Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dependent Upon the People Alone

A time is marked not so much by ideas that are argued about as by ideas that are taken for granted. The character of an era hangs upon what needs no defense. Power runs with ideas that only the crazy would draw into doubt. The “taken for granted” is the test of sanity; “what everyone knows” is the line between us and them. (Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas, 2001. p. 5). 

In a talk, Lawrence Lessig gave earlier this year, he outlines 3 "taken for granted thoughts". 

1. Private interest is equated with public policy.
2. Katrina Effect: Our government ignores the losers and helps the winners.
3. We architect regulatory policy in order to raise campaign funds for these who are running the system.

Lessig argues that these taken for granted thoughts, especially the last, have created a dependency by our government not on the people as was the intention of the Republic, but on the funders who help to maintain politicians presence as government.

He tells us we, who are citizens, need to act to save our representative democracy dependent upon the people alone, not the funders.

Those of us in public education surely see the parallels between the stories Lessig uses to outline his charge and the "taken for granted thoughts" about public education. Some taken for granted thoughts I hear include:

1. The Common Core Standards will lead to quality education and an improved US economy.
Watch former Michigan Governor, Jennifer M. Granholm explain this taken for granted thought.

2. The ONLY way for parents, policy makers, and administrators to know if children are learning and if schools are effectively serving students is through annual "on-line" assessments developed externally by for profit companies.
Watch Doug Kubach, President and CEO of Pearson Assessment and Information explain this to you as he did for Congress (Education & Labor Committee).

3. Data driven decision making through technology represents a virtuous cycle that can help to remove faulty assessments from classrooms and replace these with scientifically sanctioned assessments that will result in continuous improvement.
Watch Larry Berger, CEO and co-founder of Wireless Generation (acquired by Rupert Murdock in 2010, along with Joel Klein) explain this to you as he did for Congress (Education & Labor Committee).


II. Rootstrikers

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." (Henry David Thoreau. Walden)

This is a brief slideshare by Lessig in which he outlines the challenges.  As always,  I am curious as to what you think.

You can learn more about Rootstrikers, here.


  1. from a post i read recently, this quote from Chomsky:

    "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate."  

  2. It's why the literature and the arts are so important. The range of discourse is not confined by the polticios and funders.

  3. To Rob's comment... this is the brilliance (argh! sorry!!) of Christie... he has successfully diverted the discourse FROM how education (educators) can best serve the student TO how education (the bureaucracy) can best serve the taxpayer (in the short term). Much of our discussions within the schools becomes framed within this constraint/context, rather than on creative and engaging methodologies for our students.

    Thanks for another great post... I find myself surfing from link to link and learning much in the process!

    Teachin' in the Trenches

  4. @TintheTrenches hadn't framed Christie in that manner, but it is succinct and seems characteristic of his rhetoric. We don't discuss learning.

    Thanks for stretching my thinking.

  5. Ditto on the thanks... TT