Ladner Begins Campaign for a Second Bunkum

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Valerie Strauss put up a post from Anthony Cody denouncing the new ALEC Report Card on American Education, coauthored by your humble blogger. As unhinged screeds that any fair-minded reformer is happy to bank in their trophy case go, this one is pretty funny, so go check it out. Cody writes:

Under NCLB, it was schools that were declared failures. In states being granted waivers from the most onerous requirements of NCLB, it is teachers who will be subjected to this ignominy. Of course we will still be required to label the bottom 5% of our schools as failures, but if the Department of Education has its way, soon every single teacher in the profession will be at risk for the label.

This revelation came to me as I read the 17th edition of the Score Card on Education prepared by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), authored by Matthew Ladner and Dan Lips. This is a remarkable document. It explains where each state stands on the education “reform” initiatives that have become the hallmark of corporate philanthropies, the Obama administration and governors across the nation.

As revelations go, this one reads like a fever-dream. First there is a weak attempt to misconstrue a quote from Winston Churchill. For the record I graduated from public schools, my mother worked in a school district, and Dan and I both view the improvement of the public school system as vital to the success of the nation, which will be clear to any sensible person who reads the book.

Next there is a good bit of conspiracy theory babble concerning the American Legislative Exchange Council. This has become fashionable in Occupy Wall Street circles, but they seemed to have failed to notice that if ALEC really were a Shadow Conspiracy Illumanati-Trilateral Commission pulling the strings behind “like everything man!” why would they be publishing their agenda in public on a regular basis? When did conspiracies start operating out in the open? They’ll have to mull that over in the fever swamp and get back to us.

Finally, apparently everyone from Barack Obama on the left to Mitch Daniels on the right is a “corporate reformer” these days. I’m happy to place myself in that spectrum. In the previous edition of the report card, we put forward the position that the nation’s schools needed to view the process of adopting student test score gains thoughtfully and with the understanding that we have a lot to learn.

The fact that we have much to learn however does not mean that we should stick with the status-quo, which is utterly indefensible. The author however is obviously mourning the loss of the dark-ages practice of making no consideration of student learning gains at all. If so, he has much bigger problems than little ole me- perhaps he should be firing his diatribes at President Obama, who merely called for the end of unconditional tenure in the 2012 State of the Union address.

After wading through a fog of ideology, the author starts to level complaints about specific district policies. If these complaints have any merit, a very large if indeed, then Cody should take them up with the districts and states that formulated them.

These policies are not, after all, being secretly dictated from the ALEC Central Command Star Chamber but rather have been adopted by legislatures and school boards.  Reactionaries do not lack for representation in such forums. The NEA for instance enjoys a budget dozens of times larger than ALEC. If they were to actually match a sensible stance that could be squared with the best interest of students to go along with their political muscle, they would surely prevail.

Instead, we see them losing these debates, even in some deep blue states. Watching reactionaries cry in their beer about those losses while implicitly adopting a “we’ll start winning if we go completely unhinged” strategy is a satisfying, even delicious, bonus. I’m hoping that stuff like this will serve as a Golden Globe win as I campaign to receive another Bunkum from the NEPC ubber-reactionaries.



14 Responses to Ladner Begins Campaign for a Second Bunkum

  1. Mitch Daniels signed on to the Common Core Standards. Many Republicans are falling for the centralized education approach that is sure to become another failure in the long list of education reforms.

    Yes the teachers have become targets in this war on knowledge. I’m seeing good teachers who want to teach, becoming the target for elimination.

    Why? Because teaching is no longer acceptable. Students have to inquire or discover knowledge. Can you imagine how ridiculous it sounds to have Medical students discover how to become doctors??

    Yet this is exactly the trend in public education.

    Teachers who are experts in content (and though they are fewer and fewer) are being told that their expertise is no longer welcomed or appreciated. They are now looking for Generalists.

    They are to be the “guide on the side” and no longer the “sage on the stage”.

    Kids sit in groups where they “collectively” discover knowledge. Isn’t it cute how we create collectivists and yet no one notices?

    The disdain for the Teachers unions is obvious and warranted. They care about their power and nothing else.

    However the teachers in the classroom who can truly benefit the children are just as much the victims as all of the public school children who are subjected to the Progressive educators.

    Until we realize that the good teachers are being weeded out to bring in more Progressive fads, we will simply be the “useful idiots” for Obama/Duncan.

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Hey, Matt, a lot of the nuts actually do believe in the whole “conspiracy in plain sight” idea. Years ago, I remember Michael Moore talking about how amazing it is that the feinds of “corporate America” publish daily updates on all their nefarious plans to destroy us on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. “I read it every day,” I remember him saying. “It’s amazing.” they just put it all out there!

  3. Matthew Ladner says:

    Yeah, it’s pretty hilarious. I think ALEC has about a $9m annual budget and the NEA is somewhere in the $350m range, but somehow the all-powerful ALEC super-stealth sneakiness makes up for it…

    I guess the Brookings Institute is a part of the corporate reform conspiracy as well. Serving as the pillar of the center-left policy research establishment for decades, after all, makes for good camoflage in advancing the interests of THE MAN!

  4. allen says:

    There is a marvelous flexibility in proponents of the public education system in that, at need, the importance of teachers is reduced to the vanishing point invisibility rendering teachers safe from scrutiny and, once the Argus eye of public attention sags shut from over-use, re-inflated to the point that you’d think learning can only occur within the critical, pedagogical aura projected by the borderline superhumans that stand in front of classrooms.

