Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What global competition?

In NYS yesterday, our beloved Governor Cuomo once again, lashed out against the education system of NYS public schools when he was asked a question in a news conference regarding the lack of a tax on millionaires. This is a typical tactic of political leaders when asked a question they do not wish to offend certain people, they divert the answer to punish the helpless and more needy programs so that they can sound tough and masterful.

"The fact that everyone wants it ... doesn't mean that much," Cuomo said. According to the governor, the exodus of wealthy New Yorkers could be an issue if the tax is extended. Cuomo said the people of New York are not being honest with themselves if they think New York can have a reputation for high taxes and being "anti-business" and still have a "rosy" future as a state.
The governor went on to say that more money doesn't mean better services. "My answer is better performance."[1]

And with that remark, he launched himself into another attack on the public education of the NYS students, emphasizing that a NYS education is 34th in the nation. Taxes are high and we are not doing our job as educators. So, preserve the millionaires in the state, and raise the tax levy on middle class Americans that are just basically getting by, while shouting that it costs too much to provide a world class public education.

World class education?

First of all, the global competitiveness we all seek is overrated. What are we competing against? The cold war is over. The mentality of the 60’s where the USA needs to be the best at everything has given way to absurd and reactive behaviors among what we are truly producing. Americans only need to be better than themselves. There is no global competition, just a global networking of the best minds in the world attempting to forge a new enlightenment of knowledge, research and education.

Second, the standards that predict global competitiveness are skewed. We are one of the only nations that takes into consideration all of our children in these competitive assessments, such as the TIMMS evaluation. Special education or children with identified disabilities are as much a part of the education of this country as other children are part of the equation. Countries such as Belgium, Indonesia and other so-called “economic powerhouses” avoid mentioning their special needs children. So, it appears that the standards for comparison are not stacked equally.

Lastly, when a political figure such as our NYS governor attacks education, he is also attacking himself, and his predecessors that have done nothing more than favor the wealthy with their elaborate tax breaks and loop-holes, and demoralized the educational system of the state to bare bones insanity. The fact that we are 12 years into the 21st century and there is not a common sense approach to funding public education without burdening the middle class is astounding to say the least.

And still, Andrew Cuomo has the temerity to insult our state and our schools into implying there is some ratings list in the sky that pigeon-holes our educational efforts as inferior. It’s as if the great Carnak has reappeared to enlighten our leaders.

The reality is there are too many bad assumptions being espoused by our political leaders about our educational systems. In a wonderful blog comment by Michael Paul Goldenberg he outlines the mythical assumptions that distort the realities very nicely:

… education and our "global competitiveness" have not been shown to be causally linked? That, while we continue to win more than our reasonable share of Nobel Prizes, dominate the world politically, economically, and militarily, none of the folks who can be counted on to tell us that "the sky is falling" in US public schools have EVER credited our world dominance to our public education system? Neither have the generations of doomsayers before them going back at least to the 19th century and likely much further. And that the insanity of using international test scores that are not comparing similar populations from many other countries to those being tested here only further invalidates the premise that our schools are failing and that our children are woefully under-prepared.[2]

But, as I have referred to in previous blog entries, education remains the “whipping post” of politicians. It’s the only issue they can use to divert attention away from the real matters they can do nothing about, such as the economy. And, still we bear up to the same attacks facing our responsibilities to educate every child that walks into our schools, regardless of the rhetoric and the attacks.

Oops. Time for another lashing!!

[1] Krieg, F. (October 17, 2011). Cuomo: Millionaires Tax To Expire. Legislative Gazette. Retrieved October 18 at http://www.legislativegazette.com/Articles-c-2011-10-17-80938.113122-Cuomo-Millionaires-tax-will-expire.html
[2] Goldenberg, M. P. (2011, October 8). Globally challenged: are us students ready to compete? [Web log comment] Retrieved from http://myednext.org/events/globally-challenged-are-us-students-ready-to-compete.