On Feb. 28, the estimable New York Times reported on one of the seemingly biweekly governors conferences. (Perdue on the phone to Schwarzenegger: “Hey, I’ve never been to Rhode Island either! Let’s go talk about inner city crime!”)
At this particular conference, they were rattling around about No Child Left Behind, or as we call it at my school, Every Child Dragged Along, and the Times reported that the governors said that “business leaders” said that workers were arriving without the appropriate level of skills. The governors responded by deciding to “toughen the standards,” i.e., make the tests harder. Well, thirteen of the governors did. Those big ol’ important states didn’t. But thirteen of the smaller ones did.
Workers without skills? What does that mean?
Let’s assume for a moment that these leaders of business cannot possibly be talking about college grads. And let’s be a little more generous and assume that they are probably not talking about graduates of any of our technical schools.
So what does that leave us? High school graduates? Are we talking about high school kids not having “skills”?
Okay, well, then, I think it’s wonderful that the leaders of our business world are concerned that their workers come to them without a firm knowledge of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, or the Bohr model of the atom, or the difference between a Petrarchan and a Shakespearean sonnet.
What? That’s not it? That’s not what they’re whining about? Oh, skills, not knowledge. I get it. They have an unacceptably large number of high school level workers who cannot read, write, compute, etc. Well, that’s different.
Now I can totally see why the governors would immediately want to make the tests harder.
Are these people actually the leaders of our economic system?
If it were me, I’d be taxing the hell out of business to pay for elementary reading coaches, to pay for a radical restructuring of K-2, to pay for whatever it would take so that every child who is capable would in fact be reading by 3rd grade. But that’s me, liberal that I am.
Last year, I was at the Georgia State STAR Student banquet, where I heard a leader of business actually say, “If we raised the graduation rate in Georgia to [some number I’ve forgotten], it would add an extra [some number in the millions] to our state’s economy.” He said it to a room full of Georgia’s absolute best educators and students, apparently without realizing that all of us were thinking, “So what you’re saying is that it would be worth it to Georgia’s businesses to give us that amount of money to improve schools?”
But, liberal that I am, I don’t think that’s what he was suggesting. I think what he and the governors want is for us to take those students who would have dropped out thirty years ago and, by sitting on them harder, turn them into the 12% who actually graduated, and that’s just the ones that graduated, not the ones who went to college. And then, you see, the profits will just roll in.
Well, not to the schools, but you get the idea.
5 thoughts on “Governors, business, and the toughening of standards”
Rereading this, I was struck by the similarity of the governors’ plans to the well-known Underpants Gnomes business plan:
1. Raise standards.
At the risk of igniting flames the like of which your blog has never seen, I will agree, you are a representative liberal. The indicator on which this is measured? “All problems can be solved with the appropriate application of cash. Said cash should be taken from evil businesses, instead of the people that patronize those businesses. This is of course becuase people are noble and businesses are, well, like I said, evil.”
Seriously though, there are well documented cases of school systems being heavily funded and failing miserably at what they are supposed to be doing. Maybe spending countless classroom hours giving tests and teaching to same isn’t the answer, but I really would like to know what is [grinning, knowning of course that I am inviting a lecture].
I think your buddy Marx had one (and probably only one) thing right in his cute little manifesto. We really do need a free and public education. We need it to guarantee that equal opportunity thing most of us agree is so important. The problem is, we can’t seem to stop toying with the model long enough to figure out what works.
And for the record, I knew the Bohr model one. It’s the cloud thingy.
Kevin, Kevin, Kevin.
You forget that corporations are people, too. They are legal individuals who have all the rights and responsibilities that we do, other than voting, which they get around by buying the legislation they need, an option denied to us, and they in fact are the customers of the schools, not the children who attend them. To complete your offensive metaphor of commodities, the students are the product. Who buys this product? Businesses.
Are you going to get better drapes for the living room from Wal-Mart or from Ella’s? Which one will cost a whole lot more? Businesses get what they pay for, and if they want employees who can function at a 21st century level, then they need to be willing to fund what works, and ignoring children who can’t read by third grade doesn’t work. Fixing that is expensive, but if you want it, you pay for it.
To fall in line with right-wing objectivism, I’d be an idiot to pay for my child’s education in order to profit the corporate Baals if I don’t get anything in return. Which I don’t, since Baal profits only Baal.
Kevin responded via email that it’s foolish to tax corporations like Wal-Mart, since they just pass the cost along to the consumers.
The fallacy in this thinking, at least in terms of funding for education, is that the state of Georgia puts a cap on the millage rate local boards of education can tax, a rate of 20%. If we let Wal-Mart off the hook, then we cannot make up the difference by directly taxing the householder. Wal-Mart, legally, is one of us, and Wal-Mart needs to shoulder its civic duties like the rest of us.
And how many of us believe that if we rescinded Wal-Mart’s taxes tomorrow, then prices would fall even lower the next day? Or the next day? Come on, raise your hands… That’s what I thought.
Part of the problem is that when large corps come to town, the first thing the local government offers them is property tax amnesty. Another problem is that the property taxes on high density housing (apartments) are never commensurate with the associated cost of government services associated with them.
And BTW, I never said that Wal-mart would drop their prices if we lowered their taxes. I only said they would raise them if taxes were raised.
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