Education Opportunity Network

Education Opportunity Network -

Dear NBC Education Nation, Lloyd Blankfein Is Not An ‘Education Expert’

One of the most popular shows on TV currently centers on a high school chemistry teacher whose cancer diagnosis and lack of adequate health insurance vault him into a life of crime in the drug trade.

The series takes to an extreme the personal human drama of the main character’s predicament – a situation not unlike what millions of Americans experience. But given the way classroom teachers in America are routinely disrespected and dehumanized, it’s a wonder that multitudes of them aren’t also “breaking bad” and openly defying social decorum and traditional rules to make their grievances heard.

The latest indignity leveled at public school teachers came from NBC and its seasonal “back to school” Education Nation extravaganza that kicks off next week. Rather than an opportunity to make prominent the voices of teachers who do the tough work of educating the nation’s children every day, Education Nation foists onto us some of the worst actors who’ve committed egregious offenses to children and young people.

Miseducation Nation

Education Nation purports to be “a thoughtful, well-informed dialogue with policymakers, thought-leaders, educators, parents and the public, in pursuit of the shared goal of providing every American with an opportunity to achieve the best education in the world.”

So who are these “well-informed … thought-leaders” who Education Nation will grace us with?

A scan of the guest list for Education Nation reveals a dearth of practicing classroom teachers – only two at this author’s most recent viewing.

Further, Education Nation completely shuns prominent education luminaries such as Linda Darling-Hammond, Jonathan Kozol, Debra Meier, and Diane Ravitch (more about her exclusion later).

Instead, the “experts” Education Nation preferred for its line up tend to be people who are about as far away from the day-to-day reality of the classroom as one can get – including a host of politicians, corporate and foundation leaders, and higher-ed administrators.

One can perhaps forgive the inclusion of Goldie Hawn and M. Night Shyamalan. They are “big names,” and they have “education products” to hawk. Ratings matter, of course.

But the inclusion of Goldman-Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein raises insult to travesty. While many of Education Nation’s guest panelists have troubling track records on education – particularly Joel Klein – none of them rises to the level of the direct harm that Blankfein has meted out to the nation’s youngest citizens.

Lloyd Blankfein, Perpetrator of Child Impoverishment

Blankfein started screwing over school children from his position as chairman of one of the world’s largest investment firms. In presiding over a culture of corruption that helped fuel the nation’s slide into the Great Recession, Blankfein has had a special role in the widespread harming of America’s youngest citizens.

The wild speculation promoted by Blankfein and his Wall St. cohorts helped propel millions more children into the ranks of the impoverished. An article from Reuters looked at data from a recent study by the Anne E. Casey foundation and found, “2.4 million more children slipped into poverty from 2005 to 2010.”

Another study linked the effects of recession-propelled poverty to “poor child health status” that may have lifelong health implications for children,” a “dramatic increase in the number of households classified as ‘food insecure,’” and “unprecedented rates” of home foreclosures that result in disrupted home lives and risk of homelessness.

David Berliner – a real education expert unlikely to be on Education Nation’s roster – has studied the effects of poverty and economic inequality on school children for years. Berliner has found that the excessive economic inequality that Blankfein and his friends on Wall St. have been the beneficiaries of leads to higher prevalence of mental health problems in children, higher rates of teen pregnancy, increased drug use and criminality, higher rates of dropping out of school, and lower rates of academic achievement.

Rather than helping to rescue poor children from the consequences of poverty, Blankfein and his friends sought to protect their banking and investment firms from the consequences of their financial shenanigans by requesting and receiving a bailout from the taxpayers. Then they rewarded themselves with huge bonuses – $21 million to Blankfein alone.

And Education Nation considers this person someone interested in ” providing every American with an opportunity to achieve the best education in the world”?

Lloyd Blankfein, Cheerleader For  Sequestration

If Blankfein’s central role in the Great Recession wasn’t a disqualifier for being on Education Nation, his cheerleading for the recent across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, should have pushed him off the party list.

