I’ve been looking for a common thread in everything I’ve written about what is taking place in Delaware education. One person, so deeply embedded in the forces that are privatizing public education before our very eyes. I believe I found it. A common link to the initiatives taking place. The Public/Private partnerships. Workforce Development. The Delaware Business Roundtable and the Delaware Chamber of Commerce. The Rodel/Vision Coalition. Personalized Learning. The philanthropic ventures into public education. Pathways to Prosperity. I believe I just found the most powerful person in Delaware who is calling ALL the shots. And most of you have probably never even heard the name.
Gary Stockbridge was just appointed the Chair of the Delaware Chamber of Commerce yesterday. He also serves as the Chair of the following: Vision Coalition, Delaware United Way, and President of Markell and Carney’s Workforce Development Board. In addition to that, he serves as a board member of the Delaware Business Roundtable and the Delaware Public Policy Institute. He is also on the Delaware Pathways Steering Committee. He served on the House Bill #90 Enrollment Preferences Task Force. That is a lot of power resting on the head of one man. Which means he is a key person in the corporate education reform movement in Delaware. The hybridization of public education is well-positioned in the form of Stockbridge. He is in pivotal positions to make sure things happen with the reformer’s bidding.
I used to think Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was the enigmatic bogeyman of Delaware education. But Stockbridge seems to have consolidated leadership roles in all the areas making headway (or mush depending on your point of view) into the privatization of public education. And none of these are his day job either. Stockbridge is the Region President for Delmarva Power. For those who do not know this, Delmarva Power was one of the key players in the creation of charter schools in Delaware. The Charter School of Wilmington will always have a board seat for someone from Delmarva.
Want to know who else sits on the Board over at United Way? None other than Dorrell Green, from the Office of Improvement and Innovation over at the Delaware Department of Education. Just an FYI.
This is a figure that looms so large in Delaware that even a Governor would do whatever he wants. Carney might be his latest puppet. Stockbridge is a name I’ve seen all over the place but I never cross-referenced all the places I’ve seen his name on. Is he the man behind the curtain? Is he the one getting all the eclairs for the annual Vision Coalition gig? I have never seen anyone in Delaware with their fingers in so many pies. Gary Stockbridge. A name most aren’t familiar with. But he is there, a shadow in all our lives.
I don’t have an issue with career-focused education as long as there are limitations to it. What I do have extreme problems with is HOW it is being done. The point of education is for a student to move on after high school to either college or a career. It can no longer be assumed that college is the only answer for many students. But when things like standardized testing, competency-based education, and algorithms set up in digital education technology steer students toward certain career paths, I am vehemently against that. Would Gary Stockbridge be okay if he was a child in today’s education and someone told him he should forge ahead with a welding career pathway based on how he does in school? Of course not. So why should any student listen to this kind of garbage? The workforce of tomorrow should be the same as the workforce of yesterday: you get there through hard work and sweat, whether you are a doctor or an engineer. But the beauty of that is the freedom of choice. People should determine what they want to be, not technology in a classroom. There is guidance in schools but there should not be predetermination. There is a huge difference.
The forays made into public education by those who seek to profit off it, whether in the short-term or the long-term, are an abomination. We listen to millionaires more than the people on the ground floor. But by the time education digital certifications really get going on the Blockchain technology, it will be too late. This will just be the way things are done and students and parents will be helpless before the almighty algorithm. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Wake up! Parents SHOULD be the most powerful voice in education. Instead they have stood in the back corner while education has become a corporate behemoth. It is NOT too late though. While things like Common Core and Smarter Balanced are parts of education, it is NOT too late to turn that around. If we ALL collectively use our voices to bring back sanity to public education, we will be heard. We have to be louder than dollars.
Our educators have their backs against the walls. They have a voice but they can only use it in moderation because they are constantly under fear of losing their jobs. Our teacher unions are also in a tough spot. While forces converge on them with the threat of annihilation and dwindling membership, they are forced to sit at the tables with people like Stockbridge and collaborate. Collaboration is the enemy. The Delaware Way is a steaming pile of horse manure. We know this but we let people like Governor Carney tell us this is the way to go. And as I’ve said a million times, this is not a political thing. It is a greed thing. It is a control thing. And we have allowed it to continue. Now we have to make it stop.