Deasy, Apple, Pearson, and Gates: A Post Worth Hacking Into
Thirty million dollars is the iceberg tip for what the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) under the direction of reform-minded, unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy graduate John Deasy decided to shell out in June in the name of supporting Common Core. The purchase: Apple iPads.
To date, the estimated cost of this fiasco has risen to $1 billion.
I’m sure Los Angeles voters probably envisioned Apple Computer as a likely recipient of their school renovation funding. It all seems so logical– at least to the Los Angeles Daily News, which describes the purchase as “an ambitious plan to equip every pupil with a tablet computer within the next 14 months.”
The iPads are supposed to offer students the 2014 Common Core (CCSS) curriculum and also to enable students to take the CCSS assessments. Each iPad includes Pearson education software.
No keyboards were purchased. Thirty million and no keyboards for those upcoming CCSS assessments upon which all hinges.
No problem; it seems that in their students’ hacking into the security settings in order to utilize the iPads for preferred adolescent uses, LAUSD’s CCSS goal has already been met:
Officials also said that digital knowledge is a key component of their goal to prepare every student for college or a job by the time they graduate.
Play Pomp and Circumstance and hand out the diplomas. It appears that LAUSD kids are Prepared for Jobs in the Twenty-first Century.
The details I have relayed above are now popular in the news. What has not been openly publicized is the interconnectedness of key players in this LAUSD iPad fiasco.
Apple and Pearson: Old Friends
First, let us consider a statement from the Los Angeles Daily News article cited above:
The deal is a huge win for Apple, as the district expects to continue with the same vendor as it acquires the technology that can support the new Common Core curriculum launching in 2014, as well as a new online state testing system. [Emphasis added.]
“The deal is a huge win for Apple.” Keep in mind that Pearson also wins big for its equipping each iPad with education software. Pearson is connected with both CCSS testing consortia, so it wields power related to issues of CCSS.
What is not so well known is that Apple and Pearson had joined forces in the past in order to be huge winners– and they ended up in court on the wrong end of an antitrust lawsuit:
The Justice Department jumped directly into the fight over the future of digital books on Wednesday — and Amazon came out the winner.
In an action that could lower the price of e-books and shift the expanding market in Amazon’s favor, the Justice Department slapped Apple and five of the largest book publishers with an antitrust lawsuit, charging that the companies colluded to raise the price of e-books. [Emphasis added.]
One of those five publishers was the Penguin Group, a Pearson subsidiary.
This antitrust story is textbook for revealing the corporate worship of profits, so allow me to relay details:
The inquiry hinged on the question of whether publishers, at the urging of Steven P. Jobs, then Apple’s chief executive, agreed to adopt a new policy in 2010 that in essence coordinated the price of newly released e-books at the price offered in Apple’s iBookstore — typically between $12.99 and $14.99.
At the time, Apple with its blockbuster iPad was trying to challenge Amazon’s hold on the e-book market. Amazon, the online retail giant, had become a kind of Walmart for the e-book business by lowering the price of most new and best-selling e-books to $9.99 — a price meant to stimulate sales of its own e-reading device, the Kindle.
Publishers, looking for leverage against Amazon, saw Apple as their white knight. The Justice Department complaint, using language that could have been inspired by a best-selling white-collar crime novel, describes how executives from the publishing companies met to discuss business matters “in private rooms for dinner in upscale Manhattan restaurants,” tried to hide their communications by issuing instructions to “double-delete” e-mails, all the time complaining of Amazon’s increasing influence over the e-book market.
Ultimately, the Justice Department charges, the publishers and Apple conspired to limit e-book price competition, increasing Amazon’s e-book retail prices and causing “consumers to pay tens of millions of dollars more for e-books than they otherwise would have paid.”
Three publishers that were investigated, the Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, have already agreed to a settlement that will most likely overturn their pricing model. Macmillan and Penguin Group USA, which were also named in the suit, have not settled. [Emphasis added.]
Both Apple and Pearson have demonstrated that the bottom line is The Bottom Line.
