How did we get here?From Educating Children to Supporting a Psychometric Industrial Complex


It was President Eisenhower who warned our country of blindly falling victim to a military industrial complex as an unintended consequence of the relationship between government and defense contractors.  He spoke of this as a grave threat to our democracy. Today, we face a different insidious threat from within, cloaked in the false clothing that masquerades as new and improved commercial products and technical fixes to an organic problem.  We hear promises of saving our ailing public educational system with innovative charter schools, and management theories that dissect systemic problems with laser like precision.


We are told that we will weed out ineffective teachers and administrators.  They tell us of huge warehouses of data that will arm both individuals and institutions with the ammunition needed to drill down to the root of the problems that plague our schools and communities.  The grand plan is based on big, broad strokes of strategic maneuvers that will attack the problem from all angles regardless of the unique characteristics of individual communities.  The covenant that hitherto existed between teacher and child is gone in the name of “we know better.”  In its place, we are told that we will win the race to the top of the world, through competition, coercion, and compliance.


There have always been issues and challenges that drive our unending quest to change and improve.  The current climate that drives changes in education have conspired to produce high levels of fear and anxiety.  Stand in line or get out of the way.  With great rapidity we have arrived at a new and improved design for improvement.


The metrics, tools, and systems currently en vogue stem from an industrial model aimed squarely at those who appear resistant to a brave new world of hard evidence, scientifically-based, research driven data designed to eliminate ambiguity, and the softer, less concrete elements in the educational enterprise.


Like lemmings we march on, towards a far from vetted claim that all boats will rise above mediocrity.  We have been given a steady diet since A Nation at Risk that our international rankings on performance tests in math and science have declined.  Drop out rates, particularly among poor and minority students, continue to rise.  Little doubt exists among all stakeholders that we have a need to address concerns in teaching and learning.  The question at hand is, will the proposed medicine kill the patient?  Is the design too cumbersome, and is it addressing the wrong set of questions? It was Einstein who said, “If I had an hour to save the world I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions.”


At present, there are far too many forces eager to propose and promote solutions to problems that transcend education.  When and where the public school has a place at the table to address deep-rooted issues that confront the teaching and learning process we must design simple, elegant systems that capture the fundamental elements of human creativity and healthy engagement.  It is only in this way that we can propel our children to become the enlightened, civil, and capable citizens of the 21st century.  Create communities of joy, cultures of caring, coupled with well trained, reflective practitioners and I will show you the foundation for improved academic performance and socially well adjusted students who will not require laws designed to punish and prosecute adults who fail them inside and outside of the classroom.

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Comment by Joe Filippone on June 3, 2012 at 12:37pm

Very well stated by a man with a true educator's heart.  Though our system of public education in America has always been far from perfect and in need of reform, surely the "data nazis" and their mandates of achievement  and accountability as measured by standardized assessments is not the right path to take, not for educators and certainly not for children. Creating educational communities of joy and cultures of caring, as stated by Mr. Gamberg, seem like ideas that have no place in hearts of legislators, lawyers and the school policy makers of today.

As C. S. Lewis said, " Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive."






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