No, Mr. Tillerson–You’re Wrong!

By January 6, 2016 Uncategorized 1 Comment

We have all witnessed the growing influence of politicians and corporate elite in education policy in America.

Allow me to introduce you to one of these players.

The happy looking fellow in the picture is Rex Tillerson, the Chief Executive Officer of the Exxon Mobil Corporation since 2006.

Mr. Tillerson was featured in a recent article by Paul Elkind in Fortune Magazine.

The report was a recounting of how prominent national business leaders and philanthropists, like Tillerson and Bill Gates, “got schooled” in their collective rush to impose Common Core State Standards on all schools, oops, I mean all PUBLIC schools, in America.

My intent is not to rehash the major points of the article in this space, though I certainly encourage you to read it yourself. There is an interesting anecdote near the end about Governor Mary Fallin that reveals the political hazards associated with going against the corporate oligarchs.

Mr. Tillerson does not hold back when he argues the need to fully implement CCSS in order to prepare children for their place in corporate America. And he’s angry that parents and schools have not fully embraced this important business-driven initiative.

He is how Mr. Tillerson frames the necessity for schools to adopt CCSS: (emphasis mine)

“I’m not sure public schools understand that we’re their customer—that we, the business community, are your customer.  What they don’t understand is they are producing a product at the end of that high school graduation. American schools,” Tillerson added, “have got to step up the performance level—or they’re basically turning out defective products that have no future. Unfortunately, the defective products are human beings. So it’s really serious. It’s tragic. But that’s where we find ourselves today.”

In recognition of this completely inane and ignorant statement, I hereby award Mr. Tillerson with an honorary “Sarcastic Wonka”:

While Mr. Tillerson may be a highly competent CEO of a multi-national oil and gas conglomerate, I would love to see him serve for a week or two as a substitute teacher of 150 diverse middle schoolers in a high poverty urban school.

He is sorely in need of some perspective.

As I have shared before, during my personal transition from Marine officer to middle school teacher in the 1990s, I quickly learned that teaching students was far more complicated than leading adults.

I could spend a few thousand words explaining why, but I will just sum it up with three simple distinctions.

Are you paying attention, Rex?

  1. You employees are paid to listen to you, our students are not.
  2. In your company, employees are selected based upon a search and interview process. We do not select our students, they select us.
  3. In your company, an insubordinate or apathetic employee is fired. An insubordinate or apathetic student is merely one more challenge for a classroom teacher.

What Mr. Tillerson needs to understand is that much of the push back over his beloved CCSS is a direct response to the arrogant notion that national politicians and corporate cronies like him know best how to educate the children in OUR communities.

They believe if schools would just adopt more rigorous standards and impose them on children in an appropriately gritty, rigorous way, all students would miraculously overcome their life challenges and become college- and career-ready.

Peter Greene responded well to Tillerson’s nonsense in his Curmudgucation blog:

Students are not a product. Corporations are not “customers,” and the public institutions of our nation do not exist to serve the needs of those corporations. The measure of public education is not how well it produces drones that serve the needs of corporations, not how “interested” corporations are in the meat widgets that pop out of a public education assembly line.

Tillerson’s viewpoint is anti-education, anti-American, anti-human. It’s a reminder that the education debates are not about Left versus Right or GOP versus Dems. The education debates are about the interests of the human beings who are citizens of a nation and stakeholders in its public institutions versus the interests of a those who believe their power and money entitle them to strip mine an entire nation in order to gather more power and money for themselves. The education debates are about democracy versus oligarchy. The education debates are about valuing the voices of all citizens versus giving voice only to the special few Who Really Matter.

No one can argue the importance of good schools and excellent teaching to improving student achievement. Of all the variables under a school’s control, the single most decisive factor is a high quality teacher.

But this is also true: teaching and all of the other variables within a school’s control are overwhelmed and overshadowed by other factors such as parental involvement (including reading to children and working with them as needed on assignments), family and cultural emphasis on and expectations regarding education, and students’ innate ability and motivation to learn.

Tillerson wants our schools to operate like factories to create a standardized product for his corporate use and profit. To him and others, it is rather simple. If we just hire the best workers and follow a standardized process, our school factories will produce superior widgets.

But our children are not widgets and their total educational experience cannot be quantified using common core derived standardized tests. Our education system should strive to teach critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving, teamwork, writing and mathematical skills.

The educational experience should also inspire and encourage students’ intellectual curiosity and love for reading, art, music and science. Not all of these qualities can be measured using standardized tests, and not all of these goals will be achieved by ALL students.

I have said this many times. A standardized test is a terrible way to measure the potential of a human being, because children are not standardized.

Student are not created equal, and children are less likely to reach their potential if their parents and sociological circumstances do not facilitate the process.

Even the best teachers in America are challenged to try to overcome the influence of apathetic or abusive parents, a home environment that is not conducive to learning, a social network that does not value education, or an unfortunate combination of nature and lack of nurture that conspires against students’ academic achievement and personal growth.

If the final result of the PreK-12 education is a young adult prepared with the knowledge, skills, habits, and values needed to succeed in a fast-paced, global, knowledge society, then the quality of the “raw material”—the student’s talent, intelligence, physical and mental health, attention, and motivation—is a huge variable in the education process over which public schools have little control.

In short, it is the blueberry story all over again. Schools cannot control the quality of the raw materials that are introduced to our system.

This does not mean that schools should simply throw up our hands and say it is beyond our control. We must continue to do everything possible to create safe, caring environments where each child can reach his or her personal potential. Yet, not just so they can fill a job opening at Exxon Mobil in the next decade.

Children are not the product of our education system. THEY are our customers.

As such, we have a moral and ethical responsibility to serve all of our students in the best manner possible. We should hold ourselves and each other to the highest standards of professionalism.

Our mission is not to create the future for each child. Rather, it is to equip each one with the skills and knowledge to pursue their own dreams and build their own future.

They are children, Mr. Tillerson, NOT products!

Image credit:

This Post Has Been Viewed 52 Times

Share this: