Nick Hanauer is described as “founder of the public-policy incubator Civic Ventures.” His piece in The Atlantic called “Better Public Schools Won’t Fix America,” is an admission that the corporate message we’ve heard for years that schools will fix the problems of the economy and society is false. Most of us knew this.
Here is some of what Nick Hanauer says.
What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000.
The article became more significant when President Obama, the Race to the Top President, weighed in to say he agreed with Hanauer. Many were pleased and irritated.
The President said:
This is worth a read: a thought-provoking reminder that education reform isn’t a cure-all. As a supporter of education reform, I agree that fixing educational inequality requires doing more to address the broader, systemic sources of economic inequality.
Hanauer’s article comes at a time when many parents have given up on public education, so his words and Obama’s agreement come a little late. What will either do about their epiphanies? Will they work with other wealthy corporate reformers to help create better, great public schools?
The title of Hanauer’s article is worrisome too because, although we know that public schools won’t fix America, public schools are critical for educating the masses. Ninety percent of America’s children attend public schools. It’s important that he adds, To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools.
If Hanauer and President Obama and other wealthy citizens who have impacted public education in a negative way through corporate reform want to right the wrongs of such reform here are some ways they can do it. They can advocate for policy changes and push to:
- Lower class sizes. Start with K-3rd grade where children learn to read. Give middle and high school students access to at least one class that is small enough for a teacher to get to know students so they can spot potential problems and provide students personal attention.
- End the quest to privatize schools. Support school boards in the decisions surrounding their local constituencies. Public school decisions should be made by the local school boards, parents, teachers, and the community closest to the students.
- End charter schools. Quit creating a system of parallel charter schools. Ensure that all charters have the oversight of local school boards. The scandals surrounding these schools and their negative impact on traditional public schools is too great to ignore.
- Address overcrowded schools. Assist local school districts that struggle to build or refurbish new schools. If philanthropists want to help fix public education, here’s where they could shine.
- Limit test taking. It’s important to administer some assessment to better understand student progress, but it shouldn’t be punish students and teachers. Use test scores to help not destroy public schools. End high-stakes testing!
- Put the arts back in school. Don’t choose a few students in schools to get Turnaround Arts. Put art in the curriculum in every school! Give every child a chance to step away from academics and be creative.
- Make sure children get music. The movie Mr. Holland’s Opus was made in 1995. The movie’s ending was a troubling but realistic sign that many schools were losing their music programs. Music, choir, band, and orchestra keep children in school. Without music, schools are cheerless.
- Quit pushing children into careers. It’s important for high school seniors to formulate some understanding of their interests for when they leave high school, but many corporations are pushing their agenda onto students earlier than ever before. Students need the chance to learn subjects that give them ideas as to what they want to do with their futures.
- Ensure that every child has access to great school libraries. Children need quality books and credentialed librarians. We know this improves learning for students.
- Fix or rebuild crumbling facilities. This problem has been around for years. It’s important that students, teachers, parents, and the community take pride in their school buildings. They should be up-to-date and safe facilities.
- Ensure that special education and ELL services are available. The learning needs of all children should be addressed. IDEA should not be ignored.
- Insist that teachers have credentials. Quit pandering to Teach for America and groups that lack training for the positions in which they’re placed. Work towards a more knowledgeable and better-prepared professional teacher and school administrator.
- Technology has its place. While technology has a place in public schools, it should not replace teachers and staff. More care should be taken as to how data is collected and used when it involves children.
- Bring students together. Charters and choice divide us. We need diverse schools that bring students together, that teach children how to be tolerant and accept the differences among us.
There are other changes that have been made to public schools that must be corrected. Nick Hanauer and President Obama are in a position to help us rewrite how public schools should be run. The question is, will they?
Let me know if you have more to add to the list.
Sorry, not sorry…. is how I see it. The point of an apology is to acknowledge the committed offense and then atone for that offense. Our society is filled with a bunch of people saying “I’m sorry”, but not many who are willing to right the wrong that they have committed.
Nancy Bailey says
Good point. Thank you, Lisa.
I don’t want them to embark on a new mission to save our public education system. It won’t be long before they are listening to a bunch of policy pundits with little to no real background in education, and we will be off on some new fantasy trip. The federal government has been overreaching its mandate in messing with public education. In fact, they have found ways to go around the fact that education is a state function by funding and pushing an alternative system of charters and choice that really has done little to improve education but has made a pretty penny for those pushing such policy initiatives most vociferously. They have actively tried to deprofessionalize the teaching profession with punitive accountabiity tools that do nothing but destabilize our schools. I want them to pay their taxes like most of us have to, and rely on the professional class of educators who have been largely ignored for the past twenty plus years to lead. Education should be a right provided as a service, not another profit making venture that measures success by the amount of money that can be skimmed off. Enough of rich people buying up the common good for their own self interests. I am more than pleased that Hanauer has recognized the damage that has been done. Now what is he going to do to help repair it?
