This is a brilliant, stunning analysis by a reader, who explores the goals of corporate reformers–using the template of Schumpeter’s ideas–and contrast them to the ethics of educators. She says that the market reformers and educators are necessarily at odds because their basic values are in conflict.

Read the whole post, not just my excerpts.

I wish I had written this. I am glad I had the opportunity to read it, you should too. You will come away with a deeper understanding of the appeal and the danger of market-based reforms.

Here are some excerpts:


“The corporate reform movement is an attempt by a group of wealthy philanthropists to impose market forces where there had previously been none or had protections against them. The policy instruments they support are: data-driven management designed to weed out undesirable employees and reward superstars; school choice models(1) designed to foster competition for student enrollment and their tax dollars to bring down costs and improve customer satisfaction(2); weakening teacher unions to allow for greater labor market flexibility(3).

“This tribe of reformers resolves that market-oriented reforms will offer a better, more varied and customer-pleasing product. Or, it will deliver at least the same quality of product for less money. And, in doing so, these reforms will yield a more equitable education for children in low-income households because parents will not be forced to send their kids to the substandard schools available in their neighborhood…

“The argument that such reforms will be disruptive, lead to job loss, would cause total havoc to the education system as a whole falls on deaf ears. One of the staggering capabilities of markets is their capacity for creative destruction, a term popularized by the economist Joseph Schumpeter. Because of the efficiency of markets to adapt to consumer demands, the products, services, and firms of one era will almost certainly fall prey to the changing needs of the markets. One company rises (Microsoft), another falls (IBM). An innovation captures the imaginations of millions one generation only to crumble mere decades later (Polaroid). This is good for us because we reap the benefits of this relentless creative thrust. Things get better, faster, and cheaper, and our lives are made easier and more fun.

“For market-based reformers, the destruction of public education is not a bug; it’s a feature. Like a phoenix out of the ashes, a new, robust, monetized educational system is something to be desired so that — finally — schools can harness the awesome power of private markets.

“In order for markets to work and not descend into some corporatist public-private hybrid, the role of the entrepreneur is essential. They are the risk-takers. They strategically gamble on the novelty of their ideas, on the notion that there is a group of people out there who want what they can provide and that no one else is providing what they’ve got. In the last half-century, these are the Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerbergs of the world, risking the security of a sure-thing job at an established firm for the possibility of striking gold on your own. This risk is what makes innovation possible and is what drives the dynamism of markets.

My question is this: are the roles of educator and entrepreneur mutually compatible? Can one be both risk-taker and caretaker?…..

“The market doesn’t care about equity, period. The market responds to the demands of its consumers….Contrary to the theoretical model put forth by free-market ideologues, markets do not yield more equitable results. The gulf between the “good” and “bad” schools widens because of the inherent segregating properties of market forces…..

“Let’s think about what is lost in this creative destruction.

“First and foremost, kids lose. Since charters are not public schools, they will lose their constitutional rights. Many more kids will lose art, physical education, music, journalism, debate, dance, creative writing, a variety of foreign languages, and any other class that is not tested, not considered “essential.” Students will profound special needs will be further segregated from non-disabled peers because so few schools will want to take on the additional responsibility. Students with language needs will languish trying to find a school that will take them and meet their needs appropriately.

“Parents lose their voice. They are granted a voice as customers, but this is illusory. They are subject to the availability of what the market provides. If they are dissatisfied, they move to another school. This is rough on the kid and on the parents who now have to shop for this other school, possibly in a neighborhood they or their child can’t get to easily. If the school is not satisfied with the student, the student can be booted out in spite of parental protest.

“Teachers lose their voice. As labor participants, we are given a choice of where we want to work, but without organized labor to speak on behalf of workers, the market will dictate wages and hours. The private school, either for-profit or not, will have incentive to remain competitive, trimming the fat wherever possible. The bulk of a school’s operating cost goes to personnel. This means teachers get their salaries cut and their hours extended. And when that happens, it’s our fault because these are the schools we chose to work in. This is what we signed up for….

“I don’t want to suggest that no one would gain from such a system. Parents of certain religious inclinations would now have government funds to send their children to parochial schools, and market reforms would certainly aid those parents who wish to include a spiritual element to their child’s curriculum. However, there’s the whole separation of church and state thing to worry about, not to mention the lunatics who teach creationism as science. With vouchers, parents who already send their kids to private schools now have a subsidy to do so. So it’s regressively redistributive, but hey, rich people get harangued all the time, isn’t it time they got a break? And, let’s not forget the windfall of business opportunities for-profit endeavors would have access to(7)….

“The risks are too great to pursue the destructive ends a market will wreak. The stakes are far too high to pursue anything less than equity for our kids.”