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David Hursh’s New Book, The End of Public Schools: The Corporate Reform Agenda to Privatize Education

November 3, 2015

University of Rochester (New York) education professor David Hursh has a new book coming out on November 23, 2015: The End of Public Schools: The Corporate Reform Agenda to Privatize Education (Routledge).

the end of public schools hursh

(The Kindle version is already available on Moreover, this flyer from Routledge includes information on a 20 percent discount.)

David_Hursh_2014-108-S  David Hursh

Hursh’s The End of Public Schools is divided into five chapters:

Chapter 1: The Demise of the Public in Public Schools

Chapter 2: Understanding the Rise of Neoliberal Policies

Chapter 3: Governor Cuomo and the Neoliberal Attack on Public Schools, Teachers, and Unions

Chapter 4: The Gates Foundation, Pearson, and Arne Duncan

Chapter 5: Manufactured and Real Crises: Rethinking Education and Capitalism

In this post, I offer a glimpse into each chapter via thought-provoking excerpts that attest to the overall quality of Hursh’s book. (Note: In-text citations removed for ease of presentation.)

From Chapter 1, “The Demise of the Public in Public Schools”:

We need to understand that the education reforms are not minor changes in how schools are administered, or how tests and curriculum are created, or teachers evaluated. Instead, the current reforms have transformed the purpose of schooling, teaching, and learning. The curriculum is being reduced to what will be tested, teaching to implementing lessons designed to resemble the test questions and often scripted by someone else, and learning reduced to test taking strategies and memorizing for the test. Good teachers are retiring early or finding other jobs and enrollments in teacher education programs are declining.  …

No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the rise of charter schools, and the increasing privatization and corporatization of public education are not accidental developments. Rather, I argue that the current debate over the direction of public education exemplifies a larger debate occurring in the United States and globally:  On the one hand we can continue pursuing the neoliberal agenda that aims to create a society in which decisions about how we are to live are made through unregulated markets, with a diminished governmental role as what was once public is privatized, schools focus on holding students and teachers accountable [through a system] in which students and teachers are infinitely examined… and the rich and powerful become even more so. On the other hand, we can pursue what I will call a social liberal democratic agenda in which the government plays its required role in the creation and development of markets, provides services that are best provided through the government, creates schools as learning communities that support the development of trusting and caring relationships, and aims to create democratic institutions and structures so that everyone has opportunities to participate in democratic processes.

From Chapter 2, “Understanding the Rise of Neoliberal Policies”:

…Economic and political power has been concentrated in the hands of the rich, who are unelected and unaccountable, and gain influence through means outside the democratic process.  Therefore, as I will describe, we need to develop forms of governance that are more transparent and promote democratic decision-making.

…Corporate reformers focus on education as a means of reducing economic inequality to avoid confronting the inequalities created by neoliberal capitalism. Pushing back will require both promoting more democratic forms of education but also working to reduce economic inequality and poverty and provide health care, housing, and other services that improve the quality of life. …

…Market fundamentalists promote the idea that societal and economic decisions should be made through markets, rather than the political process. In response, I concur… that all decisions are really political decisions. …Recognizing that neoliberalism is necessarily political and that it privileges some groups over others helps refute the notion that we can and should use markets to make all decisions.

From Chapter 3, “Governor Cuomo and the Neoliberal Attack on Public Schools, Teachers, and Unions”:

…Over the last fifteen years, corporate reforms have encompassed a widening range of reforms, including evaluating teachers through standardized test scores, privatizing the developing of curriculum and assessments, and promoting charter schools.  …These reforms are part of larger effort to turn education into a profit-making industry and are promoted by those who desire to profit financially from the changes. …Understanding the motives behind these proposals that aim to restrict teacher autonomy and open up opportunities to invest in and profit from privatization requires understanding the financialization of education….

…When Cuomo tells us that he aims to destroy the “public school monopoly” because he is the only one that cares about the students… the opposite is the case. His reforms are motivated not by caring about the students but by a desire to provide investment opportunities and tax breaks to the lobby groups and hedge fund managers who have contributed to his and his allies’ political campaigns. …

…Contributions [to New York legislators and politicians] come from numerous groups promoting privatization and the corporate reform agenda. Some of these groups, including Education Reform Now, Students First NY, Families for Excellent Schools, and NY for a Balanced Albany, have interlocking boards and shift funds between each another. …

Cuomo’s now blatant attack on public schools, teachers and unions has been building steadily over the last year. In this chapter I highlight three events that reflect his increasing support for charter schools and denigration of the public schools. These events include his convening and participating in a three-day retreat in May 2014 on educational reform called “Camp Philos.” His speaking, in October, just ten days before election day, at an Albany rally promoting charter schools…, and his January 2015 State of the State speech….. These attacks have culminated in what Bill Cala calls“a war on teachers”….

