COMMON CORE Education Without Representation


My brother called the other day to ask me what I thought of the radio ads for “Prosperity 2020.” In my gut I knew there was something bad about it, but I couldn’t put my finger on what.  But thanks to Professor Steven Yates’ white paper on the subject of public-private partnerships, now I get it.

It wasn’t just “Prosperity 2020″ that made me do this research.  I’d also been working out why UT Sen. Osmond’s early childhood education bill, SB17, was so wrong.  It was more than SB17′s way of tempting low income parents to drop their kids in the free government daycare to go to work that made me so uncomfortable.  It was also, I now clearly see, the fact that Osmond’s bill uses private money to create a public service.

The Governor’s project is Prosperity 2020; Osmond’s is  SB17.

So why are both Governor Herbert and Senator Osmond –two Utah Republicans who call themselves conservatives– pushing for public-private partnerships (PPPs)  in Utah?

I still believe that these are decent men who honestly believe their respective projects will benefit Utah.

But sincerity does not trump truth.

Herbert’s Prosperity 2020 and Osmond’s SB17  create public-private partnerships that compromise vital American principles of free enterprise and limit the self-control of citizens’ lives by allowing unelected businesspeople, with government, to view individuals as collectively owned  “human capital.”

There’s nothing wrong with businesses and government working in harmony; of course, that is what a good society does.  Problems come when business leaders (unelected) begin to shape binding government policies.  An elected politician is accountable to his consituency of voters who can unelect him. But who, for example, is Microsoft’s or Pearson company’s constituency?  When Pearson or Gates help set binding education / business policies for Utah, how can voters alter that?

(It must be especially difficult for Senator Osmond to recognize the trouble with blending business and government, since he sits on the Senate Education Committee while being employed by Pearson, the company Utah has partnered with to provide educational technology and educational products.  –But that’s a topic for another day. )

It’s not that these men are calculating socialists.  Not at all; they’re just short on research.  They don’t recognize what their new alignments of public-private partnerships (PPPs) end up creating.

Many have explained the trouble with blending business and government in partnership. They call it soft fascism: I think of it as fascism by consensus.  In the case of Prosperity 2020, it’s soft, consensual fascism via good marketing.  (Have you heard the many recent radio ads for Prosperity 2020?)

I’ve never seen PPPs (Public Private Partnerships) better explained than by Professor Steven Yates, whose white paper on the subject was presented at a conference at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in 2006.  I’m going to quote him extensively here.

His paper, “Sustainable Development: Public-Private Partnerships, the undermining of free enterprise, and the emergence of soft facism Sustainable Development: the Hidden Threat to Liberty, was published a few years ago: (

Professor Yates’ paper is long but great.  See it here.

I’ve taken the time to scoop up his main points.

  • Public-private partnerships really amount to economic control—they are just one of the key components of the collectivist edifice
  • The individual person does not own himself; he exists to serve the state or the collective
  • Public-private partnerships bring about a form of “governance” alien to the founding principles of Constitutionally limited government, government by consent of the governed
  • The PPP system is fascist since it involves corporations and governments working together to make policy; it is soft fascist because it is not overtly totalitarian.
  • Vocationalism in education makes sense if one’s goals are social engineering, since it turns out worker bees who lack the  tools to think about the policies shaping their lives

Yates also writes:

“What is a public-private partnership? What purposes were they supposedly created to serve? What, on the other hand, is free enterprise? Are the two compatible? In answering these questions we shall see that although advocates of public-private partnerships frequently speak of economic development, public-private partnerships really amount to economic control—they are just one of the key components of the collectivist edifice being built…

…How did the enthusiasm for public-private partnerships begin, and what do they have to do with sustainable development? We can the idea of the comprehensively planned society at least to Plato, who envisioned such a society in his Republic. In the Republic, there is a place for everyone and everyone knows his place. Properly educated philosopher-kings rule—because by virtue of their educations they are most suited to rule.

…In modern times we must cite the collectivism of Jean-Jacques Rousseau…  And we could cite G.W.F. Hegel (author of The Philosophy of Right and other works), inventor of the idea of the state as the historical manifestation of the Absolute. In the Hegelian vision, the individual belongs to the state.

…Characteristic of all these visions is that once implemented, the individual person does not own himself; he exists to serve the state or the collective. He is not to be allowed to direct his own paths, but is compelled down paths laid by those in power…

…The long-term goal here is what can be increasingly envisioned as an emerging world state with many facets (the three E’s of sustainable development being equity, economy, environment—with a prospective ‘fourth E’ being education).

This world state will gradually subsume and eradicate nation-states until the phrase United States of America names not a sovereign country but a large tract of micromanaged real estate—at least half of which will be off-limits to human beings.

