“The government should be run like a great American company” – Jared Kushner. Image courtesy of MSNBC.

Let’s admit it. We’ve all had severe cases of writers’s block in our lives. Yes, not only in school, when that big paper was due but later, as adults, when we struggled in penning a letter to someone when we were uncomfortable with the task.

It’s been a while, but writer’s block has also afflicted me in one particular way. Big time.

In order to remedy this ailment, I’m making another attempt to rid myself of a very specific type of writer’s block, viz., how to compose a piece that will convey something very positive about Donald Trump.

Sure, you may need to read that sentence again. Here goes.

Thank you, Donald, for finally helping teachers and school administrators to rid themselves of a myth they’ve been saddled with for god knows how long. A myth that made those who work in the school business feel inferior, less worthy than those who work in the world of business. Never mind that the business of education, unlike the world of business, is the basis of every other profession. Yes, we can thank Trump for those who will be kind enough to reread this paragraph, affirmed in their worth and not be confused anymore with the facts.

We live in a culture that for years has broadcast a pervasive myth that schools should be run like businesses, and that school superintendents and other administrators should act like CEOs or, more ominously, come from the ranks of the business world in the form of business executives rather than from the world of the classroom.

Listen up, humble teachers and school administrators. Disabuse yourselves of that idea right now. We have none other than the example provided by His Eminence, Donald Trump, the self-described omniscient CEO of the Trump Organization and former reality-TV show host, to rid ourselves of the notion that those who come from the business world are somehow more qualified to serve in public schools than trained professional educators.

Yes, thank you, Donald Trump, for showing us that certain Manhattan real estate executives and reality-TV show hosts know little about our democratic system and the art of governance. And yes, thanks for affirming that non-private sector experience – and character – count for something in life.

The disaster that is Donald Trump provides lessons for those who have fostered the myth of a corporate elite class as a needed tonic for educational reform, a term coined to be as deliberately misleading as making those “failing” schools run like businesses.

Never mind that family income is one of the main determinants of student achievement and success in school and that “success” v “failure” is determined in part by zip code. The poverty in the thinking of so-called reformers and right-wing politicians eager to take over poor and struggling urban schools for privatization purposes is notable, encouraging predatory activity, not unlike that practiced by corporate raiders.

As a young school administrator, I heard the tired refrain many years ago of the need for schools to be run like businesses, and that mantra later formed part of the mindset for the school privatization movement in the form of charter schools, where school reform and systemic improvement are supposed to take place in a deregulated environment. But the major problem with deregulation is that you have two sets of rules, one for the public’s schools and another for those corporate entities masquerading as “public” charter schools. And that’s only the beginning of the problem that surrounds corporate schools and their leaders who operate with public tax dollars but also operate with their own set of rules.

Notwithstanding a plethora of slogans and the book Trump never wrote, informed people know that administering public schools is the real Art of the Deal, where teaching and learning intersect with parent and community support. These interactions form the art of and necessity for governance of a vital public asset like our schools.

This synergy is visible in the form of elected school boards chosen by qualified voters in communities where citizens choose fellow citizens to provide proper oversight to schools that are a core part of the community. Compare this with hand-picked corporate boards that supposedly provide cover for charter schools and national charter chains, many of whom are populated, incredibly, by non-citizens, as an Akron Beacon Journal investigation found several years ago.

With the example he provides from the corporate world, we see no art with Trump, but instead, a raw deal which seeks to inform us that business executives like him can ensure that schools will be improved by a simple application of business principles and executive leadership.

It is only now beginning to be understood by many that if you harbor an a priori belief in the schools-should-be-run-as-businesses model, their existential focus will necessarily be on profit, with education as a secondary or even tertiary concern. The electorate should be troubled in realizing that hedge fund managers and others in the world of finance aren’t exactly investors in charter school chains to promote the common good but instead act to promote their own private gain. Again, profit rather than the education of children is a primary motive in the privatization of public schools.

There is something inherently wrong in that approach when crafting public policy.

Nearly two years ago, Plunderbund took a look at the early days of the Trump Administration and offered this view:

As we consider Trump’s glaring incompetence and distorted view about the purpose of government, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, in an article aptly titled Why Trump Shouldn’t Run America Like A Business, was somewhat gentle in his analysis of the narcissistic CEO and his performance to date.

It’s good to have fresh thinking about how government might function more efficiently. But it’s important to remember that government is not a business. The purpose of government is not to show a profit. It is to achieve the common good.

It appears that Trump’s top-down corporate approach to leadership and his disastrous attempt to govern a now divided and angry electorate has spawned some apologists.

“No one expected a businessman to completely understand the nuances, the complicated ins and outs of Washington and its legislative process,” Jeanine Pirro, the firebrand Fox News commentator, said of Trump after the healthcare vote fiasco, as she blamed Speaker Paul Ryan for the debacle.

If a Fox News commentator can concede that a businessman isn’t supposed to know much about government, the same can be said about corporate types operating charter schools.

Really? No one expected a profoundly unqualified narcissist businessman and abusive individual with a history of bankruptcies and no government or military experience to understand the importance of collaboration and principled leadership as essential in governance?

Image courtesy of howcanweresist.com.

Those who are skeptical about celebrities like Trump starting at the top when running for high office, without acquiring some public sector or military experience to temper their civic outlook, should appreciate the views of education professionals who are similarly troubled about those who somehow become instant experts on public education and then are placed in leadership positions with charter school organizations.

To add insult to injury, there is also the sad situation of organizations like Teach for America, which says it can produce competent teachers as the result of a five-week boot camp, or the billionaire-funded Broad Academy, where school superintendents are minted in record time.

Yes, because of his demonstrable incompetence and corresponding inexperience in any kind of public service position, we can again thank Donald Trump for allowing us to further examine the wisdom of producing what used to be termed “ninety-day wonders” (a necessity in wartime), whether Teach for America, Broad Superintendents Academy, or charter school chains, to teach children and lead school organizations in peacetime. The history lesson Trump will provide future generations is that when you have zero experience, don’t expect to start at the top of any organization, let alone the presidency of a great country. How many times do we need to relearn that lesson?

But we’ve been told for decades by the mythmakers that schools somehow should be run like businesses and by business types. Just like the business type who has been involved in six bankruptcies and stiffed the little guys, small business owners like electricians, plumbers, and drywall installers who sometimes worked in Atlantic City casinos.

As we reach the second full year of the Trump presidency, his boasts about knowing more than the generals, more about technology, more about courts and more about Twitter than anyone else rings hollow.  If only he had served in an elective office of some type before starting at the top. Maybe some would then have considered him highly qualified, as teachers must demonstrate in their licensure to meet federal requirements. To somewhat paraphrase Speaker Sam Rayburn, if only Trump had run for sheriff – or like school board or county commissioner.  Historically, that’s been part of and the art of the deal for further public service.

But that assumes that the person we are describing here knows anything about history, let alone government and public service.

Finally, it’s hard to write this last part – just like the beginning, as I tried to shake off writer’s block. But I’ll try:

Once again, let me express my deep appreciation for Donald Trump. You, sir, are not so much an icon but an iconoclast, a mythmaker and a myth destroyer. We especially thank you for being the latter.

 

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