The assigned reading for this week was from an article in The Atlantic titled “How School Choice Turns Education into a Commodity by Jason Blakely. This article dives into the controversial topic of neoliberalism and its ideas that are playing a role in the education system. A definition of neoliberalism is that it encompasses the idea that institutions are supposed to resemble a market, and schools need to be privatized and reconstructed, therefore, there will be no government influence in schools. In the article, Blakely gets into discussing the current secretary of education, Betsy Devos, passed a policy regarding school of choice. School of choice can be described as the idea that students are able to leave a public school institution and use state funding to attend a private school, homeschooling, or an online school. This policy is causing some controversy because many people disagree with this idea of making schools more of a business because businesses sometimes to not treat people as people, they are just seen as a customer and try to get their money. This is called marketization and it can be described as making a school be more like a business and it heavily promotes competition.
Blakely also describes the negative and positive effects of neoliberalism in the article. For example, he gave an example about how some schools in Detroit were forced to be closed when Devos’ idea of school of choice was implemented there. The standardized test scores at some of these schools were not up to par and they could just not compete with the private and charter schools in the area. This caused many parents to find different schools for their children or have to come up with the money to send their children to private or charter schools in the area. Also, because these weaker schools were being closed, more money was being funneled to the more successful schools and this just is not fair to me because the government is essentially giving up on these weak schools and not trying to help them in any way. But on the other hand, there are some positives to come from neoliberalism and marketization. For example, there were charter schools that suddenly had success in poorer neighborhoods, such as the Knowledge Is Power program which is a non-profit college prep school. This school allowed for many kids in weaker neighborhoods get a similar education to the wealthy kids in the area.
My learning community decided to focus on most of the things I discussed in paragraphs above. We knew going into this presentation that it would be a controversial topic and the best idea that we had to approach this was to give an unbiased presentation that allowed our fellow classmates to formulate their own opinions on this topic if they did not have one prior. We decided to make a Google Drawing that gave some easy visuals to follow that gave a brief background and the pros and cons to the ideas of neoliberalism. Then to continue we decided to turn some questions to our classmates using the white board feature and allowed everyone to draw and explain their responses to some questions relating to the topic. To close we had a question that ended up in a bit of a heavy conversation. This conversation was very interesting and I thought it was great to see how passionate our classmates are about education. Overall my contributions to this learning experience was doing some work on the Google Drawing and talking a bit during the presentation. I am not the debating type so I held back in class and just intently listened to what my classmates had to say and I thought it was very intriguing.
Overall, I think we got our ideas from the article across to everyone in the class and I thought we gave an interesting view with the closing debate that occurred during class.