Does Education Need Its Own Edward Snowden?

In case you somehow missed it, Edward Snowden is the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who recently became a whistleblower.  Mr. Snowden used his position to gain access to and then leak information that showed that the government of the United States is violating its own Constitution by running a number of pervasive surveillance programs on its own citizens (as well as citizens of other countries).

I can’t help but wonder: with all of the horrible initiatives being implemented recently in the name of education, does education need its own Edward Snowden?

I would argue that we need whistleblowers from places like:

  • Pearson.  High-stakes tests are supposed to be kept under wraps, but one high-stakes test question in New York about a talking pineapple was so absurd that it was leaked anyway.  Pearson was paid $32 million to overhaul the New York state tests, but the tests themselves are never released publicly.  What if someone from Pearson realized the damage that high-stakes testing was doing to our children, and decided to leak all of the test items from past years’ tests?  Is it possible that we would find that the talking pineapple question was just the tip of the iceberg?  Is it possible that we might even come to the realization that as we look at these tests more closely, we realize how ineffective and imprecise a measurement tool they really are?
  • K12 Inc.  K12 is a for-profit company that runs virtual schools which, despite doing a horrible job of actually educating students, are absolute cash cows.  What if someone who worked there collected both the company’s complete financial data and data on collective student performance, then leaked it publicly?  Might we be appalled at the huge amount of tax money, intended for students’ benefit, which was instead being (A) spent on advertising and (B) kept as profit?  Might we be so disturbed by the academic performance of these for-profit online schools that states would be pressured into de-funding them?
  • Urban school districts like Chicago.  Chicago Public Schools have been in the news recently, with some leaders there that their budgets are so bleak that they might not be able to afford toilet paper next year.  That’s ridiculous.  The situation in places like Detroit, Los Angeles, and many other inner cities  are similarly dire.  What if a janitor who worked in one of those districts decided to film every sign of decay he or she encountered for an entire year, from broken windows to leaky roofs to a lack of basic supplies?  This whistleblower could then leak that information publicly to media sources, who could make everyone aware of how bad things really are in these schools.  Is it possible that this would awaken our collective conscience and help us all to decide to pass that next bond issue that came our way?  Might this sort of leak inspire us to draw a line in the sand, to say that all children deserve things like soap, toilet paper, and potable water in their schools?

A leaked video of Mitt Romney’s infamous quote about “the 47 percent” helped shape the trajectory of the 2012 U.S. Presidential election.  Is it possible that the best way to get education back on track is from a leak like those described above?

2 thoughts on “Does Education Need Its Own Edward Snowden?

  1. A friend who’s sister-in-law works at Peck Elementary in CPS just posted this student-made video on Facebook. Their school is at 206% capacity, with teachers having to teach in the hallways, cafeteria and former locker rooms, and students have to eat breakfast and lunch in the classrooms as a result. They were promised an addition to their school 10 years ago but have yet to receive anything from the district. I agree that whistle-blowing like this needs to happen so people can see the conditions under which our nation’s teachers and students are subject. Now if only this could be national news!

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