When the severe budget cuts imposed by sequester, what my colleague Robert Borosage called “mindless,” were being considered, Blankfein played a key role in pushing them toward their eventual passage.

As a collaborator in the Wall St.-created campaign called Fix the Debt, Blankfein lectured Americans on “lowering their expectations” and accepting “shared sacrifice” of the across-the-board cuts.

The results were devastating to schoolchildren.

As ThinkProgress noted, the cuts resulting from sequestration have meant schools opened this year to “larger class sizes, less staff, and fewer upgrades to things like computers or textbooks.

Especially hard hit were schools “near military bases and Native American reservations … special education, programs for English language learners, [and] low-income students” – perhaps as many as 1.2 million disadvantaged students, according to an estimate from the White House.

Cuts to Head Start, the federal program that gives the nation’s poorest kids a leg up with early childhood education that readies them for kindergarten, were especially damaging. According to a report in USA Today, Blankfein’s marketing effort for sequestration resulted in the largest cuts to Head Start in the program’s history, resulting in 57,000 children being denied a place.

The cuts Blankfein championed for the good of the nation also resulted in massive cuts to programs in special education meant to help students who struggle the most. Reductions to federal outlays for special education closed resource rooms where children get help with math, reading, writing and organizational skills. Chopping back federal spending for special education cut the numbers of speech, occupational and physical therapists, social workers, and school psychologists in our schools. And in “many general education classrooms that had two teachers – one for the whole class and one specifically to support students with special needs – the special education teacher has been eliminated.”

Not On Education Nation’s A List

In all fairness, Education Nation did not completely exclude people who know a thing or two about education. The inclusion of David Kirp is particularly noteworthy. And American Federation of Teachers head Randi Weingarten can certainly speak capably for her constituency.

But while Education Nation’s producers made a place for the likes of Lloyd Blankfein, they snubbed prominent experts such as Diane Ravitch.

Ravitch, whose new book Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools is currently Amazon’s number one seller in the public policy arena, was “invited” to sit in the audience of Education Nation while charlatans like Blankfein are paraded across the nation. She understandably turned them down.

When a wave of emails from Ravitch’s multitude of fans swamped the Education Nation in-boxes, the program producers reconsidered and asked Ravitch to be on a panel about testing.

Her reply: “I said no. I want to talk about the theme of the conference, not about testing. I want to talk about the massive misinformation about the condition of U.S. education. I want to talk about the attacks on teachers and public education. I also hate to be the last one to be invited to a party, as an afterthought. I know who was on the A list. I was not one of them.”

NBC’s decision to put Lloyd Blankfein on Education Nation’s A list while shunning classroom teachers and the people who speak for them is unforgivable. It would be completely understandable if teachers chose to “break bad” and crash this party.

  • Michael Paul Goldenberg says:

    I suggested to Diane Ravitch that she should have accepted with the proviso that she be given time equal to the sum of the time given to the rest of the guests, due to the loading of the dice towards the deform side of the debate. ;)

    September 24, 2013 at 8:57 pm
  • Jay Bliss says:

    This is far too important a subject to be initiated by this wordy call to arms. Let’s get short, taut, to the point.

    September 24, 2013 at 9:07 pm
    • Dr. W Olson says:

      Dear Mr. Bliss,

      This overall issue and the array of organizations — Achieve; PARCC; various political groups; Venture Capitalists, and more– have made dramatic inroads already, in part, thanks to the Feds. The range and scope of the subject “is far too important to be initiated by such a short article,” which is quite 1]rather concisely, 2] shares analysis and resources” 3] and ends with a call to arms.
      This recent outrage against public schooling began as a brainstorm of feckless CEO’S in 1995, which led to the birth of an organization, populated by other feckless CEO’s and mostly Republican Governors. The National DOE/Duncan/Obama magnanimously offered states the chance to opt out of some onerous requires of NCLB, in exchange for accepting a NATIONAL CURRICULUM. The Soviets, circa 1930, would be salivating, except their core standards and content would be different.