From Chapter 4, “The Gates Foundation, Pearson, and Arne Duncan”:

…Education policy-making has shifted from the local and state levels to the state, federal, national and international. Two exemplars of international organizations are The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Pearson Education (hereafter Pearson). The Gates Foundation is the largest philanthropic organization in the world, headed by the wealthiest person in the world. Pearson is the largest education corporation in the world.  Duncan is, of course, the federal secretary of education. …

…They promote privatization and markets to solve what are social and political problems. …

…They propose solutions to societal problems that assume that the political, economic and the social do not matter. …

…[They rely] on technological solutions. …

…They promote private solutions to public problems. …

…Proponents of unregulated free markets have an unreasonable faith or quasi-religious certainty that markets can exist without regulation.

…Bill Gates seems to admit that his reform initiatives, which have included developing small schools and improving teacher quality but now focus on the Common Core standards, curriculum, and tests, are based not on research but faith, and consequently may or may not work. …

Gates’ thinking is more than a little circular. He assumes that high tests scores prove that the teacher is of high quality, a characteristic that remains undefined, and then claims that if we only had high quality teachers, students’ tests scores would increase…. …

Gates and Duncan are able to coordinate their efforts because personnel who are committed to privatization, profits, technology and other corporate reforms move between the Gates Foundation and the Secretary of Education’s office. …

Pearson is the world’s largest education corporation that seeks to not only dominate education globally but also to dominate all aspects of education…. Pearson, more than Gates and Duncan, exemplifies how, in seeking profit, corporations aim to colonize educators’ expertise, commodify it, and sell it back to educational institutions, thereby marginalizing educators. …

Arne Duncan and the Obama administration have been deeply disappointing…. They have increased the corporatization and privatization of education….

For Duncan, parents are not to question the reforms, the curriculum, or the tests. Rather they are to choose the “best education options for their children,” including choosing from “virtual schools, charters, and career academies.” They are to support the administration’s policies.

From Chapter 5, “Manufactured and Real Crises: Rethinking Education and Capitalism”:

We face both a manufactured and real crisis.  We face a manufactured crisis as corporate reformers manipulate test scores and misrepresent the data to have us believe that our public schools are failing so that public schools can be privatized. … By depicting the public schools as failing, the corporate reformers… aim to distract our attention from several real crises. …

While the corporate reformers portray themselves as acting in the interests of the students, they have used their power to advance their own power and wealth. …

The corporate reformers claim that using standardized exams to hold students, teachers, and schools accountable will, on their own, increase learning, reduce the achievement gap and, consequently, decrease social and economic inequality. At the same time, they ignore data showing that neither the achievement gap nor inequality is declining. … In addition, our schools are becoming increasingly unequal and segregated. …

Given the complex social, economic and environmental challenges, it is crucial that schools give students the opportunity to learn to think holistically and solve problems that do not have an agreed upon answer. …

Neoliberals undermine democratic deliberation in two ways: by claiming that all decisions should be made through market mechanisms and, at the same time, ignoring that many important decisions are made not through market mechanism but instead covertly by the powerful and the wealthy.

There is much more that I would have liked to have included. Hursh’s The End of Public Schools will prove to be an excellent resource for readers seeking to understand both the power behind corporate education reform and the climate that has made such power possible. More importantly, Hursh’s book provides information to equip both scholars and activists in confronting the devastating grip of the corporate privatization agenda upon the  nation’s public schools.

What Hursh proves in this valuable work is that its title need not come to pass, that the fight to prevent the end of the public school is far from over and not yet lost.


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published on June 12, 2015.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Thanks for the heads up. I hope this is widely read and reviewed. Today’s front page of the Wall Street Journal features a long article on the Common Core, with a focus on costs and back tracking. Gates is mentioned as the major funder. The writer repeats a lot of the PR that marketed the CCSS.

  2. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Thank you. I have added it to my “must read” list, and recommended it to others.

  3. dolphin permalink

    Reblogged this on Dolphin.

  4. Dan Wever permalink

    $49.95 for Kindle edition, tell us what he says that is important please, that is my monthly budget for books. J


    • Ask your local library to order the book, then check it out for free.

    • Yes, the book seems interesting… but $45 at 138 pages? And $130 for the hardcover? Sheesh. Seems like a good way to not sell many books.

      • This is how the publisher Routledge is– they overcharge.

        Ask a local library to purchase the book, then check it out from the library.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider on David Hursh’s New Book on Corporate Reform | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Ed News, Tuesday, December 8, 2015 Edition | tigersteach

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