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Archive for November, 2020

This Just In: Education is Difficult to Disrupt

November 23, 2020 Comments off

In the Forbes article below, Derek Newton reviews a new book by MIT’s Justin Reich that describes how difficult it is to disrupt public education. Mr. Newton summarizes the book’s premise in this paragraph:

Very few understand, as examples, that education simply isn’t susceptible to disruption the way some markets may be. They miss that truth because they don’t understand that education isn’t a market or, at a minimum, they misunderstand what is being bought and sold in it. They likewise routinely and predictably miss that, in nearly every example, what they are building and investing in is not new but recycled, having failed to disrupt, democratize or scale education many times before.

Newton cites a series of spectacularly bad predictions, (some of your humble blogger has echoed, albeit conditionally) to underscore the failure of edu-preneurs to disrupt schooling. If the pandemic has taught us anything about education it SHOULD have taught us that you cannot replicate the old model of schooling remotely AND that the old model on the internet amplifies the inequities that are a feature of that model. If we ever hope to disrupt education we need to disrupt our mental formation about the “need” to sort and select children into winners and losers. If we used technology to make learning constant and time and methodology variable we would accomplish the disruption the tech prophets predict want… but not the profits the marketeers are seeking.

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WI Libertarian Legal Organization Wants Schools to Follow Science?

November 22, 2020 Comments off

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The op ed article linked above appeared in The Hill. Calling on school districts to “trust science” instead of teacher’s unions in making decisions about school closings. Here’s the concluding paragraph of the article by Will Flanders, the Research Director for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty:

For months, every measure taken to combat COVID-19 has been done with an emphasis on “trusting the science.” But the science is increasingly indicating that in-person learning, on balance, is relatively safe and that the risks are far outweighed by the importance to children and families. Education is fundamental for all children, and if political ideology and teachers unions are the deciding factors for whether a district will meet in person or not — not the science and the evidence — then it seems that districts across the country may have their priorities a bit backwards.

There’s one problem with Mr. Flanders research: it focuses on the link between districts that have unions and districts that closed schools thereby ignoring the exogenous factors that the school boards might have considered in making their decisions. For example, it’s entirely possible that the districts represented by unions had higher community incidence of COVID than those districts without unions; or the schools in union districts might have greater problems with air quality; or parents at schools with unions might have been more insistent that schools be closed. The decision to reopen schools is based on a host of variables and I find it hard to believe that the existence of a teachers union was determinative.

A closing question for Mr. Flanders and his libertarian friends: did you support your Governor when he trusted science and insisted on face masks… or did you support the wholly political lawsuit against him?

What Do “For Profit” Nursing Homes and Privatization of ANY Public Services Have in Common? Profit>Well-Being

November 20, 2020 Comments off

Common Dreams writer Linda McQuaig wrote a scathing article on the link between for-profit long term care facilities and the COVID death rate, noting that “75 per cent of coronavirus deaths in Ontario” occurred in these for profit enterprises. But Ms. McQuaig makes an even larger point in her article about this one form of privatization:

The situation should alert us more broadly to the foolishness of our rush to privatize services that would be better left to the public sector — not just nursing homes but health care, education and other areas where the public interest is at stake.

Privatization has become a kind of economic dogma in recent years, with business commentators and politicians routinely asserting that the private sector is more efficient and always does things better — an assertion that is rarely accompanied by any evidence.

In fact, the crucial difference separating the private and public sectors is that the private sector is focused on profit-making. Indeed, this is the only real purpose of a business enterprise.

So, regardless of what industry spokespeople say, a private company in the nursing home business is focused on maximizing profits, as its board of directors demands.

And it will typically do this by scrimping on staff costs — hiring fewer workers and paying them rock-bottom wages with no benefits. This generally results in high turnover and worse conditions for the residents, as well as the workers.

This blog has scores of posts undercutting the conventional wisdom that “running public services like a business” is a bad idea for everyone… everyone that is except the shareholders who make profits at the expense of the well-being of communities and citizens. Add this post to that list.