Reed Hastings, we DO want an elected school board

Someday, we can only hope.

To be able to elect our very own school board in Chicago? It's the stuff of daydreams.

But just after election day, I want to bring to your attention the very high-powered thought of one of our great business leaders. He's an American, he seems to think he likes democracy. But he does not like an elected school board.

In fact, to Reed Hastings, Netflix mogul, elected school boards are THE MAIN thing wrong with schools today.

He likes to advocate for what he calls "self-perpetuating" leadership. That's when the board picks the board, picks the board, picks the board, picks the board, picks the board, forever and ever amen. It works great for corporate boards, right?

That would get rid of that pesky mess of people having opinions and wanting to have a voice in the decisions of their school districts. You know, the ones involving their children, their tax money. Those decisions.

What does Reed Hastings care about education anyway? Aside from the fact that he's a filthy rich tech magnate, and it seems to come with the job description? Let's see if we can find out.

Reed Hastings is a major funder of Rocketship charters in California. Rocketship is a teensy bit notorious for its methods, wherein children--rather, Rocketeers--are placed in front of a computer screen, in a cubicle, several hours per day. That would be Rocketship's wonderful cost-saving, test-score boosting innovation, the Learning Lab.

Rocketship schools are founded on the use of "learning labs." Learning labs are staffed by hourly employees who lack teaching credentials. Rocketship says that the "learning labs" save enough money for each school to hire 6 fewer teachers yearly, saving up to half a million dollars a year. The problem admitted in a PBS report is that the "learning labs" don’t work, even though students spend 25% of their day in the lab, sitting in front of computers.

Reed Hastings sure loves him some charter schools. He has big plans for them. He sees 90% of children attending charter schools in 20 years.

Clearly this passion landed him the gig as keynote speaker at the recent California Charter School Association conference.

His 17 minute talk was built entirely on the premise that appointed school boards will save American education from its disastrous flameout. If we can just stop the instability that results from a constant change of board governance, if we can just move beyond the idea that the people should have some say in how their schools are run.... Then there will be stability and continuity; no different ideas competing with proven concepts. The people and their petty complaints never mucking up the works. Self-perpetuating governance resolves all confusion and chaos. It works for the military, it works for corporations, it works for churches! By gum, it must also be--no, it is--best for schools.

He compared the growth of this idea to another important American ideal: "one man, one vote." In his talk he walks us awkwardly through the history of "one man, one vote" as it developed into its glorious present form, never noticing the ironic incoherence of what he's saying. And really: why would one ever cite the expansion of the franchise to bolster the point that not having a vote is a good?

Well. I can't speak to his logic. But I can certainly speculate as to why the king of streaming content, Reed Hastings, wants 90% of American children to utilize a Learning Lab model where much of their time is spent sitting in a cubicle, at the computer, in front of streaming content.

So I can't take his ideas very seriously.

And after decades of mayoral-controlled, hand-picked school boards here in Chicago, it's clear to us that Reed didn't get the memo: an unelected school board hasn't fixed a thing.

If you want a better Chicago Public Schools system please like my Facebook page and join me there for more discussion. You can also follow me on twitter @foolforcps.

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