      Most teachers in my school have not, as of yet, done their homework on these topics. I forward many articles to colleagues. Importantly, the information provided in the article about groups who have formed or are in formation, to oppose these Monsters is critical information. Achieve and their growing dysfunctional family, have successfully ‘captured 46 states?’ and have obtained contracts and are implementing their untested, never evaluated grouping of ‘commodities for sale,’ and for profit, from a handful of oligopolistic companies. The alphabet soup of organizations, already infested with ?? educational E-Coli have e touted their standards as a savior— or the way it is presented, as THE SAVIOR– to the ‘Crisis in Education.’ Analyzing events, for example, the upcoming NBC sham, is critical to share with others. FYI: NBC was or is owned by one of the most sued multinationals ever — General Electric — record profits, often pays no Federal Taxes, but instead gets rebate checks from your taxes. I simply do not understand your comment, unless you….. I am not sure how to finish that sentence.

      IDEA: you should write the article you think is appropriate

      September 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm
  • Dennis Harper says:

    The real shame here is not that there are only two teachers on the list but that there are no students on the list. Students are the only reason schools exist yet NBC and many others seem to think they have nothing pertinent to say about education.

    September 24, 2013 at 9:26 pm
    • Leo West says:

      The problem here would be the choice of students to be on the program. The most successful students usually are in the high income group and most likely to be chosen. Do they understand the problems of the potential drops outs, low scorers, etc.

      September 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm
      • Dr. W Olson says:

        Dear Leo, there are students in Newark NJ, with stanardized test scores off the graph, who are already participating is organizations that fighting against ‘all of the above’ ‘Successful” is a complex, subjectively elaborated term: concerning issues of resilency, responsibility, willingness to be socially minded, critical thinkers of the institutional mess across the board in Amerika, let me assure you many, many students would out-think and out-argue the Wallstreet Criminals on the panel.

        A simple reminder: NBC is a ‘for profit’ entertainment corporation. To think they would invite critics, who would lead off naming the general source: CAPITALIST SYSTEM generated, hyper-segregated low income, poverty ridden, neglected inner cities, populated by African American, Spanish speaking people from the former Spanish Rulers Colonial days. The massive inequalities of everyting — including the most punative and cheapest set of government programs in relation to all countries at a similar level of development — in part, the outcome of massive oligopolistic multinational monsters, General Electric is a prime example: THAT IS THE STARTING POINT, which then requires all of the links that lead to “behind at the starting gates” Worse than morally criminal — all of the mess should be indictedably criminal.

        September 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm
  • Terry L. Walker, Architect says:

    Clearly Blankfein has nothing in common with the working class he has worked diligently to destroy. he supports the “no more taxes” ideology which has crippled our education system. Why is it that the wealthy who educate their children in private schools are called upon to critique public education, they advocate no more taxes and endorse reduction of all public funding, and where eduction is concerned they engineered a budget shortfall by taking the nation hostage. Now they are doing it again to destroy Obamacare.

    Education Nation would be better off if they listened to the parents of the children, the teachers in the classroom and turned their back on those demonstrated to be more interested in their own profits than in education. Education is failing for very cogent reasons driven by a failure to identify the underlying problem, find solutions to those problems and fund a correction of those problems. Clearly politicians and plutocrats have no clue regarding the matter of education because they never have been present and engaged in the education system, except the budget cutting.

    September 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm
  • Terry L. Walker, Architect says:

    Education is centered around engagement between a teacher and a student. Wealth is not a credential that has validity in education, or science or healthcare or anything other than “the Market”. Education is too big to fail. let’s bail-out education!

    September 24, 2013 at 9:43 pm
  • Beth Birnbaum says:

    Several years ago, I was on a parent educational panel in Queens New York under the auspices of our Borough President, Helen Marshall. We all knew that the Bloomberg administration didn’t care about parental input, having told the Borough Presidents to fire any representative on his supposedly parent empowering Board who didn’t agree with him.
    I took the minutes for the meeting and was sitting next to Joel Klein himself. Id’ attended many meetings where Mr. Klein told of his humble upbringing in the “projects,” which is how he referred to public housing in Astoria. I pointed out that being the child of German Jewish refugees who stressed education from the moment he was born was not the same experience as being an African American “project” kid with several siblings, no father in the home, and a mother who wasn’t all that much older than he was, who may or may not suffer from substance abuse. I told him that he couldn’t really compare the two experiences and claim empathy. He never talked to me again.

