If Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford were around today, I can only imagine how smug they would be with trends in social engineering … whoopsie – trends in public education. Just as the government’s vision for public education was to make law-abiding citizens, their aim was to train an obedient, disciplined cadre of factory workers.
Endless boredom and repetition would be transformed into pride. Proud to be part of a team that punched-in and punched-out on time. Thrilled to exceed their production quota. These were the pupils that would make America great and their titans of industry fabulously wealthy.
At its core, the ideas haven’t changed all that much. At about the age of 5, we wipe our adorable little Farquhar’s nose, place his lunch box in his bin and gingerly push him through the public education turnstile. From then onwards we trust the assembly line will mold his behavior in every way admirable; we remand his soul to the economic overlords – we convince ourselves he shall be in good hands.
But wait. The smoke-belching factories are no more. The family farm has been foreclosed. And what is this: Farquhar is ready to graduate from high school? How is he to make Mama and Papa proud and American great (again)?
No need to fret. Chill out – we have a good wi-fi connection. The rightful heirs to our robber barons of yore, namely Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, have already anticipated Farquhar’s apparent dilemma.
And to better understand how our benevolent technocracy is looking out for U.S. public education, fulfilling our children’s capacities for knowledge, and tapping into each student’s unique genius – we must first go to Virginia.
Off to Arlington we go. Why? Because that is where Jeff Bezos has decided to locate his second headquarters – Amazon’s HQ2.
As backdrop, know that no less than 238 locations nationwide proposed, pleaded and rolled out the red carpet for the distinction and economic salvation to be bequeathed by 38,000 new, high-salaried, tax-paying, latte-guzzling, mortgage-enslaved, Amazon employees.
How did Arlington get the nod? What was the deciding factor?
Tax breaks? Nope, though $750 million in tax incentives over a 15-year period was a deal sweetener. Cost of living? No again, rents in that region are among the highest in the country. Labor costs? Are you kidding? And then there was that town in Georgia that put in writing that they would change their name to Amazon. Mere amusement.
The state of Virginia, led by economic hit-man Stephen Moret, had done their homework – as in public education homework; they pledged to Amazon an investment of $1.1 billion to feed Amazon’s insatiable appetite for technical talent. What Moret refers to as a “new learning/earning ecosystem.” Virginia committed hundreds of millions to building innovation-digital campuses at Virginia Tech and George Mason universities … to churn out some 31,000 computer science, Bezos-ring-kissing geeks, over the next 20 years.
Over the din of construction and ribbon-cutting there, we hear from Kenneth Saltman, professor of educational leadership at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, “A narrow focus on teaching skills really misses the boat on developing abilities that will matter to people in the future.” He may be right, but something tells me that Alexa doesn’t give a damn.
Call it what you want: Vocational Education, Career & Technical, or as Ford Motor Corporation so courageously terms it: Next Generation Learning. In winning the bid for Amazon’s HQ2, Virginia has endorsed a public education template, a pipeline earmarked for technical talent. If Farquhar happens to emerge from that pipeline a fully-fledged nerd, then his parents may be pleased.
They are the winners inclined to believe Tim Cook, CEO of Apple: “If (the K-12 market) has an indirect effect on our business that’s fine, but frankly this is from the heart. This isn’t something that I’m saying I expect a return of investment.”
Buyer beware: the kid’s energy bars have been laced with neo-liberal sugar, compliments of the Waltons and fully sanctioned by Betsy DeVos. But what the heck, even poets like sugar.
After years of globetrotting, Todd J. Broadman finds himself writing from his perch on the Palouse and loving the view. His policy briefs can be found at US Resist News: https://www.usresistnews.org/