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Remarkable Idiocy: “Economically-driven Education”

September 27, 2014

On October 2, 2014, I will be speaking in Indiana to an audience chiefly comprised of university students who have a passing understanding of the intentions of moneyed interests to usurp control of public education.

With a mind toward preparing for my upcoming engagement, I happened to read three pertinent (and powerful) articles: This one on September 26, 2014, in Chalkbeat on Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s plan to use workforce data to determine what schools teach in order to subjugate education to the requirements of the job market, excerpted below:

Indiana is quietly taking steps to position itself for a future where data drives much of what is learned in school. Gov. Mike Pence has made connecting education and workforce development a centerpiece of his administration’s agenda.

This year, a bill he wrote created a new state office, under Pence’s direction, with a director who has been nicknamed the state’s “data czar.” That office will manage an expanded network of K-12, higher education and workforce data, working with an outside company to identify trends and opportunities to connect what is learned now to what students will some day need to know.

Just last month, Pence named [state representative Steve] Braun as the state’s new director of the Department of Workforce Development. [Emphasis added.]

Pence wants to tailor education to serve the workforce, not the individual being educated– an important point.

Next is another article, a Living in Dialogue post by Professor Emeritus Denny Taylor, one that deals quite skillfully with the sinister push to make public education little more than the servant of the US economy. The second article refers to very-well-compensated “non-profiteer” Marc Tucker’s 1992 “Dear Hillary” letter, excerpted below. Tucker’s vision is

… to remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone,” coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by counselors “accessing the integrated computer-based program[Emphasis added.]

Again with using education to create workers to serve the workforce.

Finally, in this dehumanizing, “student-as-object” vein, is a third article, from the August 1, 2014, Washington Post and written about the South Korean education system by former South Korean student and teacher, Se-Woong Koo. The entire article I find profoundly sad, but this part stuck me most:

Herded to various educational outlets and programs by parents, the average South Korean student works up to 13 hours a day, while the average high school student sleeps only 5.5 hours a night to ensure there is sufficient time for studying. Hagwons [cram schools] consume more than half of spending on private education.

This “investment” in education is what has been used to explain South Koreans’ spectacular scores on the Program for International Student Assessment, increasingly the standard by which students from all over the world are compared to one another.

But a system driven by overzealous parents and a leviathan private industry is unsustainable over the long run, especially given the physical and psychological costs that students are forced to bear.

Many young South Koreans suffer physical symptoms of academic stress, like my brother did. In a typical case, one friend reported losing clumps of hair as she focused on her studies in high school; her hair regrew only when she entered college. [Emphasis added.]

South Korean children are “typically” losing their hair from the pressure of becoming objects to serve societal education expectation. A shocking image.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes that the South Korean education system is “better” than the American education system, and he believes America needs to be more like “demanding” South Korea.

When American children *typically* lose clumps of hair as a direct result of the stress of their schooling, perhaps Duncan will be satisfied.

After reading and meditating on these three articles today, I had an epiphany of sorts regarding privatizing utility of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Now, I know a lot about CCSS. This summer I wrote a book on its history, development, and promotion. However, what occurred to me this afternoon is the reason for the business push for CCSS particularly and the spectrum of privatizing reforms in general.

It has nothing to do with “competing in the global economy.” That’s just a distractor.

The goal of business in aggressively promoting CCSS while bashing the teaching profession into false, test-score-riddled “accountability” is to reshape the purpose of education into streamlined, slavery-to-market service.

Yes, CCSS is about corporate profits, but it is about more than companies like Pearson making potential billions off of selling CCSS products and services.

The true business goal behind CCSS and other market-driven “reforms” is to make American education completely economic– which means completely dehumanized in its purpose.

It is about corporate America’s funneling the nation’s youth into predetermined, objectified service of the corporate, gluttonous market needs. And a crucial component of that goal is to break the spirit of teachers and make us nothing more than the trainers of What the Market Requires.

They must break us because we do not worship profits. The very fact that we enter the modestly-remunerating teaching profession attests to our *failure* to weigh the value of a life in economic terms.

No reasonable individual enters K12 teaching “for the money.”

Though K12 teachers are not driven by thoughts of a fat wallet, don’t kid yourselves for a moment regarding so-called “nonprofits.” They are raking in the dough hand over fist. Consider “think tank and do tank” National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) CEO Marc Tucker, as cited from the Taylor article:

…For the tax year ending June 30th 2011… Tucker received a total of $2,549,077 in compensation from NCEE and ACI (America’s Choice, Inc.) – $2,055,465 from the sale of ACI to Pearson and $493,612 in compensation and benefits from NCEE. …

In 2012 Tucker received $819,109 in total compensation from NCEE…. [Emphasis added.]

