Friday, February 20, 2015

Kasich's Coup D'Etat

I was recently applying to the Bright Ohio program and stumbled across the Curmuducation blog opposing it. I was astonished at the level of vehemence displayed in the blog and as a philosopher it made me wonder: qui bono? Public school teaching in America, as far as I can tell by my experience as a public teacher's son, public teachers' brother in law, parent of three children in public schools and product of said public schools, seems to be the one profession which has successfully enforced a culture of mediocrity.

I have always been perplexed by educational leadership's opposition to teacher evaluations, charter schools, voucher programs and generally anything which would bring the empire of public education into the realm of the meritocracy where the rest of the capitalists live. But given the performance of the American public school system in my lifetime I can see the reluctance of those at the helm to being objectively evaluated. I had some exceptional teachers, but the key word is "exception". Jack Black said it best in "School of Rock": "those who can't do teach, and those who can't teach, teach gym".

My undergraduate education started in engineering and ended in Russian, history and law. As an undergraduate it seemed to me that the most talented chose technical majors like physics, engineering, accounting and finance, the middle of the road history, literature and the arts, and the real dunces opted for education. I certainly have no scientific data to make this claim, it was just an impression. But now that twenty plus years have gone by it seems that my theory has been born out by the number of people in my high school class who have migrated to education as a profession after failing at something else.

A few years ago I was managing a bar that hosted Governor Kasich during his drive to pass Issue 2. My engineering experience had led me into the culture of the UAW as a teenager so I was excited about the prospect of the Ohio Teachers' Union releasing their stranglehold of enforced mediocrity. I was frankly surprised that issue 2 was defeated but it has helped me to understand the Bright Ohio program.

Kasich is an executive, a problem solver, and a strategist. He knows that the juggernaut of the Ohio Teachers' Union will oppose accountability, promotion based on merit, and innovative solutions for education. Issue 2 was the voters opportunity to strip the Ohio Teachers' Union of its power to protect a culture of mediocrity. Kasich grew up in Cleveland, perhaps he reasoned that "any fool knows that the UAW bankrupted two of the Big Three automakers, and a union is destroying Ohio education". That was my thinking when we hosted Kasich to promote Issue 2 but we neglected to account for the sheer number of people in the rust belt who have benefited form that culture of mediocrity. Issue two was defeated, Kasich didn't give up, he made a tactical shift.

Bright Ohio brings meritocracy to educational leadership. The education bloggers are apoplectic that Kasich would want managers (school principles) to be trained by Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business. The Curmuducation blog links to a study of American education which clumsily attempts to portray the American educational system as a success. Exceptional teachers like Mrs. Brendl, Mr. McBee, and Mr. Bagwell would have welcomed a professional manager. The mediocre teachers whose commitment to education is represented by the forty hour week and summers off will rightfully be forced to make way for new talent. When the middle class welfare culture of the teaching profession is replaced by a meritocracy the United States will begin scratching the surface of the age old question: why does the richest most powerful country in the world have such a bad school system? The NEA. Philosophically it's the same reason you bought a Honda or a Toyota instead of a Ford.

Meritocracy over mediocrity.

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