What We Talk About When We Talk About the Corporate Education Agenda

“Corporate education agenda” gets thrown around a lot. But what does it really mean? In the latest episode of the Have You Heard podcast, we talk to economist Gordon Lafer, whose book The One Percent Solution, offers a comprehensive account comprehensive account of legislation promoted by the nation’s biggest corporate lobbies across all fifty state legislatures. The top topic of all of that legislation? Education. Lafer explains why major corporations – household names like Kraft Foods or United Airlines – have become active players in the realm of education policy. Warning: #29 may be our bleakest episode yet! (Note: full transcript of the episode coming soon.)

How Closing Schools Undermines Democracy

In  2013, a PhD student named Sally Nuamah attended a community meeting in the Chicago neighborhood where she’d grown up and where a public school was slated for closure. Residents talked about the issue in “life or death” terms, recalls Nuamah, who has been studying the long-term impact of the school closures. In this episode, Have You Heard talks to Nuamah about one such impact: a decline in voter participation and support for Democrats. Why would shuttering schools cause a drop in political engagement? And why would local residents fight so hard to keep open schools that, according to many metrics, were failing?Well, you’ll just have to listen and find out! To learn more about Nuamah’s work, visit her website. A full transcript of the episode is now available.

School Reform TV: The “New” Philanthropists of Public Education

Have You Heard listens in on the recent XQ Superschools Live spectacular, the big budget, star-studded TV extravaganza aimed at “rethinking high school,” brought to you by Silicon Valley billionairess Laurene Powell Jobs. Co-host Jack Schneider examines the claims that high school hasn’t changed in 100 years. (Did you know that he’s an education historian???). We’re joined by Megan Tompkins Stange, author of Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence helps us see the world of public education as a billionaire edu-reformer does. It’s Have You Heard #27! Read the transcript here.

Divided by Design: Race, Neighborhoods, Wealth and Schools

Have You Heard sits down with Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. It’s a ground-breaking, mind-changing book, and you should read it, but in the meantime, we’ve helpfully distilled Rothstein’s 10 years of work down to 30+ minutes. He blows up the myth that our segregated cities and neighborhoods—and by extension our schools—are the product of millions of private choices. The legacy of the segregation created by federal housing policy remains with us today in the form of a stark racial wealth gap and what Rothstein describes as a “caste system.” And he has little patience for arguments that school choice is the solution to cities and neighborhoods segregated by design. “We’re not going to solve this problem by choosing schools were going to solve this problem by enforcing the neighborhood school concept in integrated neighborhoods.” Full transcript here.

Big Philanthropy, Small Change (and the same mistakes made again and again)

Have You Heard revisits Bill Gates’ efforts to *rethink* American high schools. Writer Michael Hobbes spent two weeks embedded at his former high school, Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School, chronicling the school’s transformation into small learning communities in this feature story. Inspired by what he saw at Hale High, and the role of teachers in re-imagining the school, Hobbes delved deep into what happened when Gates et al tried to scale up the small schools reforms. His story, recounted in episode #25, is a scathing indictment of big money reformers who think school improvement is simple work, requiring only the right *fix* and deep pockets. Did I mention that Hobbes wrote a great story? I recommend making this episode of Have You Heard a multimedia experience… Full transcript is available here.