THE E-FILES                                   NUMBER ONE                           MARCH, 2000                                 

 

 

WHY THE NAME?  “E” stands for education. The rest is for the one TV show I hate to miss: “The X-Files.”  I can relate to FBI agent Fox Mulder. When there’s been a strange death or disappearance, Mulder comes up with some theory involving extraterrestrial DNA, alien abductions, genetic mutations or some such thing. The other FBI agents always have the “Mulder reaction”: yeah, sure, he’s really losing it this time. Of course, Mulder always turns out to be right. (Why don’t the other guys ever learn?)

 

In today’s public education, the truth is almost as unbelievable and grandiose as Mulder’s alien abductions. Almost nobody has heard it, either. The media doesn’t report it.  The education bureaucrats and legislators involved in it treat the public like mushrooms: they keep us in the dark and feed us manure. So when a person who knows the real education story tries to talk about it, they get the “Mulder reaction”: yeah, sure, how can you be right if nobody else has ever heard of it?

 

WHY THIS NEWSLETTER? People should know what’s really going on education today because, while it affects most immediately those in public schools, the plans are intended to include ALL students, including those in private, parochial and home schools, too. It would affect everybody else, too, especially small businesses. Thus, there really is no escape. Berkeley being my hometown, I know some people may rejoice at hearing what is transpiring.

 

WHO AM I? I’m a rational and concerned mother of two. I’ve been searching for truth about the educational system for 8 years; have read books, attended conferences, and, most importantly, have learned from thousands of emails from other concerned people around the U.S. (plus some other countries.)

 

Trying to help improve public education from the inside, I did a lot of PTA and other volunteer work. I served on different school and district committees. I’ve spent time in Sacramento at State Board of Education, Academic Standards Commission, Senate and Assembly Education and other committee meetings.

 

WORDINESS WILL BE KEPT TO MINIMUM. Everybody has too much to read already. I’ll try to say the gist of things and get to the point.

 

SUBJECT OF THIS E-FILE: SCHOOL TO CAREER

 

School to Career, AKA School to Work, “STW” for short, is something that our government has been leading up to for a long time, but wasn’t put into place until the 1990s, with the passage of several major federal bills. These include Goals 2000, the School to Work Act, Improving America’s Schools Act, and the Workforce Investment Act. STW is also in the Carl Perkins Vocational-Technical Education Act. When educators (e.g., U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley) talk about any aspect of education “reform”, keep in mind he is considering it in the context of the STW system.

 

STW is not merely an education reform, or an increased focus on optional vocational education. It would create a whole new “comprehensive integrated labor market information system to ensure that workforce development programs are related to the demand for particular skills in local labor markets.” The purpose of schools would be to create a compliant, competent workforce of “human resources” (Hegel’s Marxist term for employees, by the way.)

 

 Thus, the emphasis would shift from one of being primarily academic to that of primarily geared towards determining the correct career path for each student. A broad-based, liberal education is no longer considered important. In fact, some architects of STW have cautioned against too much education for most students --it makes them less stable as workers. A set percentage of students would be considered aimed towards the college path. Another percentage would be further trained for technological preparation, while the largest group would be aimed towards minimum wage entry-level jobs. (Can we guess who might end up in this last category? Probably not children of the well-off, powerful or well-connected. The skills listed in SCANS (Secretary of Labor’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills) documents include manure spreading, grocery bagging, sandwich preparing, and street sweeping. No kidding.)

 

In talking with many parents over the years, I found most parents interested in more challenging academic standards and better-behaved students in the classes. Nobody expressed an interest in his/her child being a part of an integrated workforce preparation system! 

 

This is the way the workforce economy/governance would work, appropriately, from the top down: the president of the U. S. appoints The National Workforce Development Board, a group of 16, 10 of which are government officials; the others are from labor organizations and business organizations. (Notice: no parents.) Their job is developing a more streamlined integrated and accountable public and private workforce development system in the U.S. This includes all Americans—including “human resources”, whether from public schools or not. Thus the “consumer” of the “product” of the schools is not the parent or the taxpayers, but private and governmental employers.

 

The STW system was instituted between the president and the state governors. Though the system was not mandated, lots of money was offered in grants to sign STW contracts. This carrot-and-stick approach is the usual way to drive change. No federal funds come without strings; there are always requirements, such as data collection, adoption of national standards and assessments, etc. All 50 states have STW grants now and have developed STW programs to one degree or another, though Idaho recently ditched theirs.

