him to maintain it), because discrimination would have to rise to 50+% for him to admit there's a problem. Needless to say, we can't see the ass-end of him soon enough.

"Vocational" high school being built in New Hanover County

What was that about government choosing winners and losers?

The local district announced last week the N.C. House of Representatives included a $1 million grant for the career-technical education (CTE) campus, which could begin welcoming students as early as August 2017. The money has been earmarked for planning and design phases of the project, according to a New Hanover County Schools spokeswoman. The oft-discussed CTE concept is one that has been particularly advocated and promoted by Rep. Ted Davis, a Republican who represents the county.

Shaped by local demand for skilled, workforce-ready employees, the CTE school will provide hands-on training in a variety of fields, including mechanics, construction, hospitality, food service and public safety. Enrolled students will also have the option of taking CFCC courses in their chosen career path while still in high school.

I'm tempted to use the word "Drones" when describing what Republicans are trying to produce with this detour from educational growth, but at least drones can fly. And while I do see the benefit of high schoolers at least contemplating what their career paths might be, the difference in maturity and outlook between a sophomore and a senior is such a huge transition, giving the former the ability to "lock" him- or her-self into a particular vocation seems less about freedom and more about taking advantage of the confusion of youth. If Republicans hadn't swept away registering 17 year-olds to vote, I might be less suspicious. But taken in context, their motives are highly suspect.

On Margaret Spellings and the persistence of failed education policies

margaretspellings.jpg

There is a method to their madness:

During the rising calls for bureaucratic education reform, revamping teacher evaluations and pay, and the Wisconsin teacher protests, former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (2011) weighed in about reauthorizing NCLB: “However, any new law must be a step toward stronger, more precise accountability.” And her audacity here is even bolder than what the new reformers have been perpetuating through film and popular media.

The first thing that everybody needs to understand: These folks aren't just trying to get their grubby hands on all those education dollars. There is a more fundamental (and dangerous) drive than mere greed, and it revolves around absolute power:

Phil Berger may have an opponent come November

Eric Fink from Elon Law is looking for signatures:

“The fact that Phil Berger is running unopposed, the more I thought about it and talked it over with friends, it struck me as something that was not good,” Fink said during a phone interview from his home on Wednesday morning. “Given my views, the fact is that he’s been a leader for things that have happened in Raleigh that I think are going in a bad direction.”

Eric is not only a solid supporter of many progressive ideals, he's also as sharp as a freshly-stropped razor. If you live in Senate District 26, make sure you and your neighbors sign his petition. 5,000 signatures might not seem like that many compared to what's needed for a state-wide race, but it's no walk in the park for a candidate.

A history lesson about Margaret Spellings

She wants people to get to know her, so let's do that:

The U.S. Education Department certainly found this to be the case in 2004, when reviewers there wrote a scathing report about how the corporate bosses at the University of Phoenix pressure and intimidate their recruiters to put "asses in the classes," including those of unqualified students.

Meanwhile, a commission, appointed by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, to critique higher education singled out for-profit colleges for praise, without acknowledging the serious charges that have been leveled against some of these companies.

This article was written in early 2007, and the formal complaints and lawsuits dealing with the University of Phoenix were already legion. But Margaret Spellings didn't just want to boost for-profit colleges, she wanted to radically alter the way the Federal government managed higher ed, and awarded tuition assistance:

Spellings making changes based on report funded by anonymous donor

So much for transparency and collaboration:

“We need the right structure and the right people doing the right things,” Spellings said. “We must break down silos and encourage collaboration, transparency and effectiveness.” A $1.1 million study by the Boston Consulting Group is analyzing the university system’s staff organization and will have a final report in the coming weeks.

A preliminary update on the report, which was funded by an anonymous donor, on Friday showed 15 general recommendations, including expansion of external affairs, a lean strategy and policy unit, and a strengthened data and analytics function.

This is a public University System, built with literally billions of taxpayer dollars, and we're supposed to be meekly satisfied this anonymous donor has the best interests of tens of thousands of students and a healthy chunk of our annual budget in mind? Either the name of the donor or the specifics of the contract (what the donor asked for), or both, need to be made public immediately. I'm also not sure it's a coincidence that Art Pope is in California testifying on the need to shelter Koch donors from public scrutiny, especially considering his history of attempting to manipulate UNC System curricula.

GOP's newest attack on UNC System: 2 + 2 = 4

Forcing freshmen and sophomores into community colleges:

Speaking to a UNC Board of Governors committee, a key legislator hinted that a “guaranteed admission program” is ultimately intended to channel up to a quarter of the system’s undergraduates into community college.

He didn’t elaborate, except to say the attempt isn’t likely to come in this year’s session of the N.C. General Assembly. But such a move would almost certainly involve giving UNC campuses less of a per-student subsidy for freshmen and sophomores than for upperclassmen.

There are probably some (many?) reading this who think this might be a good idea. Heck, both of my UNC System graduate children took this route. But that transition from one institution to the next was far from easy, and ended up costing each of them an extra semester in the process. The General Assembly needs to keep its hands out of this situation, and let the students and their parents decide the best route for a degree. Aren't they the ones harping about "choice" anyway?

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Republican attack on public education