The Woodburn Christmas Conspiracy

Once upon a time, in the not-so-magical land of Dover, a meeting took place.  It was one of those back-door meetings that the ruler of the state liked to convene.  These were not public meetings in the sense that anyone could attend.  They were usually those of the secret sort where only a select few were invited to attend.  But because the Governor was attending, he felt obligated to report it on his public schedule.  He did this sometimes in an effort to show an illusion of transparency.

In attendance were Governor Carney, Senator David Sokola, State Rep. Earl Jaques, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, Dr. Paul Herdman from Rodel, and Betsy DeVos, the United States Secretary of Education.

It was Christmas Eve and all through the Woodburn the stockings were hung near the space heater with care.  Carney put on his favorite Christmas album on his new record player.  He loved the songs from his youth and they were all included on “Rudolph and Friends”.  The eggnog was passed around to the attendees.  Little did they know two others were also in attendance… of a sort.

When I first got wind of this very odd holiday meeting, I took steps to make sure I was there.  It wasn’t everyday DeVos came to Delaware.  Getting into Woodburn would be hard.  But I also had the cell phone number of the one guy who knew how to get in and out of places with the greatest of ease.

Santa Claus was disappointed.  He thought he had gotten through to John Carney last year.  He was hoping he would be different than the opt out destroyer, but Carney was just as much the master of smoke and mirrors as Jack Markell was.  He kept on top of things through the blogs and the media.  Delaware was a very special place for him.  He saw it as a state of great potential but in the past year that potential was squandered in many ways.

“Betsy, this was all your idea,” Carney said.  “Can you tell everyone why you wanted to meet today of all days?”

“Thanks Governor.  It is my intention to use Delaware as a pilot state for a wonderful idea involving Blockchain technology and digital badges.  Thanks to the Rodel Foundation, we have laid the seeds for full technology immersion in every single Delaware school.  While we may not agree on my voucher ideas, I think Delaware is well-positioned for this innovative change to public education.”

“Thank you Betsy,” Carney said.  “To that end, I would like to first say thank you for coming up here on this snowy Christmas Eve.  It isn’t often we get snow on Christmas in Delaware but when we do, we do it with style.  Secretary Bunting, how do you feel about Betsy’s idea?”

“John, as long as you are on board, I will do whatever you want me to do.”

Santa’s idea worked.  Across the street, in Governor’s Café, I listened to the entire conversation.  Santa’s elves had temporarily knocked out the Governor’s staff and bodyguards before the attendees arrived.  The magical elf dust worked wonders.  The elves inserted listening devices throughout Woodburn.  The Governor’s house had wards against these types of things but they were no match for Santa’s technology.  I could actually see the meeting taking place from the window at Governor’s Café as the members sat around the table.  I could also see the roof of Woodburn.  On top was Santa sitting in his sleigh, shaking his head in bewilderment at the conversation taking place below.

DeVos explained her logic.  “I appreciate your support Secretary Bunting.  But we will also need the Delaware General Assembly’s help.  Which is where you two come in,” as DeVos looked at Sokola and Jaques.  The duo were the heads of the education committees in the Delaware Senate and House of Representatives.  “As you all know,” Betsy said, “Common Core was just the first step in long-term plans which are now reaching fruition.  We needed something to rewire the brains of kids.  It had to be something jarring, a shock to the system of old.  But we had to beta-test those changes so we reached out to companies to create the most convoluted of standardized tests ever made.  Thus, the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC were born.  Sure, some states balked at those tests.  Mostly parents who listened to the teacher unions.  So they changed the name of those tests, but they are all the same thing.  We had to make sure the tests showed similar results.  That our schools were failing our kids.  To do that, we made sure no child took the same test.  Those who were smart did well.  For the most part.  Those who showed an inability to grasp our Common Core curriculum did poorly.  Which is about half the kids in the country.  We predicted this from the very beginning which was why we allowed the opt out revolution.”

Santa’s cheeks began to turn redder than they usually are.  He was not happy about this detailed story.  The very idea of children being used ticked him off in a way he never had before.  This was way beyond naughty or nice.  It was social engineering at it’s finest.  Even Santa felt used.  Two years ago he promoted the idea of opt out.  He could stand for this no longer.  But he had to hear the rest, as hard as it was.  He was hoping the meeting wouldn’t last much longer.  He had a lot to do that night.  But this was important too.  Many folks think Santa works during the month of December, but in reality, it is a year-long job.

