Here is a letter to Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil’s chairman and chief executive, from veteran educator Carol Burris, in response to remarks he made about public schools, which are described in full in the previous post.
The remarks were included in a Fortune magazine story on the Common Core entitled, “Business Gets Schooled,” in which author Peter Elkind chronicles in detail the involvement of big business in the development of the Common Core State Standards, as well as the lengths to which prominent individuals, including Bill Gates, have gone to sell the Common Core to politicians and the public.
In Elkind’s story, Tillerson emerges as a new character in the Common Core battle, one who threatens politicians who do not support the Common Core. Tillerson, who will be mandated to retire within the next few years, refused to speak with Elkind.
Using Tillerson’s public remarks, Elkind attributes the following to the CEO:
“I’m not sure public schools understand that we’re their customer—that we, the business community, are your customer,” said Tillerson during the panel discussion. “What they don’t understand is they are producing a product at the end of that high school graduation…Now is that product in a form that we, the customer, can use it? Or is it defective, and we’re not interested?” American schools, Tillerson declared, “have got to step up the performance level—or they’re basically turning out defective products that have no future. Unfortunately, the defective products are human beings. So it’s really serious. It’s tragic. But that’s where we find ourselves today.”
Here is the letter Burris wrote in response to these comments:
Dear Mr. Tillerson,
Please leave our children alone. We do not need you to develop them as products. They are neither kerogen nor shale.
Your Dickensian thinking has been “outed” and this holiday season, you are as welcome as the ghost of Christmas past. The common-folk for whom the Core you adore was designed, do not like it—only 24 percent of public school parents want it used in their school. And they certainly do not like to hear their children referred to as “defective products.” Mr. Tillerson, you have made the mommies and daddies mad.
I understand their reaction must confound you. In a world in which your corporation has been declared a person, one might mistake human children for products to consume. When we humanize the inanimate, it is easy for the humanity of the animate to slip away.
But let me make this clear — our children are not products for your purchase. You, and the captains of industry (or whatever you call yourselves this century), are not “the customers.” School is not a training camp to work on oilrigs, to pump gas or design lubricants. There is just enough democracy left to make students know they have choices, and more than enough parental commonsense left to know that community control of schools is slipping away.
We are so sorry to disappoint.
The story line is not as simple as the one told by Peter Elkind. The resistance against the Common Core is far more than a push from the right. Come visit New York. Parents don’t like it because their kids are frustrated and confused—it has been, from start to finish, a mess. Business and colleges cannot define their own desired academic outcome and then use it to map learning backwards. Kids do not grow backwards; they grow forwards. Learning progress is uneven. It intersects with social, developmental and biological factors, none of which can be ignored. Those who don’t know sludge from shinola when it comes to teaching kids sold you junk science.
I do thank you for your candid remarks, however. The curtain has once again been pulled back to expose Oz, and the resistance to the corporate reform agenda will grow. Like Arne Duncan’s awful “white suburban mom” comment, your reasoning on why we need the Common Core will surely be repeated again, and again, and again.
Mommies and daddies don’t forget.