In 1971, corporate lawyer and future U.S. Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell wrote a detailed memo that galvanized a small group of conservative philanthropists to create an organizational structure and fifty-year plan to alter the political landscape of the United States. Funded with significant “dark money,” the fruits of their labor are evident today in the current political context and sharp cultural divisions in society. Philanthropy, Hidden Strategy, and Collective Resistance examines the ideologies behind the philanthropic efforts in education from the 1970s until today. Authors examine specific strategies philanthropists have used to impact both educational policy and practice in the U.S. as well as the legal and policy context in which these initiatives have thrived. The book, aimed for a broad audience of educators, provides a depth of knowledge of philanthropic funding as well as specific strategies to incite collective resistance to the current context of hyperaccountability, privatization of schooling at all levels, and attempts to move the U.S. further away from a commitment to the collective good.
The traditional public–private sector distinctions across schooling options in the United States continue to manifest against a backdrop of constitutional concerns and deep philosophical questions surrounding the purpose of an education and how it is to be delivered. Overall, the marketization of education has relied on, and subsequently reinforced, a reimagining of education away from a public or common good to that of an individualistic good whereby schools compete in an education marketplace for the commodity and customers that are students. In what follows, we argue that a more nuanced analysis of the “privatization of education” reveals that it is, in fact, privatized public policymaking that has led to marketization and the privatization of the “purpose” of education. These have become major forces in education reform in the US.
While think tanks are a global phenomenon, their role in shaping US policy offers an instructive example of think tank influence on policymaking due to the immensity of resources directed towards those ends, with education policy serving as a prime example. Focusing on a distinct set of ‘‘incentivist’’ education policies, this analysis describes the think tank-philanthropy linkage in US education policymaking. We offer examples of how philanthropists provide financial, empirical and political resources to advance think tanks’ policy ideas through advocacy networks; describe the multiple functions performed through advocacy networks of intermediary organisations, noting the diffusion of form and function around tasks such as knowledge production, political and media support; and we highlight the ways in which US venture philanthropists and think tanks connect around ‘‘idea orchestration’’ in order to advance ideas in policy processes. We suggest that, especially in the realm of incentivist policies, think tanks do not appear to produce or incubate but rather promote ideas, and actually often only a single idea. The concluding discussion considers advantages evident in idea orchestration and the implications of private control of public policymaking.
At the core of questions surrounding the marketization of education and the elevation of privatization over public schooling options is a fundamental question about the purpose and benefits of education. Understood as a common good, public education, with its requisite public oversight, operations, and efforts to equalize (albeit, not fully realized), assumes the benefits of education to be broader than the individual. Also, and perhaps more importantly, public education accentuates the notion that there is a collective obligation towards providing quality, equal, and equitable resources for all students. When education is conceived as an individualistic commodity best bought and traded in the open educational marketplace, the locus of responsibility and obligation (both morally and financially) shifts away from the collective community and becomes centered on the individual. As such, if we shift our conception of public education away from being understood as the cornerstone of U.S. democracy into a reimagining of it as an individualistic good, we will likely reinforce the very inequalities and inequities that educational reformers suggest might be ended through market solutions. Retaining an understanding of education as a public good is a fundamental prerequisite for those legitimate calls for equity reforms. If schooling is in the best interest of the society at large, the onus to improve rests with the society and, thus, has the best chance at collective improvement. Reimagining education as an individualistic good ultimately releases society and communities of their shared obligation to our children by putting the onus for improvement squarely into individual hands — which can only further exacerbate inequality as such practices would reify and reinforce the socioeconomic and racial disparities that are already a problem in U.S. society, its schools, and within its democracy writ large.
This chapter profiles how three educational researchers utilize blogs and social media in varying frequency (prolific, occasional, sporadic) to have a larger influence on policy conversations and decisions. The chapter is also a guide for educational researchers, faculty, and graduate students to improve the visibility and impact of their research. We provide examples on how prolific, occasional, and sporadic bloggers can better situate their scholarship so that it has a greater impact in the public discourse.
We open this chapter with the understanding that educational policy is political and that the issues and realities within American public education have historical roots that remain largely unchanged and power dynamics that continue to reproduce inequity and inequalities. Given the oversized role that power dynamics and inequality play in educational policy, the scope of this chapter is to briefly define and address critical approaches to relevant educational policy research. Because educational policy is political, the study of educational policy is inherently political. Thus, it is important to study educational policy and educational policy research through critical lenses that center the systematic critique of systems of power and amplify the need for justice. We argue that a critical approach to educational policy is vital given that ignoring—willfully or ignorantly—power dynamics will always work to provide support and cover for the status quo that has fos- tered decades of systematic racial, economic, and gendered inequality in schools and, subsequently, in the broader society.
Market-based education reform has gained momentum from a comingling of ideology, methods, and funding fomented by allied political actors. The school choice movement has provided a strong foundation for the expansion of private control and privatization during the past two decades and has sought justification of that support through research funded by and within the reform network (Vasquez Heilig & Clark, 2018). Yet, the use of research within the domain of school choice in communities is often a more severe case of the disconnect between research, practice, and policy. The lack of strong, positive research evidence on market-based school choice does not support its implementation at scale—nevertheless, the approach has rapidly been integrated into education policy.
For a number of decades, right-wing foundations and non-governmental organizations funded by a small number of interconnected wealthy benefactors have sought to influence academic and student discourse on college and university campuses. While the more traditional organizations have been College Republicans and tea-party oriented groups, the most notable among the latter types of organizations are TurningPoint USA (TPUSA), Campus Reform (CR), and for much of its history, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). These radical organizations have risen in prominence over the past decade as they have received significant funding from venture philanthropists that share their political ideology (e.g., the Koch Brothers) in addition to a growing platform on conservative media outlets such as Fox News (deMarrais, Brewer, Herron, Atkinson, & Lewis, 2019). Subsequently, organizations like TPUSA employ specific tactics designed to create viral social-media exposure (This American Life, 2018). While we readily acknowledge the benefits of having a diversity of political opinion on college campuses and applaud the well-intentioned efforts of students who engage in civil dialogue from both the political Left and Right, we explore in this chapter the rise of what is decidedly a new type of student-oriented organization that is less interested in dialogue and more interested in visceral and toxic actions that undermine democratic engagement. This paper will examine each of these three organizations, their founding, corporate structure, funding, shared connections, use of traditional and new forms of media, and explore the impacts these tactics have on democratic engagement and campus culture.