Posted November 25, 2004
by: Joan E. Battey
No matter how often we come across news of all kinds, somehow the trail inevitably will lead back to school. Adult Americans deserve failing grades for paying attention, just as far too many American students are getting failing grades in basic academics, thanks to the long-in-place, handsomely funded and supported, dumbed-down education.
Dumbed-down Americans not only don't recognize Trojan Horses when they see or hear of them, they also eagerly line up to get into the Trojan Horse petting zoos where they learn that Trojan Horses have all the answers to all of anyone's problems. It's almost to the point where there's a Trojan Horse for every problem!
Back a decade or more, "corporations" began making political hay by telling governors (and the media, and voters) that students were being graduated from schools -- and often colleges -- deficient in "what is needed in the American/global workforce."
The CEOs of corporations took on new responsibilities -- going around to governors' gatherings, conferences, and editorial sounding boards, pontificating about how they (CEOs and their corporations) simply must step in and start the immediate reversal of the sorry state of skills in English, spelling, written communication, math and science. Come to think of it, attention to their work ethic should also be added to the remediation, plus whatever else it would take to get students up to snuff in entering the workplace. Deficiencies in education and the resulting deficiencies in workforce applicants was supposedly the reason that American business was struggling to make a go of it. It was presented, and accepted as a simple quick fix for everything -- let corporations partner with education and steer it in the direction corporations wanted it to go.
Can you believe it? Without even questioning if maybe there had been a major slip twixt the educators' claims of brilliant students and the lack of proficiency on the part of graduates, governors, public figures and media bragged about the planned hands-on involvement of corporations partnering with education. Suddenly parents and taxpayers were flooded with new requirements for career choices, career shadowing, and workforce education K-12. The media began a still-in-place, ever-increasing obsession with promoting anything remotely connected with education, schools, or students.
The schools shifted gears and ramped up their own back-burner plans to turn out a compliant workforce for the global economy. But, the high echelons of both partnership groups soon forgot all about the supposed deficiencies in basic education skills once the reporters had packed up and gone back to their usual news-by-press-release habits.
Fast forward a few years. The same corporations that were going to step in and improve the deficiencies in student achievements are now well into claiming they are forced to move large segments of their businesses offshore, because the economic climate is so business-unfriendly in most states. Added to that is corporate whining about greedy Americans demanding high wages and all sorts of benefits, when workers overseas do the jobs for far less than American workers.
Why, how could corporations pay their CEOs "reasonable compensation for their heavy responsibilities" if American workers' salaries were to continue cutting deeply into into the millions of dollars of CEO salaries, benefits, added perks and golden retirement payouts? (Pssst! What about the abc's and the 2x2's and the supposed student inability to decode "See Spot run" or other "basic English" which corporations felt was beyond workforce applicants' grasp and in need of corporate hands-on involvement in public schools?)
The corporate Trojan Horses were oh so clever in how they got their hooves in the door and their noses into the public feedbags. After the corporate bigwigs convinced the National Governors' conferences that something must be done to overcome the lack of abilities in English, lack of abilities in math and science, lack of abilities in work ethic, somehow any further reporting on classroom brass-tacks efforts to correct these deficiencies disappeared from the news radar screens.
Oh, there were "take your daughter to work days" publicized to cater to the female workforce which played into the feminist goals of crashing the glass ceiling to take over companies. (Since then, media has dutifully reported on the proliferation of female CEOs across the corporate boardrooms, but attention to any any preparation for climbing the corporate ladder has been strangely overlooked in news.)
Corporations also gained publicity by setting up "workforce job fairs," which were particularly ludicrous to those who compared the job openings of the companies represented with the small print that said "no openings are currently available, but resumes are always welcomed." Publicity for the corporations.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rolls continued to expand. Meanwhile, corporations began to announce (quietly, of course) hiring of offshore workers to begin taking over even those jobs that had been previously touted as the wave of the future for the American workforce: -- the service industry sector. The highly technical jobs had already left the country and supposedly cash-strapped American corporations explained their ongoing setting up of facilities overseas, and also bringing in foreign workers for U.S. jobs. It was taking place "because American graduates just aren't there to handle the jobs."
How many American media outlets -- or even how many syndicated columnists -- thought to say "Hey, just a gol-darned minute! Then, how come qualified graduates are being told "no openings"; and older well-qualified workers are " downsized to help companies compete in the global workplace"? Gaping holes in the story lines have been completely overlooked by those who should have been going over them with high-powered magnifying glasses.
Is it just possible that the corporate "partnerships" had one meaning for companies and another meaning in the minds of those who bought into the canard that companies were actually concerned about upgrading the woefully inadequate skills of many graduates of public schools and colleges?
Another version of partnerships between corporations and education is emerging and promising manna from heaven with little effort and little need to sustain an American workforce, whether educated in the basics or not. The new partnerships involve agreements that profit corporations and also swell education's already bloated costs. They also involve great opportunities to whack any corporate competition in the process.
"Education" is not only the open sesame code word for accessing legislative largesse, but it is also the route to corporate profits.
The Trojan Horses began entering the unlocked barn doors quite a few years ago, with their hooves muffled by "for the children" padding. Money, supplies, computers, team support -- all was offered by the "concerned corporations" who got mommies, daddies, grandparents and taxpayers to "save grocery store register receipts" and pile up "free" computer donations and supplies for the school of their choice. Help for sports teams, contests, conferences, etc., was used to seduce the gullible groups of customers, clients and patrons into filling their shopping lists at stores that "care about our kids and their schools."