Back to LAUSD: Once again, Apple and Pearson are working together, and once again, money is the object. This is not “for the kids.”
Gates and Pearson
Now let’s bring Bill Gates into the mix. In April 2011, Pearson announced its partnership with Gates in digitally promoting CCSS:
NEW YORK–The Pearson Foundation today announced a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support America’s teachers by creating a full series of digital instructional resources. Online courses in math and reading/English language arts will offer a coherent and systemic approach to teaching the new Common Core State Standards.
As you read this next paragraph, envision those eager, social-networking-motivated LAUSD students hacking into their construction-bond-funded iPads:
“The development of the Common Core Standards has set a high bar for public education in America,” said Pearson Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino. “With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the: Pearson Foundation, we’ll aim high to devise courses that will engage teachers and students and try to help a: new generation compete in a demanding world economy.” [Emphasis added.]
To recap: We have Gates backing Pearson, and Pearson collaborating with Apple.
Deasy: Former Gates Exec
Now, let’s add LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy.
The June 2013 Los Angeles Daily News article is careful to mention that Deasy, who holds stock in Apple, exited the room during LAUSD’s voting to (mis)appropriate the construction bonds for Apple iPads:
The vote was 6-0, with board member Bennett Kayser abstaining because he owns stock in Apple. He and Superintendent John Deasy, another Apple stockholder, left the board room during the discussion. [Emphasis added.]
What the article fails to mention is that Deasy is a former director of the Gates Foundation education division, and that Gates is financing Pearson, a tight CCSS company that is a major part of this iPad deal:
SEATTLE — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that Dr. John E. Deasy has been named deputy director of its education division within its United States Program. … In his new position, Deasy will focus on promoting policies and practices throughout the country designed to ensure that all students graduate high school with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college. …He is expected to begin work at the foundation on February 1, 2009.
Deasy has stock in Apple; Gates “has stock” in Deasy.
Convenient, ain’t it?
The Great Irony
And now, for the great, behind-the-scenes irony:
In his involvement with Pearson, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is indirectly promoting an Apple product.
Apple has surpassed Microsoft because the brutal Microsoft business model–the very same business model that Gates is promoting as the solution for “excellent” teachers in American public education– led to Microsoft’s downfall. As this Vanity Fair article excerpt notes:
Analyzing one of American corporate history’s greatest mysteries—the lost decade of Microsoft—two-time George Polk Award winner (and V.F.’s newest contributing editor) Kurt Eichenwald traces the “astonishingly foolish management decisions” at the company that “could serve as a business-school case study on the pitfalls of success.” Relying on dozens of interviews and internal corporate records—including e-mails between executives at the company’s highest ranks—Eichenwald offers an unprecedented view of life inside Microsoft during the reign of its current chief executive, Steve Ballmer, in the August issue. Today, a single Apple product—the iPhone—generates more revenue than all of Microsoft’s wares combined.
Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.” [Emphasis added.]
In short, the Gates business model ran Microsoft into the ground.
Cut to Gates tied to Pearson, a Gates-financed company in turn tied to “huge profits” for Apple.
Gates likes to boast that his (they are his) educational reforms are “based upon research.” However, he fails to learn a lesson from the demise of his own company. He is, however, willing to cover his own behind via some recent backpedaling; Gates is now saying “we probably won’t know for a decade” if the reform chokehold he has financed “will work.” As Washington Post education writer Valerie Strauss observes:
Hmmm. Teachers around the country are saddled every single year with teacher evaluation systems that his foundation has funded, based on no record of success and highly questionable “research.” And now Gates says he won’t know if the reforms he is funding will work for another decade. But teachers can lose their jobs now because of reforms he is funding.
…Education reform should not be driven by private philanthropists with their own agendas, however well-intentioned. [Emphasis added.]
Gates reforms will stand the test just as well as the security settings on those iPads withstood the LAUSD students, and he knows it.
Yet all is not lost:
At least Apple is making a killing.