I HAVE SHOWN HERE how banks, investors, the rich, and their professional-class implementers have developed a number of resource-skimming schemes under the guise of efficiency, numerical accountability, and cost savings. These schemes, like the 2017 Republican tax law, are an upward redistribution of wealth at the expense of the public.
To counter the swindles of innovative educational finance, citizens must challenge the laws and policies that allow public services to be privatized, sold off, and pillaged. They must comprehend these “innovative” schemes and “public–private partnerships” as similar to vouchers and charters, efforts to replace public sectors with private industries. They must organize and struggle for investment in public goods and services as a condition for a democratic society. However, citizens must also do the crucial cultural work of displacing the language and logic of both markets and radical empiricism and its false faith in decontextualized numbers. Such crucial culture work involves imagining alternatives to accommodation to market imperatives.
A vast amount of educational discourse mistakenly presumes that the solution to the crisis of truth and fact is to get more and better data rather than to examine the assumptions behind the collection of data and the interpretations of what data mean. For example, liberal policy wonks dispute conservatives’ use of standardized test scores to advance privatization schemes. Liberal wonks challenge the methodological approach to crunching the data and the numerical outcomes often without addressing the glaringly obvious false assumption that numbers and tests equate to learning. Data cannot drive teaching or leadership. Theoretical assumptions create the conditions within which data become meaningful. In this sense, theory is a crucial instrument for a reflective society. All practices are undergirded by theoretical assumptions. The matter is for people to become more cognizant of what theories, theoretical traditions, assumptions, and ideologies inform their actions. It is crucial for educative institutions at all levels to foster people’s capacity to theorize claims to truth as a precondition for democratic agency.
The chapters herein show that a number of educational finance schemes undermine the public interest and drain the public wealth under the guise of innovation and efficiency and through use of market metaphors that are grounded more in faith than in evidence. There are, however, a number of avenues by which educators, cultural producers, and public-minded citizens can fight back. One way to respond to these schemes is to reject them through electoral politics and to put pressure on legislators and policy makers. Another form of resistance is through activism and movements that link the growing public demands among teachers and their unions for fair pay and work conditions to an overt rejection of the onslaught of educational privatization in its more evident forms, such as charters, vouchers, and tax credits, and also in its more stealth forms, such as finance schemes. For example, progressive teacher unions like the Chicago Teachers Union Caucus of Rank and File Educators have explicitly linked their defense of teacher work and public schools to the criticism of neoliberal educational restructuring and broader systemic struggles over class, race, and politics. Struggles around the world, including in Chile and Quebec, have linked fights for local conditions to a broader struggle for the defense of public education as a precondition for democratic society. Those struggling for public and democratic forms of ownership and control of cultural institutions fight against privatized ownership and concentrated control. As the chapters here illustrated, increasingly, the efforts of privatizers aim to displace the physical school and the bodies of teachers. As rightist think tanks imagine replacing physical schools with “unbundled” pay-for-fee services and online education, technology companies replace flesh-and-blood teachers with software and hardware, centralizing, standardizing, and homogenizing curricular and pedagogical decisions. Meanwhile, teachers and students increasingly take a stand putting their bodies on the line in the street and in other public spaces to demand public investment in public education and other humane values. Efforts against the “accountability” standardized testing movement, such as the Opt Out movement, ought to be linked to the rejection of various forms of educational privatization, including adaptive learning and so-called personalized learning technologies. Moreover, these struggles need to comprehend that the problem of standardized testing and the privatization schemes selling it is the same problem of “fake news” and the guise of disinterested objectivity in journalism and politics—a problem of the positivist legacy and the alienation of fact. There needs to be a crucial educative dimension to these movement struggles that pushes back against the false assurances of foundational truth in numbers and bodies and against the false faith in markets.
Electoral politics and activism are necessary but insufficient parts of what needs to grow as a global movement to expand public and critical forms of education against the onslaught of privatization, corporate culture, and other manifestations of neoliberal education and culture. Educators and cultural producers are always in a position to make meanings, produce identifications, and create subject positions. Pedagogical projects can provide students with the intellectual tools and traditions of thought to criticize antidemocratic and antipublic schemes and to imagine radically just and emancipatory futures. A number of critical theory traditions teach students not only to comprehend what is being done to them but also to move beyond passive and spectatorial forms of agency and cults of personality and become publicly oriented and democratic agents capable of acting collectively to impact and govern with others the world they inhabit.