    September 24, 2013 at 10:02 pm
  • Chester Payne says:

    It seems they are inviting the people who will have the most say in the future of education, which, most assuredly, is NOT the educators themselves. That honor falls back on the politicians and bankers who actually control most of what gets to the schools in the first place.

    September 24, 2013 at 10:22 pm
  • Dave F. Brown, Ed. D. says:

    You want facts about education in this country—see my book—WHY AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE THE BEST PLACE FOR KIDS: REALITY VS. NEGATIVE PERCEPTIONS (2012) by Dave F. Brown, Ed. D. an educational researcher with 13 years of public school teaching in four states.. Ravitch’s ideas are pertinent, but I find in her new book that she cites much of my research. The professionals in this business have somehow permitted the testing companies to take over. NCLB started it all and now, educators are having the absurd common sore stuffed down their throats, as if once again, the business community, Pearson, and the other testing companies, and politicians have something significant to offer educators. The fact is the common core, and the tests that accompany them, are feckless to the lives of our children, grand children, teachers, and administrators who are doing a superb job teaching kids with limited resources in every state. Education has never been a priority in this country, and with the figure head, Arne Duncan, trying to dictate policy with absurdities like “Race to the Top” children and adolescents suffer from stifling curricula and dated instructional processes brought on by listening to college dropouts like Bill Gates.

    Let’s start this revolution by refusing to give those tests, refusing to be evaluated based on students’ test scores, and taking back our profession. Opt Out UnIted is the pace to start. My child won’t be taking these tests—tell your children and grandchildren to do the same. Long lve public education in the United States!

    Dave F. Brown, Ed. D.

    September 25, 2013 at 2:34 am
  • Steve says:

    For too long, We America’s teachers have allowed ourselves to get the short end of the stick. We have to stand up and start a cry that is heard by America about the lies and shams being put over them. I’ve read Berliner and Ravitch, they have shown that we teachers have been lied to for the sake of adding more money to the pockets of a few greedy people. Look at Mexico, those teachers saw how we were screwed over by both parties. Our unions need to align themselves with neither party and declare in no uncertain words that we will not allow our students and their parents to sold a bill of goods that are not meant to help them. When will we see this anger? Instead we shake our heads and allow them to take another swing. Come on! Start letting the democratic and republican parties see that we are not weak nor helpless.

    September 25, 2013 at 2:54 am
  • paulpnasuti says:

    In one respect, all of the above are experts. All are educated and have a personal perspective from which to judge the process. If one were to step back and consider the bigger picture one might see the hairball of confusion, the inability of an enormous pool of intellectual skills to find common ground, as a bi-product of that process. Our Institution guides the process employing an outdated methodology favoring that aspect of our intelligence that requires measurement.

    Human intelligence is more than what the bottom line can measure. There is a greater intelligence from which ours has evolved. Recognizing it and connecting it directly to the never ending process that is education is our long termed need. Employing an Earth based education model, beginning the process leading to the Institution’s evolution, is an immediate need. With all due respect to the experts whose views are listed above, the dialogue in its regard must begin with you. I am not on anyone’s invitation list. But I know something others have not yet acknowledged that should be a part of these kinds of conversations. Our common futures are at stake.

    Paul P. Nasuti, B.Ed., Ret. Environmental Education Specialist

    September 25, 2013 at 6:54 am
  • Dale Benjamin Drakeford says:

    The NBC program represents the movement of education less an altruistic investment and more a money making venture (for private enterprise and political football). I suspect however, that NBC is not knowingly playing into this formula as much as they are stacking the panel to be ad worthy and stock enhancing.

    September 25, 2013 at 7:45 pm

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