    Oh, and Mat, if you ever get tired of the ALEC supersecret conspiracy the International Jewish conspiracy is holding open enrollment in February. You can join at any post office which as all informed persons know, are the public face of the secret, underground labyrinths from which the fate of humanity is directed.

    The password this month is the names of Tevyas daughters, from Fidler on the Roof, in order of ascending age. Don’t tell anyone because it’s a secret password. Or passwords.

    • Arrum says:

      If scohols require waivers then the law isn’t working. If the law isn’t working, why are we still spending billions on it. Instead of raising the debt limit lets get rid of wasteful spending.

  5. I’ve got news for you. These reforms, at least in Indiana, are NOT being adopted by local school boards. They are being enacted by our legislature, bought with campaign donations from big corporations, and dictated to our local school boards. The local school district superintendents and boards no longer have control over education in their districts and almost unilaterally do not support what the legislature is doing.

  6. matthewladner says:


    Sadly my conspiracy calendar is totally booked for as far as the eye can see.


    Please note the use of the phrase “districts and states” in the post. In some places these reforms are developed at the district level, and others at the state level.

    I’m guessing that you meant “universally” rather than “unilaterally” but that is (unfortunately) to be expected. I hope that you guys will keep an eye on student performance metrics and update your mental models of reality when they begin to improve.

    For instance on the 2011 8th Grade Reading NAEP, 32% of Indiana low-income children scored “Below Basic” while only 19% scored “Proficient or Better.” Thus after nine years of schooling, illiteracy outranks solid to outstanding reading performance by a wide margin. Indiana schools can/should/must/will do much better.

    When the needle starts moving in the right direction for disadvantaged children, as it has in other places, those complaining the loudest will have gambled and lost their credibility. Please place your bets with care.

  7. allen says:

    Your loss Matt. February is “chicken wings” month and there’s some good eatin’ between torah readings and subtly manipulating international relations. Can’t say much for the choice of wine though and with the Rothschilds in charge. Go figure.

    Jolie, why would corporations make such donations? Their rapacious profit-mongering can hardly find fulfillment in the public education system which, as one and all know, is severely under-funded.

    As for those “local school district superintendents and boards”, if they suck at their jobs why should they remain in charge? It’s supposed to be the public education system. If there’s not enough educating going on then one perfectly appropriate response is to make a couple of little changes to the system.

  8. ALEC Exposed: State Legislative Bills Drafted by Secretive Corporate-Lawmaker Coalition

    • Greg Forster says:

      OK, here’s my question for the crowd who are freaked out by the idea of legislation being drafted by powerful organized interests: what system do you propose that would result in this not happening? Seriously, if there’s a plausible proposal for a reform that would somehow insulate the legislative process from influence by the powerful, as a political scientist I’d be fascinated to hear about it. I anticipate it would involove an end to the First Amendment so I’m not saying I’d endorse it, but it would be interesting to examine (in approximately the same way doctors find rare cases of disease interesting to examine).

  9. Matthew: I can admit a mistake. I’ll correct it. Most Indiana school boards universally do not like the unilateral decisions the Republican-controlled state legislature is making. Also, interesting that most states showed more growth on NAEP scores and other authentic measures in the years prior to NCLB being enacted, as shown by solid research:

    There is no need to update my “mental models of reality” on improvement under current “reforms,” as 10 years of research shows us that such measures are not working. However, I can, and do, update my reality based on the needs of my students on a daily basis – changing my lesson plans based on observation and daily assessment in my own classroom, observing how many of my students come to school hungry and tired and not ready to learn, and continuing my own research and reading to make sure that I am providing the best daily learning environment possible for every subject that I teach.

    While I agree more progress is needed in Indiana literacy scores, increased use of high-stakes standardized testing that utilizes mostly a multiple choice format and then using those results to punish schools and teachers is not the way to make such progress. The use of authentic assessments and teacher-driven and local-school-driven measures of growth are the best ways for each local district to increase achievement according to the needs of its local community. Additionally, to overlook the effects of ever-increasing poverty on our students’ scores is short-sighted and damaging to real reform efforts such as school-community partnerships that could help mitigate the disadvantages students face in their home lives.

    Finally, the influence of corporate money on these education policies and political campaign finances by such entities as the Walton family foundation, Gates foundation, the Koch brothers, and numerous others has been well-documented.

    • Matthew Ladner says:


      I am aware the fairtest hates testing, and that unions bomb their members with a steady diet of their views.

      If however you will go to the NAEP data explorer and examine trends in student achievement in states that implemented reform programs bitterly opposed by teacher unions, a pattern emerges. MA, TX, DC and FL all serve as examples.

      You don’t need to trust me on this- you can look the numbers up for yourself. I’m willing to predict that Indiana is next on the list, and that the most bitter opponents of the reforms will have the most crow to eat. It will take time, but just be aware that others have made complete fools out of themselves in similar situations in the past.

  10. allen says:

    [edited]… How’s come those corporations want to glom onto the severly under-funded public educaiton system? It’s severly under-funded, remember?

    As for the various foundations that seek input to the public education system, are you suggesting that only those of whom you approve ought to have input to the political process that is public education? Sorry, democracy doesn’t work that way.

  11. […] Ladner Begins Campaign for a Second Bunkum ( […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: