Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Greater Fool, Quixote, and the Tea Party

Don Quixote: I mean to engage in battle...
 for this is righteous warfare,

I have long been enamored of, and described to be a “romantic”, the great fanatic, that sees life as a series of quixotic episodes to right the wrong of society and pave the way for a better world of educating children to take the reigns of an unknown future. I’ll never forget someone saying that to me many years ago in an attempt to deflate my ego, and possibly to detract my ambitions. Painful though it was to hear, I persisted in my beliefs and hopes that one day, maybe I could make a difference as a teacher, and eventually as a school administrator.

I suppose in a real way I would like to be described instead as the “greater fool”. Used to describe a person that believes in a long term investment, despite short term failures, the “Greater Fool Theory” describes “buying something not because you believe that it is worth the price, but rather because you believe that you will be able to sell it to someone else at an even higher price.”1

Thankfully, there is an alternative definition that sounds something like this: "The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools."2

 I much prefer the latter description. 

For over the past year and a half, through some 150 blog posts, I have sought to encourage a greater commitment to a vivid educational society, than what we have become. To rise beyond the criticism of Tea Party politicians and hacks posing as  political leaders that denounce our educational system as being faulty and in decline because they enjoy riling the public for an issue that is easy to destroy. So, to illustrate their arguments, they hire private companies, sponsored by conservative political movements to create exams, tests, and evaluation systems that assert our educational system is in decline, and to support their agenda. 

According to, the connection between Pearson, McGraw Hill, and other testing and assessment developers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC),  is quite clear. “Some of Pearson's associations with ALEC and/or parallel corporate-model approach to privatizing education at a profit” is the backbone of the reform agenda being advocated by dubious politicians, who also claim our current system is dysfunctional. 3

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) describes itself as the largest “membership association of state legislators,” but over 98% of its revenue comes from sources other than legislative dues, primarily from corporations and corporate foundations.

"Look, your worship," said Sancho; 
"what we see there are not giants but windmills,
 and what seem to be their arms 
are the sails that turn by the wind 
and make the millstone go."

Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization.

Organizations like ALEC circumvent the democratic process in favor of corporations. Financial resources are used to influence public officials and provide model legislation meant to easily pass through state houses of governance. Recent examples include infamous "Stand Your Ground" laws [Florida] and others that seek to limit the voting rights of marginalized populations. Education reform legislation is also part of ALEC's agenda, with substantial sponsorship from corporate funds to divert the flow of valuable taxpayer dollars away from public schools.”4

From this melee of criticism and argument, the very educational system of our instruction and curriculum is in upheaval with a mentality of testing the begeebies out of everything, and anything, just to support this agenda. The question that keeps surfacing for me, is how will this culture of testing prepare children for the future? 

My answer, it will not. Instead it will frustrate the creative process and innovative spirit of well-meaning teachers, administrators and parents who support quality schools for all children. 

"It is easy to see," replied Don Quixote, 
"that thou art not used to this business of adventures; 
those are giants; and if thou art afraid, 
away with thee out of this and betake thyself to prayer 
while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat."

Make your voice and your vote count. They are not just "windmills".

1.    The greater fool. In Wikipedia.Retrieved from http://en/
2.    Sorkin, A. (Writer) (2012). The greater fool. [Television series episode]. In Sorkin, A. (Executive Producer), The Newsroom. New York: HBO. Retrieved at
3.    (2012) Boycott Pearson and McGraw-Hill and hold everyone accountable. ED Notes Online. Retrieved from

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