Blockbuster is to traditional public schools what Netflix is to charter schools. That’s the gist of an October 3 post on the D-Ed Reckoning blog. It’s supposed to be a cautionary tale about how prosperity can give way to bankruptcy in the world of videotape rentals unless the market strategists keep their fingers on the pulse of consumers and stay up to speed with the latest vogues in industrial development.
The analogy is a flop because it likens the service of public education to the unrelated values of bottom-line entrepreneurship. The metaphors take on ridiculous shapes. Blockbuster was almost a monopoly; now it’s lost in the shuffle. Capital gone is lifeblood spilled.
“Our public schools are stuck in a Blockbuster world,” says the blogger, adding “Blockbuster had settled into a mode of business that was good for Blockbuster and not so good for consumers. Public schools have done the same. The only real difference is that public schools are immune from market forces and can only be dislodged from their heavily entrenched position via political forces.”
Political forces? Now that smacks of code language. The blogger notes that “other providers” (referring to Netflix but insinuating the specter of charter schools) entered the market , “providing the products and services consumers wanted,” such as the end of “late fees and trudging out to the local store.”
What we presumably need is to make public education more slick and chock-a-block with instant gratifications. The blogger, itemizing the transformative innovations of Netflix and their collective relevance to the lagging public school modus operandi, notes that the effects “must have been incredibly disruptive to Blockbuster’s ‘stakeholders.’ Did you read any tearful op-eds about how the institution of Blockbuster must be saved to protect the public good of readily available video rentals?”
Poking fun at the concept of a learning environment’s “stakeholders” (because they’re not stockholders?) and the word “institution” to describe the legacy of traditional public schools, suggests that the blogger may aspire to be one of the “political forces” that he cites as the guardians of the task of overthrow.
Perhaps the blogger is the bearer, not the begetter of the message. Maybe he’s just exposing a commonly-held misconception. In any case, before the closing bell rings, it’s time to take stock in our kids, not make stock out of them.