DeVos continued.  “Delaware has been the lead state on getting Blockchain technology laws passed.  Through the tech, we will be able to keep accurate detail of every single child in the country.  The data we get from the assessments along with the continual computer apps that are replacing textbooks is a powerful thing.  We now have the ability to remotely suggest career paths to students.  Soon, they will be earning digital badges instead of letter grades.  It’s a lot like the merit badge system in Boy Scouts.  You have to get certain badges to continue to the next step.  Our biggest challenge has, of course, been the teacher unions. ”

I knew all of this already.  Years of research pointed me to these plans.  It wasn’t really a secret at all.  But the enemies of public education had a way of making those who exposed these truths look like tin-hat wearing conspiracy theorists.  Meanwhile, the wind was howling outside.  The snow was coming down faster and faster.  A waitress came up and informed me that due to the blizzard they would be closing early.

“Years ago, with the help of women like Michelle Rhee and Campbell Brown, we began a coordinated attack against the national teacher unions.  We wisely guessed they would want to know of our plans.  So we let them know parts and parcels but not the entire package.  We gave them enough rope to hang themselves.  We let them sit at the table not realizing we devoured them.  Our key state legislators, like you Senator Sokola, were able to get laws passed regarding their evaluations.  We judged their high-needs schools to make the teachers appear to be failures.  This was a very important step.  It allowed for companies like Teach For America and Relay Graduate School to get into schools.  Their purpose was to downplay the role of educators.  While those we sent into schools were fine people, they lacked the true credentials to teach long-term.  Many of them were so indebted to TFA and the like that they moved up the chain.  We inserted them into state education associations, the U.S. Department of Education, and throughout the various companies that support our agendas.”

As Santa listened with a growing rage, he heard the explosion.  Across the street, a tree had fallen onto a utility pole.  The darkness consumed the light around him.  While he could still listen to the conversation, he knew the blogger wouldn’t be able to with no electricity.  He looked over at the blogger in the window and nodded in agreement with him.  They were both thinking the same thing.  They had to get into the building.

“John, what in the name of Jack Markell was that?” Earl Jaques asked.  “Earl, I know you loved Jack immensely, but he’s gone now.  This is my house now.  Please refrain from that kind of language in here.”  Earl apologized.  One of Carney’s bodyguards entered the room.  “We have a situation sir.  Power is out all over Dover and due to the blizzard we won’t be able to get it back for a day or two.  Complicating matters, the temperatures have dipped considerably.  The locks to the shed housing the generators are frozen solid.  We need a blowtorch to get through them.  Unfortunately, that item was cut in the FY2018 budget.”  “It’s alright.  We have a nice toasty fire here.  There are plenty of textbooks to burn.  We’ve been storing them in the basement for twenty years as they dwindled into obscurity,” John replied.  “Betsy, please continue.”

“Thanks John.  The key to all of this was to engage in something you have promoted since the first day you took office.  Public-private partnerships.  We had to change the way schools are funded.  Because of the test scores, we are able to have companies bet on schools.  We call this social impact investing.  We all know the scores aren’t going to change no matter what.  So we give the illusion that companies are investing in the greater good.  What we have done though, is allow for more private funding to transform education into our goals.  As state and federal education funds slowly dwindle and local taxpayers balk at rising property taxes with little to no change in educational outcomes, we are primed to have companies completely take over education.  Teachers are quitting the profession in mass droves.  State education associations are losing critical funding without those teachers.  The rise of charter schools that are not part of those teacher unions will eventually cause state teacher unions to declare bankruptcy.  The days of the public school teacher, standing in front of a classroom and instructing students has come to an end.  We will now send in glorified moderators into the classroom.  Their job is simple: tell the students what to do on their one-to-one devices.  That’s it!  The technology is the new instructor.”

Bunting sat there bewildered.  She knew all of this, but couldn’t help but remember her own past as a teacher.  Had she known what was coming down the road would she have tried to stop it?  When she eventually became the Superintendent of Indian River School District, she had all the hopes and aspirations any new Superintendent has.  She was concerned about the rise of technology in the classroom but soon found it was like trying to stop the wind from blowing.  Which was becoming frightening fierce outside.  She felt indebted to Governor Carney.  When he picked her for his Secretary, her district was in the middle of a scandalous audit investigation into their district finances.  When she discovered her Chief Financial Officer was abusing district funds she knew her name would be smeared across the state.  But Carney saved her from that and lifted her out of the fire.  She was no fan of DeVos, or her boss, but she was her federal counterpart.  When Carney gave her the Regulation 225 idea, she knew it was going to cause a battle across the state, pitching the Delaware State Education Association against parents.  She wasn’t sure where John got the idea.  While the regulation would prevent discrimination against trans-gender students, it was far-reaching in it’s design.  Parents would be an obstacle to the plans to privatize public education.  Delaware, along with other states, had to find a way to give schools authority over parental decisions.  It was already happening with various health issues.  Students were allowed to get pregnancy tests in schools without parental consent.  Parents had no idea how much personal data about their children was going out to companies.

