Saturday, March 30, 2013

An order of men, whose interest is to deceive and oppress the public

There is layer upon layer to the Atlanta public school cheating episode.

But I was struck by one important aspect of the scandal in the NYT's article Ex-Atlanta Schools Chief Charged in Cheating Scandal.

The interests of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to help cover up what was really going on:
What made Dr. Hall just about untouchable was her strong ties to local business leaders. Atlanta prides itself in being a progressive Southern city when it comes to education, entrepreneurship and race — and Dr. Hall’s rising test scores were good news on all those fronts. She is an African-American woman who had turned around a mainly poor African-American school district, which would make Atlanta an even more desirable destination for businesses.
And so when Mr. Perdue challenged the test results that underpinned everything — even though he was a conservative Republican businessman — he met strong resistance from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
“There was extensive subtle pressure,” Mr. Perdue said. “They’d say, ‘Do you really think there is anything there? We have to make sure we don’t hurt the city.’ Good friends broke with me over this.”
“I was dumbfounded that the business community would not want the truth,” he said. “These would be the next generation of employees, and companies would be looking at them and wondering why they had graduated and could not do simple skills. Business was insisting on accountability, but they didn’t want real accountability.”
Once the special prosecutors’ report was made public, it did not matter what the business community wanted; the findings were so sensational, there was no turning back.
Business leaders are pushing privatization of our schools because they want their hands on those profits (aka our tax dollars). Its the kind of rent seeking that has been decried by honest Economists since the days of Adam Smith.

The business community is the enemy of quality education--not a group that we should be forming friendly alliances with to "reform education".  We don't need education reform.  We just need to educate our kids.  There is a very big difference.

The proposal of any new law or regulation which comes from [businessmen], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.
Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Cause of the Wealth of Nations, vol. 1, pt. xi, p.10 (at the conclusion of the chapter)(1776)

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