The Powell Memorandum, authored in 1971, was a memorandum written by Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr. to Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., Chairman, Education Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The memo called for corporate America to become more aggressive in molding politics and law in the United States and may have sparked the formation of one or more influential conservative think tanks. The memorandum was dated August 23, 1971, two months prior to Powell’s nomination by President Nixon to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Thirty-eight years later, the conservative think tanks that grew out of the Powell memo are still at work trying to mold government and society to their extremist doctrine.
On July 14, 2009, California State University, which trains over 70% of California teachers, launched a partnership to close the achievement gap with a controversial education group, California Business for Education Excellence (CBEE). CBEE has ties to national right-wing organizations including the CATO Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and frequently issues so called â€œresearchâ€ papers in collaboration with the Libertarian Pacific Research Institute.
Serving as the focal point for the effort will be the newly created California State University Center to Close the Achievement Gap, which will â€œtransform the preparation and performance of new teachers and administrators in CSU schools of education across the state.â€ According to former CBEE president and newly appointed Achievement Gap Center Director, Jim Lanich, the center will focus on sharing successes and best practices in public education.
Dr. Lanich often cites as a â€œbest practice,â€ Oakland Charter School Academy, headed by the governorâ€™s newly appointed State Board of Education member, Jorge Lopez. Mr. Lopez is a staunch believer in narrowly focused â€œTeach to the Testâ€ methods and according to a recent San Francisco Examiner article, has treated parents and teachers with contempt and disrespect. Mr. Lopez moreover does not believe in the school lunch program for low income students because â€œthey are already obese.â€ The Oakland Charter Academy, winner of three CBEE commendations, is comprised of just 150 students and has been touted as a model to be taken to scale throughout the state.
The Pacific Research Institute (PRI) is a prominent California-based conservative think tank founded in 1979 whose stated vision is the promotion of “the principles of individual freedom and personal responsibility. The Institute believes these principles are best encouraged through policies that emphasize a free economy, private initiative, and limited government.”
The PRI’s position on many issues are disturbingly extremist and anti-government. On Global warming, the PRI position is: â€œThere is no conclusive scientific evidence that global warming exists or that, if it does, human activity is a contributing factor. But in the event warming is occurring and is stoppable, the (Kyoto) Protocol will not even come close to achieving its stated goal. The world’s largest emitters will get a free ride, leaving the United States to bear the burden.â€Â On Health Care Reform, the President and CEO of the PRI Board of Directors, Sally Pipes, who strongly opposes a “public option” has appeared on Fox News and written Op-Eds for the Wall Street Journal bashing the Canadian and European models while raking the Obama Administration for taking on Health Care Reform.
With respect to education, in 2008, the PRI at its annual gala, honored former State Board of Education member and controversial pro-voucher advocate, William â€œJerryâ€ Hume, who outlined basic principles for conservatives interested in education reform:
- Money equals power in the school reform equation. Who controls the flow of money will determine what reforms take place.
- Education reform will not come from within the educational establishment â€“ it must be imposed from without.
- The essential ingredients for school reform are to provide parents with choice via Vouchers (charters) and to impose accountability on the schools for student results, as measured against standards.
The CSU/CBEE partnership operationalizes Mr. Hume’s frightening vision for California’s once pre-eminent public school system.Â If you are concerned about the future of public schools, equity, access, and quality education for all, please contact your legislator and help spread the word about the CSU/CBEE initiative. Make calls to your local California State University School of Education and demand why a public university would partner with an extremist anti-public education organization.