There’s an important analogy here for the role of technology (on-line learning) in public education.
It turns out that Helen Dragas and other members of UVa’s Board were reading columns by the likes of David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, and latched on to education privatization schemes of people like John Chubb and Terry Moe (who were referenced in Board e-mails).
Chubb and Moe are at the Hoover Institution, a conservative “think” tank that promotes “free enterprise” and the privatization of public education. Both Chubb and Moe are members of Hoover’s Koret Task Force on K-12 education, funded by the Koret Foundaton. The Koret Foundation pushes “market-based K-12 education reform” and subscribes to the mistaken and easily disproved notion that “America’s broken educational system lies at the heart of our nation’s troubles” and drastic “reform” is imperative for “economic competitiveness.”
Chubb and Moe recently (2009) wrote a book titled Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education. In it, Chubb and Moe push all the conservative “reform” buttons: competition, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay for teachers. Technology is what will “make our children better educated.” The problem –– and it’s a big one –– is that there’s little or no research to back any of it up.
Here’s their web site. Click on Virginia in the map to find out about “recent developments” in the Commonwealth regarding technology and privatization initiatives.
Bob McDonnell had to have been involved in the effort to oust Teresa Sullivan. As Chubb and Moe noted, McDonnell pushed very hard in the last legislative session for more charter schools and “virtual school opportunities.” Conservatives, especially Republicans (but also business-oriented “fiscal conservatives like Helen Dragas), view education simply as a commodity to be bought and sold. They refuse to acknowledge the historical foundation of public education as a central civic responsibility of government in a democratic republic. More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle understood the importance of public schooling to democratic citizenship, noting that “each government has a peculiar character…the character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarch creates oligarchy, and always the better the character, the better the government.”
Indeed, one need only to look at Bob McDonnell’s efforts in Virginia to expand virtual schools for K12, Inc. Perhaps not surprisingly, McDonnell has taken $55,000 in contributions from K12, and he snuffed attempts to rein in the current quasi-voucher funding for students that attend virtual schools. There is no evidence that virtual schools are worth the investment, and research shows that private for-profit schools have very poor achievement records, But McDonnell insists, “Virtual schools provide excellent instruction” (big wink).
For more on virtual schools nationally and in Virginia, see:
For more on the poor track record of virtual schools, see:
In his 2003 book, The Flickering Mind, Todd Oppenheimer wrote that technology was a “false promise.” That is, all too often technology is no panacea to improving learning and often undermines funding that might have
gone to reducing class sizes, and improving teacher salaries and facilities. Based on his many classroom observations, Oppenheimer said that “more often than not” classroom use of computers encouraged “everybody in the room to go off task.” He noted that a UCLA research team investigating results from
the Third International Math and Sciences Study (TIMSS) reviewed video from 8th grade math and science classes in seven different countries. One difference stood out: while American teachers use overhead projectors (and increasingly now LCDs), teachers in other countries still use blackboards,
which maintain “a complete record of the entire lesson.”
A recent Texas study found that “there was no evidence linking technology immersion with student self-directed learning or their general satisfaction with schoolwork.”
The New York Times reported recently on classroom use of technology in Arizona, where “The digital push aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom.” As the Times reported, “schools are spending billions on technology,even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.”
But it is quite beneficial to the companies that peddle computers, software, and technological gadgetry. And the big push now is for “technology-enhanced instruction” and “innovation” and virtual schools (on-line instruction). This is true at UVa and other “elite” universities too. But there’s simply no research to support it.
Indeed, this so-called “experiment” is nothing more than dressed-up cost cutting in what Dragas called a “a resource-constrained environment.” And, in fact, as as deVise noted in an earlier article, Teresa Sullivan’s plan “would go further than most elite universities have dared in replacing human instructors with software.” And interested parties are already starting to cash in.
For example, when UVA president Teresa Sullivan was initially ousted, Curry School of Education dean Robert Pianta send an e-mail that was almost giddy , writing that “The discussion from the Board this morning made several references to unleashing the schools to be bold and aspirational, to accelerate change. My clear sense is that…we are moving in ways that align well with the larger direction and vision of the Board.”
Perhaps Pianta was motivated by the joint Curry-Darden education-business master’s degree program that proposes to integrate the “business model” into public education?
Perhaps Pianta was motivated by his own money-making side business to this”business model.”
Pianta recently told the Board Educational Policy Committee meeting, “We’re poised for promise. We can really go much further in the next five years.” Moreover, the Curry school is putting “more emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics” (STEM) when there is no STEM crisis or shortage. In fact, The Post just reported last week that “There are too many laboratory scientists for too few jobs.”
Conservative education nabob Rick Hess, at the very conservative free-market American Enterprise Institute, is enthusiastic about the “entrepreneurship” he sees getting promoted at the Darden-Curry partnership. He’s gushed about it.
UVa’s hasty and badly thought out plan for “innovation” and “reform” plays right into the plans that conservatives have to privatize as much of public education (k-12 through college) as they can. Just like with the anemia drugs, the bottom line for them is profit. Profit that comes from the taxpayers. We should all care and be concerned about that.”