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Samuel (Sandy) Rhodes closed the East Penn School Board meeting last week with the following remarks.  It was his final meeting as a board member after serving our community for twelve years.  His perspective is important enough that I wanted to share it beyond the handful of people who were at the meeting:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” -President Eisenhower

In 1961 Dwight D. Eisenhower left the country with a dire warning about the corporatization of the American military in the years during and after WW II. The President was in a unique position to evaluate this distressing evolution.   I remember President Eisenhower and I know that I do not compare well with his abilities and his service to America. However, in my small area of expertise, I also see a gathering of power that threatens America today.

In the councils of education, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the education corporate interests that stand ready to take control of public education in this country for the pursuit of profit.  As a lifelong supporter of public education, I have been a student, a taxpayer, a parent, a coach, a teacher, and a school board director. All these experiences have reinforced my dedication to the great democratic experiment of educational opportunity for all.

The institution of high stakes tests, introduced by educational corporations, to create the perception of failure in public schools has led to the public’s questioning the quality of America’s education system, which has led to the search for villains.  The villains chosen have been educators. Corporate educational interests and their supporters cry for accountability from educators. These cries are based solely on the results of tests that are demographically skewed.  If you are a child from a family of white professional parents, you tend to do well. If you do not fit that profile, you tend not to do well.

Corporate interests, who created the tests, have the ear of public officials. These officials receive generous campaign contributions from the companies that make, distribute and grade the standardized tests. This is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Educators constantly test and make formative and summative assessments. They want, and need, to know how students perform and how to better address students’ needs. However, based on these high stakes standardized tests and not the organic evaluations in the classroom done by professional educators, corporate interests and their supporters want to fire educators based on these demographically biased tests. It makes no sense for our society. It even discourages educators from teaching the students with the most needs. As an educator, I do not need to be held accountable, because I take responsibility for my professional decisions.

Corporate interests see public education as the new frontier. Public education money is a new vault to be opened. However, corporations operate to produce profits. If the children they have a responsibility to educate do well and profits are good, then all is well. If students do poorly and profits are good, then all is still well. We should all be opposed to the tax dollars collected for the commonwealth being given to private corporations for a job that they have no moral commitment to complete well.

In a democratic society, some things are too important to be run by private corporations with a profit/loss perspective. I say to you that education is one of those things. Public education’s job is not to create students, who can answer multiple choice questions well. Public education’s job is to create citizens, who will participate actively and effectively in this democracy we call the United States of America.  Our students are our future and they should not be for sale.

Samuel F. Rhodes, III
7th Grade Social Studies
Parkland School District
National Board Certified Teacher
​East Penn School Board Director

Some related comments of my own that may be of interest:

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