Speduktr: I’m with you. I am a SpEd teacher, too, and I agree with every word you’ve written.
Oh good! Thank you for your support. I was afraid I got a little carried away, but as I thought about it, getting carried away is one thing I can do now that I am retired.
Nancy Bailey says
I agree with you too! Good sense!
Roy Turrentine says
Hanaur is an interesting speaker. His TED talk several years ago in which he argued for a rise in the minimum wage provided me a reference to revolution I used to introduce the French Revolution in World Histroy class. He predicted the onset of hostility. He seemed to think paying more wages would help.
I guess that was a start, but this post is right on the money. If Hanaur and Obama want to be considered serious about helping education, they should help education. Neither of them has advanced an idea as you have above.
I would like to add something to the first point. We need not only to concern ourselves with class size, but also wi total number of students seen in a day or during a semester. Capping the number of students a teacher sees at 80 will increase the probability that the teacher will actually get time to read student writing, confer with students individually, and call parents when it is efficacious.
Nancy Bailey says
Another great point, Roy! I did not know that about Hanaur, so thanks for sharing. Often I agree with individuals on many issues, like those in tonight’s debate. But they are still for school privatization. It’s a disappointment. Thanks, Roy!
Linda S. Locke, PhD says
I have much to add! I teach growth and development at our local university, and every time I teach this course, I get more appalled at how we have totally ignored everything research has shown us for decades about normal cognitive maturity, and called it “rigor.” Research also tells us that the eye muscles for fluently tracking print do not fully develop, particularly in boys until around age 8, yet we now expect ALL 6 year olds to be fluent readers and when they are not, their teachers have to write a reading improvement plan and inform the parents that something is “wrong” with their child. My own son had eye tracking delays. When I took him to the eye doctor, I was told it was normal and he would outgrow it. She was absolutely correct, however, I my son made a decision about himself in Kindergarten that has not changed to this day — at 23, he still sees himself as not a reader. While he graduated with a 4.0 in Chemical Engineering and has a fantastic job, he still doesn’t like books. I believe the damage done is irreparable. My son, however, came from privilege. His mom an educator. But what about those who do not have what my son had? Who speaks for them? I am. And I will not stop until the madness ends!
Joseph McKiss says
We had the same experience with our son and early reading. I explained to the teacher that I had every confidence that he would pick it up, sooner than later and he did. But I agree about the commentary by teachers happening when parents are not able to be in the classroom. It does become engrained in a young psyche. Too many teachers are oblivious to that particular issue. I doubt this will change.
Lawrence D'Amico says
Great stuff. This should help you as well. Let me know if you want more:
The Democrats always say they’ll support reducing public school class sizes by 50%. Then, after they get the teacher’s union endorsement, they accuse unionized teachers of being incompetent and support charter schools run by charlatans. So, if you want my support you have do deal directly with the United Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. They have my money.
PROOF CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE RUN BY CHARLATANS:
“To mark the occasion hundreds of proud parents and family members, educators, and fellow Success Academy students gathered at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center to watch JUST 16 high school seniors collect their diplomas.”
“This graduating class STARTED OFF WITH 73 students when the network launched, according to the Wall Street Journal. Critics have said that Success pushes out students who are the toughest to serve, such as those with behavioral challenges — something the network adamantly denies.”
OK, so what happened to the rest?
When is Barack Obama going to say we need to ‘double our investment’ in investigating fraudulent charter schools? When is Davis Guggenheim going to make a movie about this? When is Campbell Brown going to file a lawsuit on behalf the students in this school? Hypocrisy is not only intellectually dishonest, it creates a self-fulfilling prophesy.
“There is only one way to deal with this blatant grift program for the charter school industry.
First, Congress must reject President Trump’s budget proposal for increasing funding for the charter school grant program. Then Congress must end funding for new charter grants coming from this program and demand thorough audits of previous grant awards and steps to ensure grant awards still under term are being responsibly carried out and that misspent money is returned.
And Congress also needs to consider the unintended consequences to districts caused by the unchecked expansion of charters. Resources are depleted for the students left behind, and public schools become more segregated and serve needier populations.”
Nancy Bailey says
Good points. Thanks for commenting, Lawrence. I appreciate the research you put into this.