“Today’s students,” Betsy shouted, “are the guinea pigs of tomorrow.  We have found a permanent way to make sure those who control society stay in control.  The families who devised these plans will always be in power.  Politicians have been bought and lobbyists now run the show in D.C. and in each state General Assembly.  The workforce of tomorrow will be the bulk of society while the families reap the profits.  Everything will be standardized down to the finest detail.  We will know what every single American child will do as an adult by the time they are five years old.”

“Over our dead bodies!” we shouted to the education policy makers of Delaware and DeVos.  Santa and I had a back-up plan.  We knew the storm was getting worse by the minute.  Santa gave me the shrinking technology he used to get in and out of homes.  When the power went out, I snuck over to Woodburn.  Before entering the house, I pressed the button.  In a very small crack on the east side of the house, I walked through.  Once on the other side, I pressed the button on Santa’s technology and grew back to my normal size.  Santa was right there.  As DeVos finished her long-winded take of corporate education reform, Santa and I were standing in the doorway.

All the folks in attendance at the meeting sat in shock.  DeVos yelled “Who is this?  What kind of security do you have here Governor?”

“The kind of security that is powerless before the might of the North!” Santa shouted.  “We are the watchers on the wall.  In the North Pole, we have tradition and power.  We are among those on this planet who would put a stop to your plans.  Luckily the blogger caught wind of this.  And because the plans discussed in this room have been shared with the world, the people now know what you are up to.”

It was a brilliant plan.  Santa and I came up with it together.  Each step leading to the next.  Fight technology with technology.  When Santa’s elves put the bodyguards out, they also installed cameras into the room.  Even though the power went out, Santa’s special breed of his own particular Wi-Fi along with the spirit of Christmas allowed an insertion into the NORAD tracking of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.  Every single time a parent or child linked into the NORAD tracking system, they would say a continual feed of the Woodburn meeting, from start to finish.

Betsy DeVos got a call on her cell phone.  It was her boss.  And he was NOT happy.  “You’re fired!” he yelled.  The Governor knew he never should have signed up for this.  He just wanted Delaware to be the best state in the country.  He felt he owed it to the people.  Delaware was his life and he faithfully vowed to guide the First State into the future.  But this…

Sokola, Jaques and Herdman ran out of Woodburn.  “We must find Jack”, Herdman yelled.  Sokola tripped over a mound of snow and twisted his ankle.  Jaques ran smack dab into one of Rudolph’s antlers.  It knocked one of his front teeth out.  Inside, Secretary Bunting told Carney she was resigning, effective immediately.  She left.

Carney asked his bodyguards to clear the room.  It was down to Santa, myself, and the Governor.

“I should have listened to you a year ago Santa,” John said.  “I listened to the wrong people.  I put the wrong people in power.  Now Delaware is the laughingstock of the country.  We made the nuts look like geniuses.”

“There is a time and a purpose for everything John.  When I showed you around Delaware, I knew exactly what would happen.  I knew this day would come.  I knew the plans of those who would steal the creativity of children would be exposed eventually.  In reality, I was guiding you to this very moment,” Santa explained.  “I had to get the help of the blogger.  We devised a plan where he would constantly put the heat on you.  He actually likes you and sees the potential for a great leader in you.  But he had to keep the pressure on you about transparency.  He rightly assumed the more he did this the more you would show a complete and utter disregard for transparency.  It was a trap that you fell for with a surprising amount of ease.  I have to get to my regular job, delivering hope and joy to children across the world.  Merry Christmas John.  Santa fist-bumped the blogger and left.  It was down to the blogger and John.

“So, Kevin, what happens now?” John asked.

“We rebuild.  We take the lessons from today and learn.  We undo the wrongs done to children and teachers and families and make things right.”

In the days ahead, that was exactly what happened.  Governor Carney made sure all the laws and regulations inserted into Delaware state code that furthered the reformer agenda were undone.  Schools became what they were meant to be, a place where students could learn and teachers could teach.  Delaware was the first state to come up with their own education curriculums as allowed by the Every Student Succeeds Act.  It took every single school district and charter school in the state to work together to come up with plans that allowed every student to thrive.  One-on-one technology was banned from schools with the exception of students who brought in their cell phones to call Mom or Dad in the case of an emergency.  Print returned in the years ahead as text books returned to the classroom.  Students were no longer tracked through endless streams of data.  With the end of the standardized test label and punish scheme, schools were no longer judged by failure.  As a result, since each student was no longer tracked and catalogued, schools returned to their normal feeder patterns.  No school had lower populations of minorities, English language learners, or students with disabilities.  Teachers returned to the profession and funding grew for education once Delaware led the way in creating new funding formulas to best serve students and not companies.

 

 

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