“Well, we’ve got trouble. Right here in River City. That’s ‘Trouble’ with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool.”
That famous line from “Music Man” was brought to mind recently as I enjoyed my oldest grand-daughter’s performance in a kids’ version of the musical. (Yes; she was awesome. Of course!)
As I was enjoying the show I was thinking about “Professor” Harold Hill’s sales strategy: create a crisis (the youth are being ruined by the new pool hall in town) and then offer a solution (the marching band – for which he will sell instruments and uniforms). It’s brilliant, really. And it is a time-honored sales technique.
You would think that people would be “on” to such techniques. You would think that whenever someone goes around trumpeting about a crisis that we would be suspicious. You would think that our first reaction to the word “Trouble!” would be, “OK. What are you selling?” Alas.
I recently was teaching a lesson in my course on the history and philosophy of education in which we were examining school funding and recent “historical” events. In my preparations for class I realized that I didn’t know enough about the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” (affectionately known as RTTT) initiative. I knew that it had a lot of money behind it, but I didn’t know how much. I also didn’t know when it was that Congress approved it. I was a little puzzled by how much I didn’t know, since I tend to follow education news fairly closely.
Well, imagine my surprise when I found out that RTTT had $4.35 BBBBBBillion behind it! Holy smokes! That’s bbbbbig money! I couldn’t imagine that I had been asleep at the switch when legislation approving that much money for education was passed. So, I looked further. When was this approved? Who voted for it? Why didn’t I remember a debate about it? (Note: the US Constitution assigns specific areas of responsibility to the federal government, and education is not among them.) Surely there would have been a debate about the wisdom and appropriateness of spending over four thousand million dollars of federal money on education. Nope. Why not? Because the money is a part of the 2009 legislation known as the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.” Does that sound familiar? It should. It was the so-called “stimulus” act in 2009 that provided over $700 BBBBillion to “stimulate” economic recovery after the 2008-2009 recession. Remember? “Shovel-ready” projects? I guess the administration decided it was time to shovel a bunch of money into the schools. That’s why I hadn’t heard of it. That’s why it wasn’t debated as an education funding bill. It wasn’t an education funding bill! But I certainly do remember the “sky is falling” rhetoric that accompanied the stimulus bill. “Professor” Harold Hill would have been proud.
Oh, and by the way, this is the money that is fueling the whole “Common Core” and high-stakes testing movement. Money of that quantity can do a lot of damage.