The New York Times magazine has a long article by Carlo Rotella about the first trial of the Amplify tablet in the schools of Guilford County, North Carolina. Amplify is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and run by Joel Klein, the former chancellor of the NewYork City public schools.

Klein is certain that public education in America is a disaster and the only things that can save it are disruptive technology and the Common Core. Those are the same recommendations made by the task force Klein co-chaired for the Council on Foreign Relations last year.

Happily for Murdoch, Klein, and other apostles of saving the schools by selling technology to them, they have a friend in Arne Duncan. He is quoted as follows:

“To keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing for the past hundred years — everybody working on the same thing at the same time, not based on competency. . . .” He sighed and let the thought trail off, then added his standard reminder that we must equip our students to compete with counterparts in India and China. He did acknowledge, though, that the fear of falling behind puts added pressure on school systems to do something, anything, which then makes them more vulnerable to rushed decisions and to peddlers of magic bullets. “There are a lot of hucksters out there,” he said.

“Duncan, whose longtime allies include Joel Klein, Bill Gates and other apostles of disruption, has a record of supporting reforms that increase the role of market forces — choice, competition, the profit motive — in education. He wants private enterprises vying to make money by providing innovative educational products and services, and sees his role as “taking to scale the best practices” that emerge from this contest.”

One of the trainers of teachers uses a phrase that we have now heard about a million times , meaning that we are experimenting on you and don’t know how things will turn out: “Another PLEF, Wenalyn Bell, told her group, “It’s like building a plane while it’s flying.”

Rotella retains a healthy skepticism. He knows that Los Angeles laid off teachers while it spent big bucks to buy iPads.

He ends with these observations from his last interview with Klein.

“Take Finland,” Klein continued, citing everyone’s favorite example of a country that puts its money on excellent teachers, not technology, and routinely finishes at the top in international assessments. “There’s a high barrier for entry into the teaching profession,” the kind that lets in the Robin Britts and keeps out weaker aspirants. Teachers there are also well paid, held in high esteem and trusted to get results without being forced to teach to the test. But America’s educational system is a lot bigger, messier, less centralized and more focused on market-based solutions than Finland’s. Also, our greater income inequality and thinner social safety net make for much wider variation in student performance, and a toxic political climate has encouraged our traditional low regard for teachers to flower into outright contempt.

“Still, if everyone agrees that good teachers make all the difference, wouldn’t it make more sense to devote our resources to strengthening the teaching profession with better recruitment, training, support and pay? It seems misguided to try to improve the process of learning by putting an expensive tool in the hands of teachers we otherwise treat like the poor relations of the high-tech whiz kids who design the tool.

“Are our overwhelmed, besieged, haphazardly recruited, variably trained, underpaid, not-so-elite teachers, in fact, the potential weak link in Amplify’s bid to disrupt American schooling? Klein said that we have 3.5 million elementary- and middle-school teachers. “We have to put the work of the most brilliant people in their hands,” he said. “If we don’t empower them, it won’t work.” Behind the talking points and buzz words, what I heard him saying was Yes.”