Today, I’m going to explain how Big Business and billionaires can end the “education crisis” facing America.
Unfortunately, most people who see that phrase, “end the ‘education crisis’ facing America,” will lose interest before finishing the sentence and switch to YouTube to hunt up clips of Jolene Van Vugt setting the land speed record on a motorized toilet.
While you’re checking out Vugt’s stunning accomplishment you might also watch Secretary of Education Arne Duncan drone on about the achievement gap in U. S. education. But you’re not actually crazy. Duncan has a measly 184 views. No. Do what most people do. Check out the video of Charlie Schmidt’s piano-playing cat, which has 24,189,976.
Of course, if you’re interested in what’s happening in the public schools, there’s one place you can still go for “fair and balanced” coverage. That’s right, you can watch Fox News. And if you do your head is already brimful of ideas:
1. You know teachers’ unions are shot through with greed and corruption and that their reason for existence is to protect tenured child molesters.
2. You are convinced that unions make campaign donations to politicians who worship the Devil.
3. You realize that if Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin loses his recall election, June 5, then union thugs are coming to your home next and they are going to eat your baby.
4. On a positive note, you can see that the only way we can save our schools, our children, our piano-playing cats, and our inalienable right to ride motorized toilets, is to break teachers’ unions and turn the public schools over to for-profit corporations.
5. You believe government isn’t a solution. Government is a problem. In fact, government is like herpes.
6. And last, but not least, billionaires are your heroes, because you admire their altruism; and you understand that business efficiencies brought into U. S. public education can only mean lower taxes and soaring profits.
6a. No, wait, we meant: soaring test scores.
6b. In fact, you hope that when Mitt Romney sits in the Oval Office he will select Donald Trump as his U.S. Secretary of Education!
Of course, since you probably don’t follow education news closely, you might not know that Rupert Murdoch, the Australian billionaire and owner and guiding spirit of Fox News, paid $360 million in November, 2010 to buy a company called Wireless Generation and get in on the education technology business. And you’ve probably never given much thought to what might happen when people like Trump and Murdoch see dollar signs dancing in front of them…no, no…we mean happy American children.
So let’s look at a few examples to see how the Golden Age of For-Profit Public Education might play out:
SCHOOL BUS SERVICE: Low-budget bus companies take over and slash costs (huge savings for taxpayers! huge profits for low-budget bus companies!) by dispensing with time-consuming safety inspections, ignoring rules limiting hours employees can drive, and skipping background checks for drivers. Okay, kids! Meet Ophadell Williams, your new driver! Sure, Ophadell was once jailed for manslaughter. Sure, his driving privileges have been suspended on multiple occasions. Mr. Williams works cheap and this is business. So fasten your seat belts, because your bus is going to be careening off the road when Ophadell falls asleep at the wheel!
GYM CLASS REQUIREMENT: Parents might worry that their children are getting flabby. But the for-profit gym teacher has a solution. He asks mom and dad to watch a short educational film about the benefits to their child of wearing Skecher toning sneakers. The film features Dr. Steven Gauteau, chiropractor, touting a six-week clinical trial he conducted, which showed that if a child would wear these toning sneakers he or she would lose weight, see an increase in muscle strength, and have slimmer legs and better buttocks! But the doctor will not bother to mention that his wife is an executive who works for…Skechers. No problem. The shoe companies will rake in the dough, earning $1.1 billion in 2010 sales of toning sneakers, and the $40 million Skechers will pay in fines later, for making unsubstantiated health-benefit claims, will be a small cost to pay for doing business. And your son or daughter will still have those cool sneakers!
GOOD SCHOOL NUTRITION: Meddling bureaucrats with the Department of Agriculture will try to impose new rules and require more fresh fruits and vegetables on the school lunch menu. But student interests come first when Big Business controls education. Del Monte Foods will save all those chubby fourth graders, putting lobbyists to work in Washington, D. C., to ensure that pizza remains classed as a vegetable. (After all, a slice of pizza is covered in tomato sauce!) Tea Party types will be shown on Fox News, passing out bumper stickers that read, “You’ll have to pry my cold dead hands off my pepperoni pizza.”
FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS: We have seen the future of for-profit education! At the college level, it’s ITT Tech and Phoenix University! These for-profit colleges make money hand over fist, which we all know is the founding principle of U.S. public education. Since 2008, such institutions have actively recruited students, including returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, who have guaranteed G.I. Bill tuition benefits, even though many of the students they recruit are totally unprepared for college-level study. No problem for Big Business saviors: Students at for-profit colleges have used G.I. Bill benefits and relied on more than $125 billion in federal grants and loans to pay almost all their tuition expenses (because government is always a problem) and many have flunked out or graduated with worthless degrees (because business is always a solution). Wait? What? And then those students have defaulted on 15% of all loans.
START YOUR OWN CHARTER SCHOOL: Profits are waiting at the elementary and secondary levels, as well. Just found a charter school! Collect payments from state government. Then cook the books and pad your own bank account. It’s the Carl W. Shye Jr. method! Shye, treasurer for four Ohio charter schools, has been charged with embezzling $523,000 from school operations! Or go bankrupt, as did Lorain Art Academy, another Ohio charter. Yep. Make the state take back its students, but say you no longer have the money already paid to your institution to educate those students. Feel the power of Big Business to save U. S. education! Operate with the same dedication to children as the Michigan-based National Heritage Academies. Lease an old Catholic school in Brooklyn for $264,000 yearly. Then charge a New York State-supported charter school $2.76 million to use the same building.
STANDARDIZED TESTING: The states pay testing companies hundreds of billions to design, market and grade standardized tests. Classroom teachers will tell you the tests aren’t working. But if that were true Big Business couldn’t keep selling more testing, and, you know, helping America’s children. So, all you billionaires, rely on your allies in right-wing political circles, and your proxies at Fox News, to keep portraying teachers as lazy union members! Sure, the test-preparation company, Princeton Review, now faces a federal suit, accused of submitting millions of dollars in false claims, for providing tutoring services to underprivileged school children in New York City! Sure, sure, one former supervisor is accused of forging student signatures, falsifying sign-in sheets and providing false certifications, including one billing which showed that 74 students attended a class held on New Year’s Day in 2008, when…well…no class was actually held. That’s okay. Free markets always work the way God intended.
FINALLY, SCHOOL NURSING: Children with severe emotional problems are way more expensive to educate. Yet they insist on coming to school! Time to apply good business principles and sedate them. Presto! No more behavior issues! And tidy profits for drug companies! So what if hundreds of thousands of young children, two-thirds of them twelve or younger, are treated with Risperdel. Who cares if 1,200 kids suffered serious health problems after using the drug? If thirty-one died, including a 9-year-old who suffered a stroke a few days after beginning treatment? You’re bringing business efficiency to the school house!
Meanwhile, doctors are increasingly prescribing Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify and Geodon to treat children. But government agencies are whining. (As always, government is the problem!) Studies show that use of these drugs has increased fivefold in twenty years. Well, that’s great! Drug companies help kids and simultaneously make billions in profits! In fact, according to an article in the New York Times, “The growing use of the medicines has been driven partly by the sudden popularity of pediatric bipolar disorder.”
Well, okay. Thank god for the work of Dr. Joseph Biederman, a child psychiatrist at Harvard, and leading advocate of that diagnosis. If you can’t trust an expert like Biederman to tell you when your child needs powerful medication, who can you trust? What? You say an investigation by Congress reveals that the doctor failed to report to Harvard that he earned $1.4 million in outside income from…the drug manufacturers?
You say Biederman and the drug companies were not entirely forth-coming in testimony before Congress? That as early as 2002, one internal report noted that more study of medicines prescribed for children was necessary? That without more data, government watchdogs might rightly question the use of these powerful medications, “especially those like neuroleptics, which expose children to potentially serious adverse events?”
You say “adverse events” is Big Business-speak for “death?”
Don’t worry. When it comes to America’s public schools, Mr. Murdoch and all the other billionaires just want to help.