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Re: About muti-tiered diplomas

August 4, 1999

Multitiered diplomas are another way in which the top tiers of corporate
America are trying to escape the expense of evaluating and training the
suitability of their applicants for entry level positions in their
enterprises. If anyone were to play the "two tiered" diploma notion out
against the nation's colleges and universities (where the "teaching" job is a
hundredfold easier and the emoluments greater than for those of us who have
labored in the gardens of K-12), there would be an immediate and sustained
outburst of outrage. "Attacks on academic freedom!" "Attack on learning and
science." You name it.

The only reason this hasn't happened is that many of the most prominent
leaders of academe (and certainly the loudest mouths who sport academic
credentials) are among the most profitably employed attackers against K-12
teachers. Their profession, like other similar ones throughout history,
involves curving their affections (and their words) to fit the fantasies of
the highest bidder. We used to call them whores where I came from in northern
New Jersey, but now we call them "consultants" and experts.

One of the things we have neglected in this discussion is the simple fact
that public schools have no obligation to certify business training and
employability. The thread has been running through many of the debates that
have gone on here, and my memory says it surfaced in a major way in the
discussion of the macho implications of the term "stakeholder" (which, if we
remember, was the way by means of which the "business community" wormed its
way into the center of the discussion of school policy and then excluded
those who were actually here, from school board members to parents, students,
teachers, and local level administrators). The only way "the business
community" could eliminate all of the democracy that has been the hallmark of
public schools and public school governance was to control the media approach
to the debate and make themselves the center of the "community" by defining
"employability" as the only criteria for school success.

That work should be the job of each employer, not of the schools. Schools and
school districts should retain the power to issue the diploma based on the
reasonable criteria established in the schools and classrooms, according to
reasonable state requirements (Carnegie units or other performance measures,
etc.). However, the broader range of duties of the schools should not be
narrowed to suit the present power demands of corporations and corporate

It used to be assumed that entry level employment would be screened by the
employer, then training (mentoring, apprenticeship, etc.) provided, with
various promotional gates along the way within the institution.

Why are the schools being ordered to do this at this time in history? I think
the main reason is that the more broadly based forces for democracy (trade
unions, the civil rights organizations, political parties, and such down home
examples of it as school boards, PTAs, and the professional organizations)
have been systematically disempowered, leaving the arena open for some of the
most ridiculous corporate totalitarianism (abetted by politicians who need
the campaign contributions and some educators, who can profit wildly from
contracts to ratify these pipe dreams).

Ironically, once you get down to it, you find that corporations and other
institutions that hire people during the entry level years (say, ages 16 -
25?) have to use a variety of criteria anyway, and those who want to retain
them have to provide regular training and a broad range of mentorings and

I wasn't hired as a high school English teacher in Chicago 30 years ago to
provide the "Prime" seal on the rump of each of the adolescent cows and bulls
that went down my ramp. The whole notion would have seemed ridiculous until
the past ten years, and now we can have a discussion about it with a straight
face. I was hired to teach high school "English", not provide the front desk
for IBM, Harris Bank, or Texaco.

The attack on the public schools, as is being pointed out more and more
forcefully here, is an attack on the professionalism of America's best
educated, most multicultural, and most experienced generation of teachers and
on democracy itself. The only way most of these idiots (and I am using this
term to describe the corporate types who hustle around the centers of
"Education Reform" and their untrained, incompetent, semiliterate clones ?
like Chicago's Paul Vallas and most of the top members of his administration
at this point) could get a handle on education policy is to spend millions
(mostly of federal tax money, since they are loathe to spend their own money)
on their own relentless PR and one the word of their hirees, who then sing
their praises.

End of tirade.

George Schmidt
Editor, Substance
5132 W. Berteau
Chicago, IL 60641

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