Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Privatization Of Public Education Is Not Dependent Upon Achievement

The NYT did a lot of research on for-profit online schools. This article reports that they work very well. That is, they have been profitable for the corporations that operate them but they have not been effective in meeting educational goals. As long as they are profitable we will see more of these schools in America. They will have political support from conservatives because they conform to an ideology which holds that private industry is more efficient than government. They also fit into the popular zeitgeist which attributes magical power to technology. They are another example of what James Galbraith wrote about in The Predator State. The function of the predator state is to privatize as many government functions as possible. Taxation is fine as long as it funnels tax revenues into private hands. The military has been doing this in the Mid-East and many states are privatizing prisons and selling public assets e.g., toll roads and parking meters to private enterprises. The predator state is one of the consequences of the capture of the state by private interests. It is also dependent upon public acceptance of the economic ideology that underlies privatization. The Cold War has ended but the ideology is useful for other purposes. That is why so much is spent on the selling of the ideology.

The point of this article, and my critique, is not that education cannot benefit from innovative uses of technology. Many schools are using technology effectively and it can play an important role as a pedagogical tool. It is a misuse of technology when it is used primarily to reduce the cost of instruction.

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