Saturday, March 05, 2005

A shift in the message but the agenda is the same

Recently, both Cato and Paul Weyrich denounced NCLB. Kinda amazing, actually.

Weyrich even brings up age-old "blame Clinton" excuse, another sign that we're seeing a shift in the message.

Not that I'm not going to cheer these developments. I don't trust these guys. These groups are not friends of progressives by any means.

Their end goals for education haven't changed because with both, the push continues for 'local control', lingo for charters and vouchers for private schools.

But I'm speculating it may be for these reasons. One, NCLB is such a horrific bill, it is threatening to undermine their cause due to the huge increase in scrutiny being placed on public ed policy. These are attempts to get distance on negative spin.

Second, NCLB goes too far and threatens their own work at the state level. NCLB sets a standardized testing agenda at all publically funded schools. Not only that, NCLB policy will pull the plugs on their schools as a side effect. CATO worries about a 'narrowed curriculum' and doesn't go for the idea of national standards, next on the list.

But you see, the conservatives have several backup plans which says a lot about the depth and the organization of their agenda. For a long time, they have very busy working at the state level to put in place legislation supporting their cause.

In 1999, Frederick Clarkson wrote about the state level conservative think tanks specializing in helping create conservative legislation in each state(pdf but this is essential reading). He outlines two sets of them: SPN associated ones (State Policy Network) and the FoF ones (yes, the Dobson people). You can look them up yourselves on their websites to find out their names.

There's more.

Working to uncover another level of nationally networked groups, Susan Ohanian and Kathy Emery wrote a book on the corporate influence on public education, Business Roundtable Groups, whose purpose is to influence education policy at the state level. There's one in each state. You can read about it in their book called Why Is Corporate America Bashing Public Schools?

One thing is very clear: this highlights a huge vacuum in progressive policy making. These guys are far far ahead of us. They have left us in the dust.

Progressives need to be less passive and more into creation and vision: we need to craft our version of public education policy. It's very unfortunate our progressive thinktanks aren't into this. We don't have a national network of thinktanks working at the state level. We don't even have policy crafted, as far as I know.

And, no, please, don't even bring up the faux one aligned with the corporate powers. They can call themselves progressive all they want. Fine. But you can't fool me with their corporate stench. Supporting the 'third way' means they can flip flop as much as they want.