Those who run nonprofits can certainly “profit.” Just ask CCSS salesman, Fordham Institute then-VP Michael Petrilli, who was paid over $214,000 for his “nonprofit” work in 2012, and New York charter queen Eva Moskowitz, who collected over $578,000 in “compensation” from running her charter “nonprofit” in 2012-13.

Talk about the benefits of “choice,” eh?

There is certainly money to be made in promoting “reforms” that, ahem, *benefit the economy.* But we must recognize this “cradle to grave” shaping of the American education system for what it is: A purposed effort to separate America into two groups, the privileged and the serfs. Indeed, the privileged are trying to finesse the message of serfdom as one that “concerned citizens” seemingly cannot say no to: a falsified image of national economic health that, if ingested by the American consciousness, will prove to be nothing more than caustic gluttony that dehumanizes most members of our society and corrodes our democratic foundation.

Ironically and truly, even the fattened Marc Tuckers and their like will fall by their own selfish folly. For all of their economic positioning, they cannot hover above American democratic foundation collapse.

The remarkable idiocy of it all.

thinker facepalm


Like my writing? Read my ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education

  1. Harlan Underhill permalink

    What then IS the proper purpose of education?

    • Students should have a broad base of learning so they are not limited in their future pursuits. A broad liberal arts education allows them flexibility to choose for themselves. This model will do the choosing for them and only train them enough so they may accomplish the task presented to them. The former is driven my the students interests, passions and dreams. The latter is pressed down upon them based on ‘data collection’ which has little to do with dreams and desires. For example people I know in Russia have their future career selected for them. One person I know, who grew up in Russia, has good hand dexterity and therefore was given the choice of making fine fashion wear or tailored outerwear such as coats. Is that what we desire for our children in the land of opportunity and ‘used to be’ freedom?

    • Derek permalink

      If l asked everyone to create a workforce of people based on data collected from a third grader today it must be for children working in sweatshops today, because predicting a need for workers and professionals ten to fifteen years down a road where they have kicked this can of finacial uncertainty by those people who live by the greed of the “now” sounds so promising coming from the same people who spent billions on econonmic impact studies years ago only to be living with an $18 trillion debt. “Endless cycle” forced on everyone by people who only care about and have made money off this corrupt system that only pretend and promote their “visions” for the future. God warned us about people like that, no wonder they want Him and history out of school, it points out the sin of their past.Amen?

    • To enhance the quality of individual life. Societal benefit is a healthy byproduct.

      • Harlan Underhill permalink

        Mercedes: If the true purpose of education is to “enhance individual life” I have to ask whether any life is ever “individual.” Aren’t our lives always collective? And shouldn’t education recognize that FIRST?

      • Hence the inclusion of the societal as a byproduct.

      • I sure hope that it’s not just a collective that we are enhancing, especially when it comes to education. Does that mean that the choice of what to be educated in should therefore be based on and in a/the collective ?

    • Karen Bracken permalink

      Education is to promote and carry forward the culture. If a child is properly EDUCATED they choose their own path in life. We are moving toward training for a career the government will select for you and you will be properly trained. Our children will be nothing more than human capital for the elite class. We are turning into what our founding fathers ran away from.

      • I agree about carrying forward the culture. Has the American school system done a good job of that?

      • I think you are right. As a matter of fact, I believe it is fairly essential. Unfortunately, that idea didn’t really catch on in public ed.
        I believe it was Hirsch that was banging that drum back in the 80’s and early 90’s. Not too many really liked that approach. Too Western Culture centered for many.

    • Puget Sound Parent permalink

      The proper purpose of education is the exact opposite of whatever Harlan Underhill claims it to be.

      And for those of you who might consider my statement caustic, capricious, inaccurate or unfair, go to and look at just a few of his hundreds of comments there; you’ll undoubtedly agree with me about this man being a snarky miscreant and ultra-right wing extremist.

      (Nothing personal, Harlan. Just the facts here, just the facts. 😉

      • Harlan Underhill permalink

        Not fact, PUS, just my continued struggle through the muck and miasma of current cultural assumptions to find the truth about reality. I am very interested in the notion of democratic education as well as education for democracy. I’m not convinced anyone on Diane Ravitch’s blog knows and can explain it, and frankly I was hoping for a little more from Mercedes whose energy and scholarship is two or three cuts above almost anyone else writing.