"Our children deserve the best." "Budgets are short, because taxpayers are unwilling to give the children what they deserve." You all must have seen and heard those and other excuses for the marketing blitzes that began a decade or more ago. They involved parents, schools and, above all, marketing of one kind or another -- corporations dangled money and prizes or supplies and dutiful parents and friends heavily supported the corporations in return.
Remember the "wars" over which soft drink corporation would get sole rights to anything sold at any school district event? The winner bought the loyalty of the administrations, the faculties, the parents and the students, and the loser scrambled to make up for lost revenue. School expenditures reveled in newfound money. The money didn't lower the school taxes or the schools' other fundraising efforts of all kinds.
Remember the need to involve legislative bodies and school districts in wiring all public schools for the communications necessary for 21st century "children" (How many Americans are still paying regular fees and charges on their phone bills for all this, and how many schools soon found that paying for regular computer and communications upgrades was their own responsibility after the wiring was installed?)
Now, recently several corporate/political/education Trojan Horses have stuck their noses a little farther out into the media reports. And, as past is always prologue, hundreds more will gallop in right behind them.
Remember how corporations were involved in having customers pile up freebie points with their purchases? Remember how Hillary revved up her use of "for the children" to continue making personal political hay on top of all the previous Children's Defense Fund, Takes A Village involvement? Remember who is in the thick of the next election publicity opportunities? Remember how schools never have enough money, no matter how much they rake in? Voila! New partnerships are the answer for all parties concerned in making more hay of one kind or another for their Trojan Horses.
The big new promotion is that New York State Apple Growers have been introduced (thanks to now-Sen. Hillary's help) to General Mills and are enlisted in a new partnership to "help education." The big new partnership program is to have customers save the little numbered stickers on each individual New York State apple sold and put them on charts (like the WWII Defense Stamp booklet idea) to turn in to General Mills and earn free school supplies. The public is told it's inspired by the old idea of "an apple for the teacher," only this time it's for the school.
Was this a match made in heaven, or what? Come on, kids, put more sliced apples on your breakfast cereal. What kind of tie-in is this, aside from political matchmaking for unannounced purposes?
But, it's only the beginning of the new Partnership Season.
Nextel wireless phones will be "provided" to all students at an Upstate agricultural college and IBM laptops will be issued to all students at another college, and Coca-Cola has cornered the corporate partnership coup market with a hefty payment to Binghamton University (a state university) to be the sole provider of soft drinks on the huge campus -- anywhere soft drinks are to be available, and at all sports events for several years to come. That's one state -- each partnership sale was a one-fell-swoop deal. None of the bother of selling to various smaller groups and individuals. Fewer people needed, even for the sales effort. 49 other states to go...
These pricey partnerships are strangely not mentioned in advance, and at times are only mentioned briefly after they are signed, sealed and financially accomplished.
The partners are still singing the same refrains. "Students must be educated to compete in the global workforce; college degrees are mandatory to enter the workforce; new streams of revenue are needed or 'the children' will suffer;' etc., etc., etc." Why are the new streams of revenue needed? What does the money cover? Where are the jobs for the graduates? What kind of salaries will the global workforce earn within the boundaries of the continental U.S. or any of its individual states?
Education in the basics is still not up to par, judging by the results. Test scores are down. Jobs are leaving the country in droves. Yet, media and p.r. people are very busy singing the partnership songs and skipping the hard questions.
They hope you won't notice, or won't be able to understand the rest of the news that soft-pedals all the damage the first waves of Trojan Horses did, and the as-yet-not-noticed solidifying of their hold on most of the "barns" across the education, corporate, political, social and cultural segments of the country that welcomed them in all their various guises.
What caring person would have wanted to question anything that is done in the name of helping the children to be successful and happy and well-cared for in the world of the future?
What you say? They can't be successful and happy and well-cared for now that the tax rolls are shrinking and the immigration rolls are burgeoning and the politicians are adding new tax-supported benefits every day they are in session.
Sorry, sorry, sorry! Now get those stables spruced up and feed the horses. Be grateful for whatever you have left. It's not their fault that their plans were so easily bought into! In fact, truth to tell, even the Trojan Horses at times must wonder at the ease with which they moved on up to the catbird seats. Even when they pointed out what education reform had already wrought, America didn't pick up on it.
Amuse yourselves, America, with your cell phones, your computer games and your soft drinks or whatever other beverage choices are worked out later. Revel in your corporate-sponsored sports and corporate financed entertainment filled with agendas, sex and violence. For want of understanding basic English, knowing how to add and subtract, and understanding the history of the country, the battle is almost lost. As will be lost most of the government programs America loves, when the dumbed-down, corporate-abandoned, shrinking tax-base reality can no longer be ignored.
"Published originally at EtherZone.com: republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact."
Joan E. Battey is a freelance political writer from Apalachin, NY. Her love of logical dot connecting and writing developed over many years of typesetting and proof reading in small daily newspapers; ad agency and manufacturing office secretarial work, and volunteer work in libraries, animal welfare, political campaigns, and networks of people keeping abreast of the steady "reforms" in education. She is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.
Originally published in the Published in the October 7, 2003 issue of Ether Zone.
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