Peter Greene read the Fortune article about how business leaders are fighting valiantly to save Common Core, and he realized that they don’t have a clue about dealing with individual consumers or social media. They pour millions into creating astroturf groups and blogs without readers, but they don’t understand anything about education or the public.


The writer of the infamous article, Peter Elkind, tries to portray the business leaders sympathetically, but it could not have been easy.


Greene writes:


Elkind recounts the story of how Rex Tillerson, head of Exxon, threatened to pull the company out of Pennsylvania if the state did not embrace Common Core (and quotes without citing Kris Nielson’s blog response– in Elkind’s world, the businessmen and politicians all have names and faces, but only a few bloggers and activists get the same consideration). Business interests tried founding groups like the Collaborative for Student Success to gin up some CCSS love among the citizenry, says Elkind, but he neglects to mention just how many similar groups have been created– all fruitlessly, right up to recent entries like Education Post and the74, both well-funded with the hope that CCSS fans can fight internet fire with internet fire. And yet all of these have fizzled, almost as if corporate chieftains don’t understand why there is opposition or how it spreads.


One thing that jumps out at me is that Elkind mostly talks about corporations like Exxon and Intel and SAS– companies where corporate executives are unlikely to ever face the business problem of “How do we sell our product to individual consumers.” And so when they discover that Common Core is a product that individual consumers don’t actually want, they are stumped. Their “marketing” usually consists of gathering the political and corporate connections to make themselves inescapable. If Intel convinces the major computer companies to use their chips, it doesn’t matter so much how individual consumers feel about it.


In short, big business is neither nimble, quick, or smart enough to fight this fight.


And then there is Rex Tillerson, who comes across as an inhumane person who never met a child or a teacher, except maybe at Groton or Deerfield Academy:


Tillerson is a central figure in Elkind’s article, and it’s Tillerson who gets to demonstrated just how completely, clueless, stupidly wrong these guys are. Elkind takes us to a 2014 panel discussion in DC.


But Tillerson articulates his view in a fashion unlikely to resonate with the average parent. “I’m not sure public schools understand that we’re their customer—that we, the business community, are your customer,” said Tillerson during the panel discussion. “What they don’t understand is they are producing a product at the end of that high school graduation.”


The Exxon CEO didn’t hesitate to extend his analogy. “Now is that product in a form that we, the customer, can use it? Or is it defective, and we’re not interested?” American schools, Tillerson declared, “have got to step up the performance level—or they’re basically turning out defective products that have no future. Unfortunately, the defective products are human beings. So it’s really serious. It’s tragic. But that’s where we find ourselves today.”


Man. The fact that anybody can shamelessly express such an opinion out loud, without recognizing that it is ethically dense and morally bankrupt, a view of both human beings and an entire country that is about as odious and indefensible as anything spit out by a Ted Bundy or an Eric Harris.


This article seems to have set off a twitter storm to #boycottExxon. Poor, poor Tillerson! So rich, so powerful, so out of touch with reality.


Greene writes:



Students are not a product. Corporations are not “customers,” and the public institutions of our nation do not exist to serve the needs of those corporations. The measure of public education is not how well it produces drones that serve the needs of corporations, not how “interested” corporations are in the meat widgets that pop out of a public education assembly line.



Tillerson’s viewpoint is anti-education, anti-American, anti-human. It’s a reminder that the education debates are not about Left versus Right or GOP versus Dems. The education debates are about the interests of the human beings who are citizens of a nation and stakeholders in its public institutions versus the interests of a those who believe their power and money entitle them to stripmine an entire nation in order to gather more power and money for themselves. The education debates are about democracy versus oligarchy. The education debates are about valuing the voices of all citizens versus giving voice only to the special few Who Really Matter.