      • Harlan, I cannot hang out in the comments section of my blog. On top of my regular schedule, I have student exams this week, and I have a speaking engagement in Indiana.

        I am happy for others to offer their comments in response to your request.

      • Harlan Underhill permalink

        This I understand, Mercedes, and we are all grateful for what you do. I wouldn’t want you to take time away from the work you do to chat with me. WHEN the CCSS is defeated I am just wondering what the restored American education ethos would feel like. I can’t figure out how to have a religiously informed and patriotic education in a secular setting. Just looking for the philosophical point of view that would help me see how.

  2. Jenny permalink

    Look at those who are on all these committees to determine education: groups like LABI, CABL, chambers, etc. All people who have never taught but want to create a workforce. It is so obvious when you go to the capital and see all these business lobbyists. The sad part is the majority of our senators and reps have the same elitist mentalities that they know what is best. Who cares that we aren’t educating our kids, we are making them all conform so they can be molded into workforce drones. Why are all our educational databases linked to the Labor Dept (workforce)? So they can pre-determine what a kid needs to be by the 3rd grade (or now with their push for universal pre-k, maybe pre-k). No more choices. It is very sad indeed and Louisiana is full force into this with probably every other state.

  3. Reblogged this on The Academe Blog and commented:
    From Mercedes Schneider….

  4. Dr. Rich Swier permalink

    Great. Posted:


  5. It is not only idiocy, it is completely misguided and “wrong-headed.” As the great French contemporary economist Thomas Piketty wrote in his lauded book _Capital in the Twenty-First Century_ (Harvard University Press, 2014) “In all human societies, health and education have an intrinsic value: the ability to enjoy years of good health, like the ability to acquire knowledge and culture, is one of the fundamental purposes of civilization.”
    So, let’s lose the business model, folks, and get back to the real work of teaching and learning.

  6. Laura chapman permalink

    The facts are there. Be prepared to answer questions about “what to do” and how, plus a a brief answer to the question Harlan asks. Hope you have visual punch lines.good luck and have fun. Look forward to a report.

  7. H.A. Hurley permalink

    Mercedes, I admire your work emensely and I always wait for another publication.
    It is obvious to me that some of the least educated tumbled upon the education destruction field from the Harvard School of Education, which is spitting out public policy & political science BS level know-it-ALLs.
    There is so much wrong with public school destruction. Even if the motive is to prepare a servant workforce, the chaos of our country, legislative actions, financial forces, wars, crime, poverty…it is haphazard chaos without any type of direction. College grads are having great difficulty finding jobs, student loans are harming generations, the social fabric of schools and communities are hurting our collective psyche, etc….Nothing but chaos. The only thing I am sure of is that Bill Gates has his fisheye lense high above the universe and watches his money grow endlessly while moving the chess pieces around.
    Education is in ruin, families, society, elderly, safety, and futures for our little ones are in trouble. I am afraid that only the Super Rich will survive and they know it, but do not care. One thing for sure, being self centered leaves no room for thinking about others and their futures…only one person matters. Likeminded Reformsters stand with Gates forever.
    He can buy anyone, except most teachers.
    We are not going quietly.
    We are an annoying bunch.
    Glad to be one!

    • Laura H. Chapman permalink

      Harvard School of Education a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. At least $64 million to one project designed by clueless economists–Measures of Effective Teaching…flawed to the core but hey, the PR was great and the three measures, VAM, the Danielson observation, and economist Ron Feguson’s student survey (the 7 c’s thingy) are out there as if TRUE, VALID, and all the rest. ran across this being recycled into USDE publication from an Aspen Institute Report, an operation Mercedes has written about in her first book

      “An evaluation with multiple measures (student growth on State tests, classroom observations and student surveys) can accurately predict a teacher’s effectiveness” (p. 8 in this report: Weiner, R. (2013, March). Teaching to the core: Integrating implementation of common core and teacher effectiveness policies. Washington, DC: The Aspen Institute. “The Aspen Institute is grateful to the Joyce Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for supporting this work.” the usual suspect.

