Sixteen years ago, Mark Zuckerberg and I sat across from each other in Latin class at Phillips Exeter Academy.
A few years after Exeter, I began teaching public school.
Mark, meanwhile, invented Facebook and became a billionaire.
Now, the one who never worked a day in his life in a public school (Mark) is crusading nationwide to “remake” public schools.
Without bothering to hear from those who actually work in those schools (I wrote Mark an open letter a couple of years ago that was picked up by a number of popular media outlets, but never heard back), Mark and his wife are striving to build a public school system that in no way resembles the intimate, discussion-based, mostly tech-free education (with no more than twelve students per class) that we got at Exeter.
Chan and Zuckerberg – along with a long list of other billionaires like Reed Hastings, Laurene Powell Jobs, Eli Broad, and the Waltons – are currently pushing an education agenda that puts an electronic device at the hands of each student, tracking their every move with “personalized learning plans” that will warn you in big red letters if at any time you fall off-track and aren’t meeting the standards as you should be.
There’s a giant profit motive behind this frighteningly technocratic vision, and anyone who cares about public schools should be fighting tooth and nail against it.
Unfortunately, based on the speed at which schools are adopting Mark’s “Summit Personalized Learning” program and the amount of money his LLC is throwing at public policy initiatives, Mark and his billionaire buddies are currently winning this war.
The good news is that nationwide, people are starting to take notice (with TV specials like the XQ Super School event, it’s getting harder to overlook) and, more importantly, to speak up.
This weekend a retired teacher in Philadelphia wrote a brilliant op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, pinpointing exactly what’s wrong with the kind of meddling these billionaires are doing in our schools.
Here’s just the tip of the iceberg:
Over the past 20 years, education policy has increasingly been enacted not to satisfy the needs of the students and their families, but the wants of the wealthy and powerful who are converting public education from a civic enterprise to a marketplace for edu-vendors: the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has paid to expand charters and lobby for the use of Common Core standards in all 50 states; real estate and insurance mogul Eli Broad now leads a group of corporate funders pushing a plan to move half of all K-12 students in Los Angeles into charter schools; the Walton family has initiated a new $1 billion campaign to promote charters nationwide; Trump financier Carl Icahn has established a chain of charters in New York City.
No one elected these billionaires, and they are accountable to no one.
Please read it, share it, and be like Lisa Haver.
Speak up, before it’s too late.