Education ‘reformers’ constantly talk about how schools need to be run more like businesses. Now, like Comrade PhysioProf, I do think good management is important. But what does good management have to do with business? So asks David Carr (italics mine):
On Wall Street and on Silicon Valley office campuses, in hedge fund boardrooms and at year-end Christmas parties, it seems you can’t have a conversation without someone talking about the movie that finally lays bare America’s public education crisis.
“Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” is one thing that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg agree on, Rupert Murdoch talks about to anyone who will listen, David Koch of Koch Industries promotes, and Paul Tudor Jones and many of his hedge fund brethren work to support.
“Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” follows five children and their parents as they run a gantlet to gain access to high-performing charter schools because the alternative — the public system — is a complete disaster. The film has caught the imagination of the business community because it represents a reckoning for public education and its chronic failures, making the very businesslike case that large school systems and the unions that go with them must be replaced by a customized, semi-privatized education in the form of charter schools.
Which is odd when you think about it. If you are looking for an American institution that failed the public, made resources disappear without returning value and lacked accountability for its manifest sins, the Education Department would be in line well behind Wall Street.
By now, the notion that business is a place built on accountability and performance should be as outdated as the one-room schoolhouse. Ask yourself, what would happen if American public schools were offered hundreds of billions in bailout money? One outcome is not in the cards: its leaders would not end up back at the trough so quickly, sucking up tens of millions in bonuses as Wall Street has.
When this charter fetish really picked up steam about a decade ago, I would ask people (whom I didn’t like) who started blathering on about running things like a business if, by business, they meant Enron. For some reason they didn’t care for that question.
Again, better management is useful (hell, keeping track of who isn’t coming to school would be a good thing). But since many of our most successful businesses these days involve direct rent extraction, the establishment of de facto monopolies, or crony capitalism (and some hit the trifecta!), I’m not sure what that has to do with educating children.
Finding yet another way to raid the public till, yes. Education, not so much.