Millions, Master Plans and Mediocrity
ago, in Newark, New Jersey, the state where 2016 Republican presidential
candidate Chris Christie has been governor since 2010, a supposed “bold new
paradigm for educational excellence in the country" was attempted, in
which 100$M from Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg was supposed to be
funneled into programs "to get all the assets and resources"
necessary to bulk up and buck up learning and teaching in the mostly-public
schools in a city run by a Democratic mayor, Cory Booker.
And 55 years
ago, on the west coast of these same United States, the California
Master Plan for Higher Education was conceived, during the governorship of
Democrat Pat Brown, in which free, public community colleges were to serve as
an open-to-all gateway to learning, and in which teaching was to be
and now, in late 2015, neither millions nor master plans seem to have brought
us Americans beyond mediocrity, as a University
of Pennsylvania Institute
for Research on Higher Education ( http://www.gse.upenn.edu/pdf/irhe/California_Report.pdf
) study has reported.
pre-election season of late 2015, when email servers and hair cuts, attitudes
about Planned Parenthood and the rights of immigrants to vote are argued ad
infinitum, it seems that bi-coastal problems are at play: As the Penn study on
California pointed out a year ago, "increasing political
indifference" to education, "the absence of any long-term strategic
finance policies to address higher educational needs...in the twenty-first
century", and "the lack of effective educational transitions..."
have combined with "dollars flow(ing) not to schools but to outside consultants,"
as Democracy Now reports having taken place in New Jersey.
And so, as
a married couple of competent students of French have stated during our
conversations on current events that begin each week's class in language and
culture in francophoniein California, "When it's not sex, it's gotta be
are notoriously ill-paid, we know, and consultants get regal sums for tiny
tasks: The Democracy Now report cited consultants "making up to
$1,000/day," and in California,
consultation fees are typically higher than the $63,000 cited by payscale.com as typical
always "get what we pay for"?
schools and community colleges were born of a liberal idea: Be free to educate,
be free to learn, and keep the schooling free in all ways. That is, these
institutions should be free from political or philosophical fetters, on the one
hand, and they should be gratis, on the other.
And so why
must we remain the political footballs that we have become? Why must we grovel
to our states' Departments of Education, run by bureaucrats and politicians who
spend more time seeking to retain their jobs than they do doing those jobs? Why
must we "justify" ourselves, "give evidence" of learned
"Learning Outcomes," design "rubrics" to please? And why
must these activities be performed during each political mandate, right now,
urgently, without an eye on the future?
Plan, for its part, was supposed to be a plan for the future, but it has become
an underwhelming road map. Why? Dissent
magazine holds that a principal reason is that the socioeconomic "class
mobility" that was fostered in the plan is now anathema to our country's
leaders. Yes, these people's theory goes, "you do get what you pay for,
and if you pay too little, you will both get too little value from what you
have paid and you will not appreciate it enough, either." Pay more, the
idea goes, and you will assign more value; pay more, and you will appreciate it
paying more is not giving its proper yield.
educators nor researchers receiving increased pay nor are students getting back
what they pay. It is the administrators and the consultants, as well as the
outside donors, who are receiving the benefits.
Dissent points out that the political
climate in California
is in the same sort of drought that is desertifying the state's terrain: For
every $1,000 of personal income in the state, the state's government pays
slightly more than $7 for higher education; 25 years ago, that amount was
$12.86. Our math students can figure that one out, I submit.
breach has leapt the "for-profit" college movement, and I submit that
we must let our public, our politicians, our peers, and our students know that this
is a truly regressive option.
If we want success, if we want to make our students masters in learning, we must take the high ground. We must be the ones to tell legislators and governors, voters, and administrators, how to prioritize. And we must do this without screaming desperately. We must do it with our own plan, created together, using numbers and data, generated for new generations who will be able to take advantage of Zuckerberg-like ideas, who will create a true paradigm shift in the Kuhnian manner, making the core changes that will shift the ground under not just our earthquake-prone state in the west, but under all our 50 states.