I wish to dedicate this post to the woman I’m calling America’s librarian, Joan Kramer, who lost her battle with cancer last week. Joan fought for children, their libraries, and their schools, bolstering us with her strong but kind ways. I felt it was important to acknowledge her this 4th of July.
A hero and friend to us all, Joan was a fine activist and pursuer of social justice. Our hearts are heavy. We miss her. But I think the finest compliment to Joan, is to let her spirit live on in us, the best way we know how.
So, this one’s for you, Joan!
Public Schools: One of the Last Democratic Institutions in America!
On this 4th of July, when we celebrate America’s freedoms, it’s a perfect time to discuss our free public schools, and where we are with them when it comes to school reform. It’s important to understand that our public schools have a new threat, as I will explain below.
Public schools, with all their faults, are the only truly democratic institution we own “together” as a country. Our public schools open their doors to all children.
Teachers take on the challenge of working with the oppressed, the poor, immigrants, and even those with the most severe disabilities. Collectively, such care of our children will lead to the greater good of our country and the world.
Local school boards, elected by the people, give all of us a voice as to how our schools are run. This is a democratic process threatened with extinction because of school privatization forces.
If you don’t like what your public school is doing, you can go to the school board meeting and make your voice heard. If you don’t know how to help your public schools, you can sign up to be a volunteer.
A public school not only reflects the community that surrounds it, it is an anchor to bring people together.
Efforts for us to hold onto our public schools are in jeopardy today, and they have been in jeopardy for many years. Business has staked a claim on our public schools. There’s money to be made using our tax dollars.
Where are the rules and regulations to prevent this kind of takeover?
The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and the Loss of Democratic Schools
One huge threat that we recently learned about is the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). The CZI will push personalized computer learning into public schools. This means the end of teachers and student interactions when it comes to schooling.
The CZI has billions to throw at school districts to push their personalized learning experiment. Struggling school districts, which can’t find money for the simplest of school building improvements, will take their money in exchange for the CZI ideology of all-tech schooling.
But “our” public schools don’t belong to Mark Zuckerberg or Priscilla Chan! Why should anyone outside of a school district, with no children in the school, get to dictate to the rest of us how our public schools should be run?
Diane Ravitch questions why Priscilla Chan, as a pediatrician, doesn’t focus on the health needs of the poor in our public schools. There are many ways the wealthy could contribute to helping real public schools improve.
Who is James H. Shelton III?
The CZI plans to give billions to James H. Shelton III to remake schools into their vision. Here is an interesting post about Shelton by blogger Jan Resseger.
It’s important to know that Shelton has been working towards a computer takeover for years.
- He was deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education under the Obama administration. He has degrees in computer science and business. He oversaw a broad range of management, policy, and program functions.
- Before becoming deputy secretary, he served as head of the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the Department. This included teacher and leader quality, school choice, and learning technology. Yet, he was never a teacher.
- Earlier, Shelton worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. There he managed portfolios ranging from $2 to $3 billion in non-profit investments targeting increased high school and college graduation rates.
- Shelton also worked as the East Coast lead for NewSchools Venture Fund, and he co-founded LearnNow, a school management company that later was acquired by Edison Schools.
- Shelton launched, acquired, and operated education-related businesses for Michael Milken’s Knowledge Universe, Inc.
In Education Week, Shelton spoke deceptively about personalized learning. He said, We’ve got to dispel this notion that personalized learning is just about technology. In fact, it is about understanding students, giving them agency, and letting them do work that is engaging and exciting.
Then Education Week listed noble charities Shelton has contributed to. I think this was meant to distract us from the real issue.
Personalized learning is just about technology! There’s no proof students learn best this way. What most fear are public schools turned into charter computer warehouses. They shut out all the wonderfully rich interactions with people and experiences.
Speak Out for Children and Their Schools!
Corporations do not own our schools!
I will end with the words below of my friend Joan. Here she stands before the Los Angeles School Board fighting for libraries, reading, and great schools for children.
She starts by saying she is nervous. I identify with that! Maybe you do too. But Joan courageously spoke out loud and clear! Such presentations are significant on a grand scale. Public schools belong to us all!
Speak up at school board meetings and get involved. Don’t allow the incredibly wealthy to steal our schools! Don’t replace teachers with machines!
On this 4th of July, as you watch fireworks and wave the flag, think about what this country stands for—who we are and the future of the meaning of “public” schools for our children and America.
Herold, Benjamin. “Former Deputy Secretary of Education to Head Expanded Initiative.” Education Week. June 29, 2017.