What would you do with $20 million to spend on education? If you were a tech provider you would fill the schools with devices which you think will anticipate their every need and expose them to the knowledge of the planet. Apparently the school district of Philadelphia PA thought that was a great idea so they have a resolution to be voted on on February 15th to spend $20 million on on-line education and student data collection.

However, if you are an average parent, you might have different ideas about how best to spend that money.

Allison McDowell took to the celebratory streets of Philly during the Superbowl victory parade to ask people what they would spend that money on in their school district if they were in charge. Their answers, you will see, are very different from the school board’s.


Highlights from the video [for those who don’t have 6.5 minutes to spend watching)

  • Reducing class size. Our classrooms are like 30 kids
  • Sports and Music
  • Teacher salaries
  • The Arts
  • Books
  • Structure of the buildings
  • Opening more schools. They closed down all the public schools and let the charters come in and its hard to get your kids in those schools because they have lotteries.
  • Neighborhood schools because we have nowhere for our kids to go.
  • One-on-one teaching is more valuable than learning off the computer.
  • Education should be about exploring the ingenuity of human existence. We are spending too much time exploring math and reading scores instead of what makes humans unique and special.
  • Less testing.
  • A real library and permanent librarian in every public school.

As you watch, notice how many times the arts are mentioned. What is one of the first things schools considering cutting when budgets get tight?

It is easy to dismiss the thoughts of the man on the street as uninformed, or outdated. Surely that is what everyone in silicon valley is doing. They know better.  Or do they? As MEW wrote last week, their knowledge base is misinformed as well, and the form of education they are designing for has been discredited.

The public understands the game. The one young man said they want to focus on passing tests “because passing tests gets them funding for the schools.”

So in a world where these are the two sides of the issue (and I’m not saying they are or exclusively are) how do you decide where to target that money to? It really comes down to which takes precedence; the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children or, the profit motive?

I will site Laura Chapman’s comment on a recent Ravitch blog post which sums it up succinctly.

“It is also true that some non-profits, especially those still connected with the wealth of CEO founders, are making the case that democratic governance is not “agile” enough, and that non-profits, taken as a major sector of the political economy, should be empowered to bypass “archaic” forms of governance, with deliberative democracy regarded as archaic.”

If we are to evolve away from deliberative democracy into a technocracy, is that the natural evolution of man or the forced evolution of the leaders of tech? The young man in the video who grew up in the 80’s said what many of us regular people think.

“Human evolution wasn’t meant to end up sitting at a computer terminal.”

School boards, are you listening to the public you are supposed to be representing?

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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