No, this is not going to be a treatise on Romney or anything else vaguely political. This column is going to be about the relationship between the new economy and education in the United States.
I was going to write a column about classroom size, but after reading an article about Mitt Romney in the New Yorker called I was so struck with the change in the way America has been doing business since the 70's and the proposed changes in education that I couldn’t ignore the comparisons.
Business in the 70’s changed radically from a “Producing Economy” to a “Capital Economy” and smart young MBA grads moved quickly to embrace it. Mitt Romney was one of these young graduates. He went to a company that was hired to work with troubled companies to analyze the problem with investigations and data. Later this company morphed from giving advice into actually buying the assets; sometimes building it up, and sometimes selling, and occasionally doing both. This practice involved replacing management, reorganizing, upgrading downsizing, and continually checking the data.
George Romney once told his son, "There is nothing as vulnerable as extended success," which of course is exactly what society is made to believe about education; that it is failing, decrepit, inefficient, and has poor outcomes; that U.S. education has had "extended success" and has become vulnerable.
This business model is EXACTLY what is happening now. Schools are looked at as failing. Teachers are thought of as primarily responsible. What is thought of as success is gauged by data and testing; which leaves room for entrepreneurs to step in with new programs and data. The new “Educational Engineering” has arrived!
The same principles of the "new economy" of ceasing to make things but make money by selling things, has now become the mantra in Education Engineering. While this business plan makes a certain sense in business, it makes no sense in education. As I wrote in one of my columns called “Is a Student Like a Can of Tomatoes?”
You can’t use business practices in education….it doesn’t work.
Districts like Newport-Mesa are beginning to be drawn into this educational model. It has begun to use principals as the arbiters of excellence in the classroom by using expensive data and constantly watching for flaws in teachers. The obvious problem is that principals have their own agendas with regard to ferreting out the teachers who raise the test scores and for various reasons these are not always the best teachers. Testing has become almost the only way to evaluate teachers, and is beginning to be found a fatally flawed method.
Finding flaws, using data, attempting to use downsizing by putting pressure on older teachers to retire and hiring younger less expensive teachers will not work.
This new "Educational Engineering" (my term) will fail, as has every plan devised by greedy entrepreneurs who really know nothing about students or education. Students are and will remain part of a "Producing Society" and try as they might, this business model will never improve the education of the children in the United States.
But do read "Transactional Man" in the Oct. 1, 2012 issue of The New Yorker...it's good.