 

At the state level, each governor gains much power from the STW system. He/she appoints the State Council, which will plan the state’s integrated workforce development system, including the development of a financial and management information system, a quality assurance system, and an integrated labor market information system. A huge amount of personal information will be gathered to satisfy this requirement. (Good-bye, privacy.)

 

There will also be local workforce development boards in this system to further carry out the STW system. They will create blueprint that plans what kinds of workers will need to be trained in what kind of jobs for the local industrial conditions. The local schools would then know what skills the students would need to be taught and which jobs to steer them into. (Good- bye, flexibility and personal freedom of choice of career and further education. Good-bye, unlimited dreams.)

 

The control of local school boards, already diminished, will go the way of the buggy whip. In fact, any degree of representation by elected officials, except for the executive branches (president and governor) will radically decrease, since the workforce boards at all levels are appointed.

 

Taxpayers, thinking they will be paying for education, actually will be subsidizing much of employee training for businesses. Business owners may find themselves paying for much of the cost of the massive bureaucracy (as they do in Germany.)

 

In the traditional way, there is no Constitutional role for federal government in education (according to the 10th amendment) or in this dramatic revision and expansion of governance in the economy. Constitution? They don’t need no stinkin’ Constitution.

 

Critics have called STW socialism, fascism, and corporate fascism. Whatever, it is not free enterprise. (This is what some Berkeleyans may applaud!) Very similar systems were tried in the U.S.S.R., in Cuba, and Germany, always driving the economy into the pits.

 

There have been pockets of intense resistance to STW since its inception, causing its designers and implementers to become more secretive. Citizens have spent months poring over legislation, writing legislators, attending meetings, etc.

 

In the development of STW, these are all areas that needed radical revision. Much time, energy and money has been already spent to pave the way for STW in:

 

--Governance (as described above; CA workforce boards were appointed in January)

--Curriculum, “academic” standards, assessment, graduation requirements (all to be aligned, in all states, to the national model; vocational ed to be integrated into subject area disciplines)

--Attitudes of students, parents, businesspeople (to accept new way of being in this cooperative, global 21st century! Individualism isn’t desirable anymore.)

--Scheduling of school days (block scheduling, or whole days off campus for job shadowing, training; year round schools)

--Data collection systems (on students and on jobs, all of which must now be listed; and coordination of systems from different agencies)

--Physical plants of schools (to allow more space for expanded voc ed)

--Relationship between schools, government, and businesses (many “private-public partnerships” created to allow the government to be key player in economy)

 

On this last point: the way in which STW will be forced on every student will be in the necessity of their obtaining one of the variously named “work cards”, “skill cards”, or “Certificates of Initial Mastery.” Businesses are being urged to join “consortiums” that will agree not to hire students unless they have a card issued by the government. Private schools will be coerced to adapt their programs to qualify their students to get their work cards.

 

Further: in a “private-public” partnership between a business and the government, in no way could this be an equal, 50%-50% deal. The government has unlimited taxing and punishing power, while a business owner is a relative pipsqueak. “Partnership” with the government is a misnomer.

 

I urge members of the public to be more involved in Sacramento legislative affairs. I wasn’t at all until a few years ago, yet wondered how all the weird changes in the schools were happening. As great a problem as public education has been in California, we haven’t become aware of the legislation involved nor leaned on our representatives to work for our areas of main concern; or, at least, to tell us what is really happening and stop making changes affecting our lives without telling us. It has been preferable to resort to private schools for those of us who can afford it. As we are learning, though, things happen that affect us whether our kids are in the public schools or not.

 

There are currently four bills directly relating to STW in the Legislature now: AB 2298 requires every pupil to participate in “at least one year” of a vocational education program by 2006. SB 1892 requires that by 2004 all students entering 9th grade will be forced to take at least two years of vocational training. AB 1873 will increase the integration of vocational and “work-based” learning into academics. On the other hand, SB 1441 would prohibit the state from requiring any district or student to be forced into any vocational education or STW program.

 

Further, the proposed California Strategic Workforce Investment Five-Year Plan for Title I of the Workforce and Investment Act and Wagner-Peyser Act of 1998 has recently been released for public comment. It can be downloaded from http://www.calwia.org/, or call the California Office of Workforce Investment at (916) 654-9995 to request a copy of the plan as well as the schedule of public hearings regarding it. Find federal STW (AKA School to Career, Vital Links, Education Edge, WorkLink, Workforce, Critical Link, Career Development, etc.) discussed at: http://www.stw.ed.gov

 

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.          More of it next E-File.

 

The E-Files

Susan O’Donnell

769 Spruce Street

Berkeley, CA  94707   (510) 527-4430   efiler@pacbell.net   (510) 528-9833 fax