Whose Future Is It?

Last winter, as I began piecing together the frighteningly well-choreographed plans for next-gen ed reform, a family member asked me: “Do you mean they actually get together and plan this stuff?”

This family member was rightfully concerned about me, as I looked – for about a solid month – like this:


But here’s the scary truth: they do get together to plan this stuff.

Most of us who follow education reform are well aware of the many foundations involved in the transformation of our schools, as well as the many political groups (American Legislative Exchange Council, the Council for Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors Association, to name only a few) that have been busy pulling strings and pouring millions of dollars into their vision of what schools should be like for everyone’s children but their own.

But even further behind the scenes is a group called Global Education Futures – a spin-off of a Moscow and San Francisco self-described “think-and-do-tank” called “Re-engineering Futures,” who believe that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

According to the group’s website: “We don’t expect change, we find a way to make it.”

Using a technique called “Rapid Foresight,” which involves putting “objects of the future” on note-cards and then voting on whether or not they earn a place on the “map,” Global Education Futures and the organizations it consults with literally map out the future they wish for the rest of us.

Now, if we knew the people planning our futures for us were saints, we might not need to worry so much.

But let’s be real. These people are politicians and heads of big corporations. Chances are pretty good that we’ve got at least a sprinkling of megalomaniacs in this bunch.

According to the group’s website: “the vision for the future which we create during foresights leads to “start-ups and/or change management strategies for corporations & educational institutions” and “policy-making initiatives & civil society action.”

Again, we might be able to laugh this stuff off, if it weren’t apparent that this group appears, in fact, to be remarkably influential.

Tom Vander Ark, whose was instrumental in leading the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Digital Learning Now Coalition   …which was instrumental in creating the “Ten Elements of Digital Learning”   …which were adopted by the American Legislative Exchange Council    …whose policies have now made their way into the ESEA rewrites and President Obama’s Testing Action Plan…   is a board member of Global Education Futures.

So is Jose Ferreira, of Knewton.

Now take a look at this diagram for a comprehensive picture of the plans that Global Education Futures and the groups it “foresights” with have developed for us:

Screen shot 2015-11-22 at 5.27.39 PM.png

Do you see “blended learning?” I do.

Do you see “personalized learning?” I do.

Do you see “competency” based portfolios? I do.

(Now try something, if you dare: look up the current versions of the ESEA rewrites, and search for some of these very same terms.)

Right now, we are being told that we simply cannot wait for the new ESEA to pass – that children and families have waited too long.

But  I’m left wondering: who is it, really, that can’t wait for these changes?

Whose future is it, anyway?






Author: Emily Talmage

My name is Emily Talmage and I teach fourth grade at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. In addition to teaching in Lewiston, I have also taught special education and general education in New York City, including one year at a “high-performing” charter school in Brooklyn. I also have two master’s degrees; one in Urban Education from Mercy College, and another in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have also worked as a research analyst and assistant at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia and Oldham Innovative Research in Portland.

10 thoughts on “Whose Future Is It?”

  1. Can you post a higher resolution version of this new view of legoland? I can’t read the small print.
    Interestingly the curative side of medicine seems to have been completely overlooked.


      1. Many thanks. Clearly written by a team of ELL’s, the English is bad. The amount of wishful thinking is large. The optimism is stunning. And clearly the whole of the rural world is unimportant. I would describe this as future soup.
        Want a view of the future? Try ‘1984’.


  2. Thank you for this and all your well researched, well written articles. I concur with all of your findings. I have a blog based in NY, and I shared this article in several opt out groups in NY. Keep a go’in.


    1. Good question! Most people don’t know much about it, believe it or not. I was just directed to your blogs by a post from Alice Linahan in Texas and just got your book on amaZon. Will be reading it asap!!


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