A reader read this post about FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt), a strategy intended to undermine and discredit the competition. And Bingo! The light went on. It was the same pattern on the rug.

OMG! FUD jogged my memory about a book I read 2 yrs ago by Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming”. Edu-reformers are using some of the same strategies that were used by the tobacco and oil industries to advance their business agendas and preclude government regulation on their products. Oreskes is an historian of science at U Cal, San Diego. She and Conway tell an amazing story that begins in the 1980′s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOnXL8ob_js
From a review: “Oreskes and Conway roll back the rug on this dark corner of the American scientific community, showing how the ideology of free market fundamentalism, aided by a too-compliant media, has skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.”Her book chronicles how the tobacco industry and the oil industry ran effective PR campaigns to mislead the public on decades of science showing the effects of tobacco smoke on health and the effects of carbon emissions on climate. Both industries set up think tanks, hired established scientists whose credentials were stellar in their fields but whose expertise were not in health and climate. These “experts” conducted research to challenge decades of established facts. Their product was doubt. The purpose was to generate mistrust in established scientific findings. The outcome was to cloud the public’s knowledge, influence the media, and effect government policies that were moving to restrict tobacco and energy industries business practices. Their explicit strategy was “teach the controversy”. The sad reality is that doubt mongering works.

American public education is in a dark corner today. Our unquestioning media plays up the attacks on established education science and teachers. Recall Jonathan Alter & David Brooks’ articles denouncing Diane’s positions on NCLB & RttT. Think Tanks and private philanthropies have made it their business to disseminate junk science written by non-educators that, by design, bypass peer review (e.g. Gates Foundation, Center for American Progress, The Heritage Foundation, AEI, NEIT, et al.) to advance increasing class sizes, high stakes testing, merit pay, ending salary bumps for advanced degrees, charter schools, online education, vouchers, turn-arounds, ending collective bargaining, etc. Claims antithetical to actual scientific findings for efficacy. Bruce Baker (and many others) who regularly debunks the reformy arguments is virtually ignored in the national media.

Oreskes makes a provocative statement about scientists who make claims outside of their expertise: ‘The very features that lead to expertise in a particular domain leads to ignorance in many others.’ Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Michael Milken, Joel Klien, Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, anyone?

A critical difference in the current edu-refomry campaign, missing from the previous campaign, is our government’s complicity with the privatizers. The private financial industry and philanthropists are using the full force of the government to advance their agendas. Capturing public money is their business model, schools are simply their vehicle. This is a story of betrayal by our elected officials. They are failing in their mission to serve the public. Indeed, our children’s future is in the hands of those who care the least about other people’s children.