By the start of the 2000 decade, one city or town after another all across the country was bringing in “consultants” and having “visioning” sessions.

… Communities began to be transformed from within, typically with the full cooperation of mayors and other elected officials, other local government officials, business groups such as the local Chamber of Commerce, presidents of local colleges, and neighborhood-association groups. Plans with names such as Vision 2025… would result from these sessions.

… The idea was to build up a form of capitalism that would transform itself into socialism via the collectivization of its participants through, e.g., self-directed work teams...Education had become entirely group-focused through group projects and group grades. Thus the business personnel turned out would have no moral center other than the collectivist one. It also became increasingly vocation-focused….

…In some cases, the use of public-private partnerships to facilitate the construction of more government schools has been promoted. On other occasions, public-private partnerships actually get involved in instruction and curriculum development themselves, sometimes beginning with very small children, e.g., the Child  Care Partnership Project. This entity serves as a kind of incubator for public-private partnerships between state-level child care administrators and businesses, nonprofits, foundations, and other groups.

Education, unsurprisingly, is a preoccupation of elite groups such as the World Economic Forum, which sponsored the Global Education Initiative… The vision for the Global Education Initiative (GEI) was conceived during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2003. Together, business leaders of the Information Technology and Telecommunications Community of the Forum launched an initiate to create new sustainable models for education reform in the developing world through public-private partnership.

… School-To-Work education, of course, emphasizes vocation at the expense of academics, i.e., traditional subject areas

Vocationalism in education makes sense, if one’s goals are social engineering. It will turn out human worker bees who lack the mental tools to think about the policies shaping their lives.

… [The US] first integrated education and government via the Goals 2000 Educate America Act, then education and business via the School-to-Work Opportunities Act and finally business and government with the others via the Workforce Investment Act.

…Among the casualties of this system are traditional academic subjects, which are relegated to the status of decorations as job training is ratcheted up.

Students are compelled to select a “career cluster” as early as the eighth grade. As they near graduation they find themselves sent to work sites for labor training instead of in classrooms learning reading, mathematics, history, government, and so on.

Public-private partnerships are fundamentally different from previous organizations and collaborations that have involved business… their widespread adoption is bringing about a form of “governance” that is alien to the founding principles of the United States (Constitutionally limited government, government by consent of the governed) and inimical to individual liberty.

We have begun to see government not by consent of the governed, but “governance” (i.e., control) by committee, and by bureaucracy.

This brand of “governance” employs an arsenal of tricks imported from behavioral psychology, such as the use of Delphi technique to coerce a “consensus” by intimidating and marginalizing critics.

… Government  “partnerships” … do not stem from its mandate to protect life, liberty, and private property...

Public-private partnerships do not fit into the conceptual model of free enterprise.

… We should be vigilant to the possibility—probability—that something has gone badly wrong even if the language of free enterprise is still used…  A public-private partnership will always have as its goal a business-making venture that requires some form of “governance.”  The question is, since the players will vary in experience and wealth, who has the most power? We know from life itself that whoever has the most money has the power… Representative government loses… free enterprise is compromised. The economic system begins its move from a one based on liberty and productivity to one based on control

If corporations have the most money—as is often the case—they will obtain levels of power that make them as dangerous as any government not on a constitutional leash.

[Soft fascism] can be understood only in the context of the “fourth E” of sustainable development: education.

American history discloses two broad philosophies of education, what I will call the classical model and the vocational model.

The classical model incorporates the full scope of liberal arts, including history and civics, logic and philosophy, theology, mathematics as reasoning, economics including personal finance and money management. Its goal is an informed citizen who understands something of his or her heritage and of the principles of sound government and sound economics generally.

The vocational model considers education sufficient if it enables to graduate to be a tradesman or obedient worker.

History, logic, etc., have little to contribute to this, and so are ratcheted down, as in the School-To-Work model.

Mathematical education, for example, will be sufficient if it enables students to use calculators instead of their brains…

He will go along… according to the Hegelian model of education that subordinated the individual to the “needs” of the state or of society.… vocational programs “school” students to fit the needs of the “global economy” seen as an autonomous, collective endeavor, instead of educating individuals to find their own ways in the world, shaping the economy to meet their needs.

This system is fascist since it involves corporations and governments working together to make policy; it is soft fascist because (due to the lack of genuine education) it is not overtly totalitarian.

… This is not a “conspiracy theory,” even though you will not hear it reported on the 6 o’clock news. It is as much a fact as gravity. It is not even hidden from us; the documents supporting such claims, penned by their own advocates, are readily available to anyone willing to do some elementary research…”

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