That quote from someone who has headed more than one major research university was always going to be the topic of today’s post. After all, as you will see in a minute, it goes to the heart of where education thinks we are really headed. Politically. As a society. Our future financial expectations. And why I am standing up and shouting “but there is no widespread prosperity in that future. If we all follow or are shoved along that chosen path.” But real life machinations pop into my sight these days almost daily. The one this morning was a doozy. It wasn’t news to me. It’s consistent with where we are going in our post-book story during this summer of Common Core implementation. It was a reminder though of why I felt I had to step out and start talking about where education officials are actually taking us. And why I thought I had to describe related economic, social, and political terms and consequences that must have had some of you nominating me for a Major Nerd award.
There is an international conference coming up in late June in Rio de Janeiro that none of us are invited to and all of us are paying for. We will be talking about it later because much of what is really going on in education, K-12 and higher ed, relates to Future Plans the Bureaucrats have for us. So I read the reports and related videos that feed that different set of facts that makes me analyze things differently from the official talking points. Last week, a Norwegian, Jorgen Sanders, was challenged on why he called his report on what the world was going to be like in 2052 a forecast. Surely he must acknowledge there was great uncertainty and his report was only a possible scenario. His answer was that he could be so arrogant (his words) and definite because there were processes in place now to keep these decisions on a political path. His desired political path.
What’s really going on in education is part of that stealth political path he thinks he has finally got covered. Which is why we are talking about it now and why the following public declaration by a veteran university administrator was so telling. I call these my tape recorder disclosures because someone is revealing unconsciously what was said and believed in executive industry meetings that neither you or I would ever be invited to. Probably in yet another lovely location it would be enchanting to visit sometime.
The meeting (about a year ago) was on how to make the US competitive and the given answer was that it would require a partnership of the federal government, Business, and research universities. Now you can see why I wanted to talk about what has happened historically in the mercantilist economy where government ensures special privileges for its chosen ones. There’s no widespread prosperity there. That’s also a dirigiste economy where none of those officials are likely to be in a position to have the information required to drive genuine innovation. I do believe he honestly thought universities could be models of future innovation. Which is a tell that he and probably many of his other higher ed leadership colleagues see innovation as politically directed change, not a better good or service or idea desired by consumers. The kind of innovation that creates wealth and benefits everyone.
So here’s what is apparently a classic higher ed leadership vision of our economic future in the US. I may be paraphrasing slightly. My hands were flying when I realized what I was hearing but this is close to an exact quote.– Government has to facilitate flow. But it cannot do everything needed so the business community has to help too. We also need regional cooperation. But government and big companies can’t hire everyone who needs employment. Some hiring has to come from entrepreneurial activity.
That vision is such a backwards, false understanding of what would allow for a prosperous future it is hard to know where to start. Except we already have in earlier posts and we will keep developing ways to describe and reject this apparently widespread error. There are two points that must be made now though. First, that’s the vision that most higher ed and K-12 administrators seem to have. It is an essential component of where they plan to take our students and how they intend to spend our tax dollars and the remainder of their revenue. Secondly, that kind of misguided view of a possible economic future could only come from someone whose working life has consisted of others paying his or her way merely for showing up, having certain credentials, and being willing to push someone else’s desired policies. People who get to live off of OPM, Other People’s Money, seem to be blissfully blind to what it took to create that money. It’s not a unique vision at all unfortunately.
And they are in positions as presidents and chancellors and deans and superintendents and principals to push education policies and practices that are going to make it that much harder in the future for anyone to have the knowledge and skills to produce that next dollar for someone to confiscate as OPM. Static or declining economies just don’t produce the desired levels of OPM. All medieval serfs found that out the hard way when virtually all their crops were taken. With winter coming.
We 21st Century serfs in that dirigiste education vision for the future would like to avoid that future pathway where we become both the victims and financiers. Of Those with Political Power. In an economy where political power determines individual choices.