Ladner Begins Campaign for a Second Bunkum

January 28, 2012

(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.



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