Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Lewis J. Perelman probably wrote his 1992 book, School’s Out, without knowing anything about Oregon’s 1991 major school reform effort, The Oregon Education Act for the 21st Century that then-Senate President John Kitzhaber supported. But he didn’t have to know anything about it to peg what was wrong with it and similar “reforms”.

In the book, he said,

Reform is a hoax. The ‘new, improved’ education it is trying to sell us as an economic savior is really a solid gold life jacket: It glitters for attention. It’s outrageously expensive. And the longer we cling to it, the deeper it will sink us.

Then, in a 1997 interview he was asked:

“Isn’t there still a need to set goals or standards for what people need to learn?”

His answer,

Any effort by government to decipher and then mandate those things can only introduce debilitating distortions. You would not tolerate Al Gore—or for that matter Newt Gingrich—dictating what stocks you have to own to meet your financial investment goals over the next 20 years. Yet you are supposed to trust his ilk to decide what knowledge assets you or your kids are supposed to invest in over the same span. Political leaders have as much chance of dictating or foretelling the future knowledge market as the future stock market.

I have a feeling that if Perelman was asked what he thinks about now-Governor Kitzhaber’s new “reform” effort, with its Oregon Education Investment Board and a new Chief Education Officer charged with “integrating” twenty years of education, pre-kindergarten through graduate school (known as P-20), I have a feeling he’d simply say, “Read my book.”

That’s good advice. School’s Out is out of print, but used copies are available online. In it he predicted that our brick school buildings would eventually be replaced by what he called hyperlearning. Remember this was written before most of us had even seen the world wide web, which would change our world.

One aspect of “hyperlearning” is today’s online charter schools; you know, the ones that Oregon teachers unions are so desperate to shut down.

Read the book, or his interview, and see if you don’t agree that the new reform is the same as the old reform.

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” is the last line in The Who’s song, We Won’t Get Fooled Again.

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.