Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Beginning of how New Brunswick Got into a mess in Education.

     It began eighty years with the great depression and then the war. In the terrible years of the great depression, there was no health care for most people even in the most advanced western countries. There was no employment insurance. In the US, Roosevelt introduced a small pension to ease some of the suffering. Canada maintained what it had - a pension available to those absolutely destitute which was so small as to be incapable of supporting life. There were almost no social services. Almost all government intervention in the economy was there to help business. An example was the protective tariff which gave Canadian manufacturers a captive market; and did so by raising costs for most Canadians.

        The depression made it clear even to the politicians that something more would have to be done. Then came the war. After ten years of depression came six years of war, and more sacrifices and suffering. Governments had to make promises to keep up the willingness and ability of the Canadian people to suffer those years.

       As it happened, the war also proved that government intervention in the economy could be extremely efficient and effective. Indeed, Canadian governments did an impressive job of managing the economy, leaving very little room for the free market, thoughtout the war.  When the war ended, then, Canadians expected much more from their governments than they ever had before.

      The Liberals and Conservatives, though both dominated by big businss, had to make some gestures if only to keep the CCF party at bay. As early as 1942, it was leading both Liberals and Conservatives in popularity. That's what led to Liberal reforms such as child bonus payments, and Conservative ones to increase the pension to an (almost) liveable size. Similar movement was occuring throughout the western world.  Though it has largely been forgotten, government management of the economy and social concerns was so great that business leaders actually studied the the civil service's methods to improve their own.

      But big business was also alarmed at the trend. The alarm was greatest in the US where business feared greater taxation for corporations and the rich as government assumed a larger role; it feared regulation; it feared government intrusion into profitable fields such as health, pharmaceutics, and insurance.

         Their response that emerged in the 1950s was the adoption of the idea of think tanks. These had existed for some time, gatherings of specialists to study various problems, and to issue reports. The new feature was to use think tanks for ideological purposes. The purpose was to broaden the involvement of private business in social matters; to praise the benefits of cutting taxes to corporations and the rich; to get rid of regulations.

      Accordingly, the think tank "experts" knew their conclusions before they began their studies They were in favour of  private profit, and against any role for government (with the exception of giving contracts to supporters of the think tank - as in the case of health insurance and the defence industry.) So, with the support of wealthy backers, the think tanks, perhaps bolstered by a "rent a prof", would carry out pseudo-scientific reports which really were propaganda.

       The news media were cooperative. Of course. They were largely owned by the same people who owned the think tanks. Any report was guaranteed wide and favourable coverage. There was one given prominent space in newspapers about five years ago, and approving comment on TV and radio. It was a report by the grandly titled Montreal Economic Institute. It "proved" that  climate change was not happening.

     That report, which dismissed years of research by eminent scientists all over the world, was done by one man.  He had no scientific training. I checked where he got his information. He got it from two books. Count them. Two. One was a recent book by one of the minority of scientists who say climate change is not happening. The other was a book on economics printed in the middle of the nineteenth century. Go figure. While you're at it, try to think of a single article or editorial in the Moncton T&T which has ever been critical of AIMS or of standardized testing.

      So were born the Fraser Institute, The CDHowe Institute, and the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies. The latter, in defiance of hundreds of years of research by thousands of education scholars, has been given effective control of New Brunswick schools.

       The general aim of these "think tanks" is to discredit all public instutions, and ease the way to a gradual privatization of everthing - including schools. They play the press like a harp. When Jeb Bush gave a speech on education, attended largely by business people and sponsored by AIMs, none of the  media had the wit or the inclination to ask the obvious questions.

       Has Jeb Bush ever taught? Is he considered an authority on education? Why? Why was an education conference attended by so many leading business people?

       The general tactic against public education is the same one used so effectively against government, against health care. Look for isolated instances of things that go wrong. Get them played up in the news media. In the case of education, debase teachers, highlight minor or isolated problems in education to give the impression the system is falling apart.

      And the real capper - give the contract for supervising the testing to the think tank that is advocating it. That means the same people who want standardized testing are the ones who get to report on it and say whether it is working. And you know what? Surprise. AIMS reports that its standardized tests do show an improvement in the system. And that takes a step further to private for profit education.

        Educationally, standardized testing is a scam. Economically, it's a waste of millions. Educationally, it's damaging.  There's also a moral aspect.

       You've heard of neo-conservatism? This is a movement which is heavily pro business and anti government. Its leaders were the ones who wanted to invade Iraq. Their statement of purpose and their programme is on the web. See "Project for the New American Century".  One of the people who signed it is Jeb Bush, the "educator." In the process of developing their extreme right wing philosophy, they also modernized the ten cmmandments.

         As they have often said, publicly enough, greed is  not bad. Greed is good. Greed and competition make everybody rich. This comes from Jeb Bush, whose family has made its millions for three generations out of government connections. (George Sr., before becoming head of the CIA, ran a business front for it). Their new gospel is to be found in the writing of their patron saint, Ayn Rand (notably in "Atlas Shrugged")
Not surpringly, they rarely mention countries that have allowed free rein to greed and competition for over a century, countries like Congo and Haiti and Guatemala.

       Greed is a moral good. Competition  is a moral good. Schools aren't for children. They're something to make money out of. Our children are not there to be taught. They are there to be used for profit - as we use factories and ore and oil. And if we ruin earth in the processes of burning and refining and spilling the oil, who cares?  And if we ruin the children. who cares? Greed is good.

        AIMs is not only incompetent and untrustworthy to have any influence over our children. It is also bloody immoral about the way it is using them.


     

     

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