It’s summer reading time.
So please read David J. Blacker’s book, The Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame
Blacker does a tremendous job of helping us understand the economic background behind what is driving the current mode of corporate education reform. It’s important to understand this because education reform is greatly affected by the context it exists within, and this context is neoliberalism.
Trying to summarize Blacker’s thesis in a short blog entry is impossible, but let me try. He argues that because of the technological changes affecting everything, combined with capitalism’s inherent internal structure, the ability to create profit is shrinking. Adjustment to this profit shrinking requires a shift from extracting from labor for profit to extracting from financial markets, a shift that is aided and abetted by technological advances. With this shift, not only is labor no longer needed to the same degree, but it becomes an obstacle to profit. As Blacker puts it, “In capitalism’s neoliberal phase, however, the ‘more is better’ mania for exploitation is replaced by a technologized ‘less is better’ mania for eliminating labor costs.” People become dispensable. Austerity rules. And thus students, who in the past were educated for positions in a labor economy, have no additive function. Which makes an education, and schools, and educators, expendable according to neoliberal logic.
You, educators and students, are at best superfluous and costly burdens on the back of a neoliberal economy.
Here is a more from his introduction:
“Not as many workers are needed to turn whatever profits remain and government largesse is reserved exclusively for ‘too big to fail’ financialized capitals which have, as a result, become state-corporate hybrids that exist as government-secured monopolies even while they spout neoliberal rhetoric about ‘freedom,’ ‘competition,’ and the like….the bulk of the population is no longer seen as a resource to be harnessed- as dismal as that moral stance once seemed- but more as a mere threat, at best a population overshoot to be managed by a self-perpetuating and therefore pseudo meritocracy. If the peasants are no longer needed to work the fields, then why not go ahead and kick them off the estate? The scenery will improve.” (pgs. 10-11)
So this is the economic context in which we exist. An economy that once was able to extract profit through labor is no longer able to do so. It’s searching recklessly for profit, and labor has become simply a cost with no value. It must be cut- eliminated.
Public education must be eliminated.
“This is where the austerity kicks in. It’s a one-two punch sort of situation: fewer human beings are needed for capital accumulation and the public coffers are urgently needed by elites in order to continue leveraging their insatiable cash cow financial sector (almost all of the sovereign indebtedness is due to tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations and, more importantly, the bailouts and federal guarantees that have been tendered to the banking sector). Thus the ‘shit rolls downhill’ nature of austerity that requires teachers and schoolchildren to pay for the solvency of sinecured bankers and their political enablers.” (pg. 11)
I must admit- that’s depressing.
It gets worse.
Blacker describes what we are seeing now, “…the demise of the grand ideal of universal education that has animated enlightened capitalism since the nineteenth century. What capitalism gives, it now takes away. In the realm of education, this process represents a final coup de grace: The abandonment of government provisioned and guaranteed schooling for all- after first ‘privatizing’ and channeling those commons’ erstwhile value into elite coffers.” (pg. 13. Emphasis added)
And, with this frame in mind, understanding the importance of how the Common Core Standards were developed and supported by Gates Foundation money becomes clearer. Understanding the impetus put on high-stakes testing, on the blaming of teachers when poverty is the issue, on Value Added Measurements, becomes a bit easier. Understanding the complete elimination of all public schooling in New Orleans, the development of Michigan’s Educational Achievement Authority, etc. etc…. All of these reform attempts blame the individuals within the education system and therefore serve to take attention away from the broader context this system exists within. At the same time, these approaches function to further serve the decimation of public education: A system that, within the one-dimensional, market fundamentalist approach of neoliberalism, serves no positive economic value.
It becomes abundantly clear that all of these educational reform measures are not put in place to help and support children. They are natural functions of economic system that has no longer the same need for labor. And thus the supplier of that labor, public education, is nothing other than a costly burden.
And so needs to be eliminated.
But not before a profit can be made by privatizing as much of it as possible.
Scared? You should be.
Read the book.