      The writers offer no evidence. There is none. These three measures do not predict anything. They are simply used to define teacher “effectiveness” and by insular and circular reasoning See the resounding crit of Gates’ project at Rothstein, J. & Mathias, W. J. (2013). Have we identified effective teachers? Culminating findings from the Measures of Effective Teaching project. (Review). Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from

    • Karen Bracken permalink

      I wish I could figure out WHY I keep registering to receive the blog but never get it. Strange.

  8. Reblogged this on Crazy Normal – the Classroom Exposé and commented:
    It’s all about removing democracy from public education and replacing that word and what it means with another two words: corporate profits

  9. ira shor permalink

    Yes, Mercedes hits it on the head. CCSS/PARCC are corporate economic policies masquerading as student-friendly education policies. Promise of “college and career readiness” is to get buy-in from parents anxious about their kids’ futures in this wretched Wall St economy. The student-friendly propaganda is meant to hide the real purpose—transfer billions in educational spending from the public to the private sectors; finally eliminate the last labor unions standing, AFT and NEA(whose leadership is only happy to cooperate having been bought and sold by Gate); protect the child-friendly, liberal arts sanctuaries for their own rich children in the small private school sector; brutalize the kids of the 99% with standardized testing to produce them into compliant adults who do not question the status quo. Pretend all of this is for the good of the country.

  10. Why will you be visiting Maine on the 25th and what will you speak about?

  11. Mercedes,

    Anthony Cody sent me your blog, and I smiled when I read it, because you often came to mind when I was writing the piece you discuss. I salute you, not only for your courage and endurance, but also for your incredible research and document analysis, which is providing teachers, parents, and the public with otherwise unavailable information that directly affects not only the education of children in public schools, but also the future lives of all of us.

    The ethos of the United States has changed in the past 15 years. The mood and mind of the nation is perceptibly different. In “Capital”, Thomas Piketty, documents the economic change that has taken place. The wealth of the powerful elites is increasing exponentially, while the public is increasingly struggling to make ends meet. In “Political Order and Political Decay”, Francis Fukuyama writes of the “backsliding” of political elites into the “reciprocal exchange of benefits “ for themselves, and of the laws they use to defend their privilege.

    This is exactly what is happening in public education. Children, especially poor children, have become a source of great income and wealth for the rich – and this can be documented in the ways you have demonstrated Mercedes. It is the essential work that Noam Chomsky encourages us to do almost continually now, because the issues are so urgent and the dangers to society so great.

    At this time of gendered political decay, when political elites are increasing their prodigious net worth at the expense of teachers, parents, and children, it is up to us, as Chomsky so often tells us, to resist our increasing social, political, and economic vulnerability and disenfranchisement.

    We can stand up to power and uncover the truth of the political decay that has resulted in the destruction of the US public school system, or be down trodden by the boots of the self-appointed elites who are disguising themselves as beneficent reformers.

    We can document the rotten policies and mandates that have been put in place, which line the pockets of the top executives in non-profit and for-profit organizations, who have set themselves up with lucrative fiefdoms.

    We can make public that these fiefdoms decimate the public funding of public schools, deplete essential services for children, and mandate curricular practices that are developmentally inappropriate and harmful to children.

    The “efforts” of NCEE, EFA, NISL, and NCTQ all fall into this pile of decaying matter. They are all prime examples of the great system failure that is well documented by Piketty, Fukuyama, and Chomsky.

    But when I think of these organizations I think of the research you have done to uncover the connections between them. I think also of Diane Ravitch, Yong Zhao, Anthony Cody, Morna McDermott, and so many others, who are all courageously doing similar work, encouraging us to stand up to power.

    I have no doubt that if the political decay that has changed the ethos of public schools and society is to be stopped we will all have to stand up sooner rather than later. On that day when all teachers in public schools stand up against the political decay than is destroying public schools, it will be a privilege to stand beside you.

    I hope at the conference at which you speak that the students and teachers in the audience stand up for justice for children and teachers and stamp their feet to get the rich, powerful elites out of America’s public schools.

    Denny Taylor

  12. Harlan Underhill permalink

    What would an education to which democracy had been restored (a la Lofthouse and Chomsky) look like?

    • Puget Sound Parent permalink

      Vastly better than anything you’d advocate, Harlan.

  13. anne permalink

    Wonderful writing, Mercedes. Suggestion to review 1991 SCANS report under Labor Secretary Lynn Martin. Was leaving DC (private post secondary Ed) at the time, and recently reread the SCANS report with more awareness. Pieces the dysfunction together more clearly.
    Education is not about education — and we need an rescinding of CC to improve the education dysfunction.

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