Saturday, February 8, 2014

Lumina Foundation, Big Bucks and the College Push


      This guest editorial by Lumina Foundation CEO Jamie Merisotis appeared in today's Register Guard newspaper.  Lumina Foundation: it is not a non-profit, but a private corporation that is "a tax exempt … formed for public services."  How much does the CEO make a year and how does that compare to how much educators make? No where in this piece is mentioned input from students, teachers or community, but the push for everyone to be "work certified"  via some form of college education, as well as other college paths, is on. We are warned by Merisotis not to "circle the wagons and protect …turf" -- implying that criticism, questioning, are somehow intentional acts of nothing more than defiance and being uncooperative. The Daily Censored has been following Lumina's agenda for some time. On Lumina's origins, Daily Censored writes:

 "The Lumina Foundation arose from a $1 billion student loan sale to Sallie Mae in 2000.  Since then, it and has become the nationwide leader in pushing for higher educational policy reform focused on degree attainment and ‘student learning outcomes’.  Its primary founder, Ed McCabe, was the Chairman of Sallie Mae at the time of the sale, and came on board with Lumina to steer its conversion to an Education Foundation."  (Daily Censored.)

    The dangers of criticizing common core, pushes for all citizens to be college educated, etc. are many. For one, often the right wing aligns itself with anti-public education pushes. I don't like being in the same boat with that ideology. Secondly, teachers and educators are highly dedicated. Questioning policies like common core and other educational reforms puts one in an uncomfortable position. Who doesn't want the best for students? Educators who question and criticize are told they need to "collaborate" which is often code for shut up and buck up. On the surface it sounds great, collaboration is a good thing. Many times teachers are isolated; working together can be creative as well as productive. But when those at the top say "collaborate" they really mean work together to figure out ways to do even more with even less. Thirdly, criticisms of such programs can be seen as being elitist in a surreal turn about way. Marginalized populations do not have the opportunities nor given the resources they need to succeed. Who's against giving students everything they need to go where they want to go? Not me. Everyone should have the same opportunities. Everyone.
     But the issue isn't a level playing field, no matter how much entities like Lumina tell us. It's about money (theirs) and control. It's about data collecting. It's about raking in millions of dollars with new curriculum under the guise of improving education. Furthermore, those in the trenches -- educators -- are often unaware of their complicity. After all, we want to educate kids the best we can. If a new way of teaching concepts comes along, we'll try it. Money poured into schools seems, on the surface, like a good thing. Who wants to argue with that?
     Until college education is free in this country, corporations like Lumina are simply pimping feel good agendas that well meaning educators buy into.

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