What kind of stock are New York education officials selling?
By Sue Altman, EduShyster Academy
I’m usually a big typo apologist—except when it comes to scripted agendas issued by the New York State Education Department. I’ve CC’d the wrong people, attached the wrong drafts, and once, accidentally submitted a group paper in business school entitled, “Marketing Total BS, Group 21.doc.” So I’m willing to forgive mistakes, except when they offer priceless insight into what’s really going on at the New York State Education Department, the epicenter of BS marketing in New York. This week, EngageNY posted an agenda for a parent workshop. Embedded in a script designed for superintendents and districts to “educate” their communities about the Common Core implementation there is a very insightful line, an artifact from an earlier draft:
So what? you say. That’s a little embarrassing for the NYSED, sure—but haven’t we all posted the wrong draft at some point? But it matters. It matters because it is a little window into their continued BS marketing plan.
What is a “stock message” exactly? To any self-respecting MBA, “stock” means “stock market.” Obviously that’s not the “stock” being referred to here because if parents were shareholders they could vote to remove a director.
So perhaps “stock” refers to “merchandise kept on the premises of a business or warehouse and available for sale.” In other words, the prepackaged, ready-made stuff lined up in the back of a warehouse, ready to be sold to the next customer. Hear that, New York? Commissioner King’s office is launching a marketing campaign in order to unload the Common Core inventory education officials are stuck with. You guys going to buy it? I’m guessing not; New Yorkers can spot a shady deal a hundred blocks away.
“Stock” can also mean a “phrase so regularly used as to be automatic or hackneyed.” SO which is it, Commissioner King? Are you trying to sell parents a load of pre-bought, standardized goods, or are you merely peppering this document with automatic, standardized, hackneyed messages that are sure to hit all the right education reform cliches? By now we all know the list by heart: “College and career readiness,” “achievement gap,” “student-centered reforms,” “failing schools.” There’s no point in us asking for any actual intellectual engagement on any of this—there isn’t any. These phrases are stock: repetitive and simple by design, there to shut us up and keep us moving. They aren’t meant to be nuanced or thoughtful.
By filling this script with “stock language” education officials demean the very meaning of engagement. “Stock language” has already been preselected and sanitized, vetted and selected. It is not responsive, adaptive, illustrative or engaging. What Engage NY offers is nothing more than an expensive, BS marketing plan for experimental policy that even Bill Gates concedes “might not work.” And through all this experimentation, New York children are the guinea pigs.
How dare the NYSED take such a cavalier, going-through-the-motions approach to “Engaging” New York? How dare they misuse the word “Engage” so ironically? To Engage is to enter into a give-and-take, a meaningful, thoughtful discussion with a community of parents and students who will be most affected by the Common Core policy. But, the NYSED has done no such thing, despite claiming it has. From the stacked forums in NY where Tisch and King chose handpicked questions from a pre-selected audience to King’s insistence that the Common Core’s unpopularity is due to “misinformation,” there has been NO willful “engagement”—and no end to examples of meaningless, simplistic, marketing BS.
As for the “Marketing Total BS, Group 21.doc.” that my fellows and I mistakenly handed in, luckily the professor was a non-confrontational British gentleman. He ignored our embarrassing mistake and our overly simplistic (and admittedly ale-fueled)marketing plan for what was quite possibly the most ill-conceived product on earth: a dorm refrigerator that was also a microwave.
Unfortunately for John King, New York parents are much more confrontational than aging British professors. Good luck selling your BS.
Sue Altman recently completed a dual Master’s degree in International and Comparative Education and Business Administration at the University of Oxford, UK. Follow her on Twitter at @suealtman.
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