Looting the Education Sector, by Ira Shor

“This private war on public education is not about “learning” or “cognitive development” of kids or “closing the achievement gap” etc., it’s about looting the education sub-sector and undermining two large unions… It’s happened in all other sub-sectors of the American economy and it’s now education’s turn.” ~Ira Shor


“K-12 public schools financed by local, state and federal taxes spend over $600 billion each year. It’s a large sub-sector of the economy with a lot of chances for profit if private charters take over with canned curriculum applied robotically by TFA (Teach for America) newbies and other recent young hires.

Cutting labor costs and fringe benefits like pension and health plans (young people don’t get sick much or need medical devices or expensive procedures like older veteran teachers) can yield significant profits. Then, the privatizers can engineer the curriculum to [require] their software, hardware, bandwidth enhancements, on a per pupil annual licensure arrangement. Do the math, lots of money to be looted from the public sector if it’s privatized.

Labor is typically the ‘big-ticket’ item in all sites of employment, so the big battle has always been over the cost of labor; in schools, this means teachers, who unionized decades ago into 2 competing units. Wages of teachers have a slow move up the ladder year to year, but teachers who stay become more costly than TFA newbies or new young hires who can be worked to death with long school days and who are more easily intimidated and trained [to deliver] canned curricula.

Most TFA leave in 3 years, with very small medical costs, very few babies, no need for pregnancy leave and replacement. They never age into need for such things as stents, dialysis, cataracts, etc., cheap labor and docile labor, management ideal.

This private war on public education is not about “learning” or “cognitive development” of kids or “closing the achievement gap” etc., it’s about looting the education sub-sector and undermining two large unions… It’s happened in all other sub-sectors of the American economy and it’s now education’s turn.

Education has always been a trailing sub-sector of the national economy, that is, far less central that finance, production, transportation, and communication, which are the real centers of economic and political power.

Mass schooling was late to the party; dropout rates were very high until the 1930s Depression, then diminished after WWII, raising the cost of schooling to consequential levels worth attending to, especially once the baby boom [generation] entered college en masses in the 1960s.

Even way back in 1958 in ‘The New Industrial State,’ John Kenneth Galbraith declared that educators may consider themselves in charge of their enterprise but the real force driving education is the economy.

Since about 1970, mass public education has been in contradiction to the economy, moving in conflicting directions which led to the drastic changes in education policy in the Nixon Admin— mass education was producing far more college grads than the corporate job market could ever absorb or reward, promising battalions of disgruntled college grads roaming the cities, and education was producing radical student movements which questioned the status quo.

The shutdown of these emerging threats to corporate rule began in the Nixon Administration and have been continuing since, with the latest privatization wars being the most aggressive campaigns yet to transfer the wealth of a public sector into private hands.

The “college and career ready” sloganeering of CCSS/PARCC/SBA are bogus claims and promises which education has never been able to deliver on. Over-education and underemployment have been the rule in America for our grads for over 40 yrs.

For example, there is now no shortage of STEM grads in America, despite the ferocious claims of STEM pushers and tech billionaires like Gates that we must spend more on tech and emphasize higher numbers of tech majors, and increase h-9 visas to tech corps, so they can hire more cheap labor computer grads from India. Our own tech grads are available.

In general, college grads have had a hard time finding work equal to their training or skills since the early 1970s, and more education has produced far more student debt but not more employment or income; education is not the answer because education is not the problem.

The problem is not in the education sector but rather in the leading sectors of the economy and corporate policies in [place]– downsizing, outsourcing, contingent hiring, stagnant wages, removal of good jobs to cheap labor areas since then.

The misrepresentations of “career ed” or “vocational ed” or “education for economic growth” or “preparing students for the good jobs of the future” were challenged 40 years ago in various scholarly works like “The Great Training Robbery” by Columbia U. School of Business Professor Ivar Berg, but this voice of reason has not been allowed into national conversations on schooling or government policy.

Long overdue, [now is the time] to defend our kids from the post-grad letdown awaiting them in the deteriorating job market and to make public schools places where they learn what’s really happening to their society and how to deal with it.”

Ira Shor (born 1945) is a professor at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York, where he teaches composition and rhetoric. He is also doctoral faculty in the Ph.D. Program in English, at The Graduate Center, CUNY. In collaboration with Paulo Freire, he has been one of the leading exponents of critical pedagogy.

Books: Critical Teaching and Everyday Life (1980); Culture Wars: School and Society in the Conservative Restoration (1986); A Pedagogy for Liberation, with Paulo Freire (1987); Freire for the Classroom: A Sourcebook for Liberatory Teaching (1987); Empowering Education (1992); When Students Have Power (1996); Critical Literacy in Action (1999) & Education is Politics (1999)

About Christopher Chase

Co-creator and Admin of the Facebook pages "Tao & Zen" "Art of Learning" & "Creative Systems Thinking." Majored in Studio Art at SUNY, Oneonta. Graduated in 1993 from the Child & Adolescent Development program at Stanford University's School of Education. Since 1994, have been teaching at Seinan Gakuin University, in Fukuoka, Japan.
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2 Responses to Looting the Education Sector, by Ira Shor

  1. jeanw5 says:

    Dumbing down the masses has always been, in every culture, central to central control.

  2. Pingback: Opting Out of Factory Model Schooling, by Ira Shor | Creative by Nature

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