[When I started writing this, I quickly realized that it’s going to be much longer than I thought. So it’s becoming a series. –Seth]
[Updated 5 pm Thurs]
Way back in April of this year, I co-hosted a pre-conference workshop called Labor Organizing in Hard Times at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (4Cs, for short) in Atlanta.
During our workshop, I learned a new word: deliverology (which, blessedly, the WordPress spellchecker doesn’t recognize as a word). My friend and colleague Kathleen, who directs the Writing Center at Cal St U-Channel Islands, told us that the CSU system had bought into deliverology, and faculty around the system were already seeing some insidious implications.
I remember thinking (in my much the same way I knew PASSHE would hire the current Chancellor as soon as I learned a little about him) that it couldn’t be long before PASSHE jumped on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, that all happened in the midst of a very long day, and I forgot all about it.
Flash forward to last week. I got an e-mail with a link to the website for an organization called the US Education Delivery Institute (USEDI). Roughly paraphrased, the note said something like, “Just in case you need something else to piss you off” (from a colleague whose sense of humor sometimes runs toward the tongue-in-cheek).
I can only describe my reaction thus (slightly Disneyfied so we can keep our PG-13 rating on the blog): “You gotta be [bleep] kidding me!”
USEDI is the brainchild of Sir Michael Barber, former member of Tony Blair’s Ministry of Education. According to the organization’s website:
The U.S. Education Delivery Institute (EDI) was founded in May 2010 by Sir Michael Barber, former head of the U.K. Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, with support from the Education Trust and Achieve.
This is a unique time in education: Many K-12 state systems have set ambitious goals as part of the Race to the Top competition, while higher education systems are working to achieve President Obama’s goal of making the United States number one in the world in college attainment by 2020. Meanwhile, fiscal concerns are requiring education systems to do more with fewer resources.
While systems often have the right ambitions and promising policies, the process of planning and driving implementation receives less attention. More often than not, leaders approach implementation by fighting fires, making a laundry list of initiatives, or otherwise managing in an uncoordinated way.
Prime Minister Tony Blair faced a similar implementation dilemma in 2001, as he was elected to a second term. To help him deliver on his priorities, he created the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (PMDU) and appointed Sir Michael Barber to lead the effort. The PMDU pioneered a new approach to managing priorities – delivery – and used it with great success to help Blair achieve his priorities. With the help of the delivery unit, the Blair government reached 80% of policy targets; Prime Minister Blair called his investment in delivery the best domestic reform he had made.
If you’re already noticing the absence of specifics (sometimes signified by asking yourself or anybody else in shouting distance “What does that even mean?”), welcome to it. You should look at the website more carefully than just the highlights (ahem) I’ll lift out in this series of posts, but the short version of what you’ll find is this: USEDI is an organization that helps schools/districts/colleges/universities/systems set and meet policy targets related to “delivering” educational product as efficiently as possible.
The litany of arguments describing and critiquing the corporatization of American higher education is well-established and rehearsed, and frankly it’s too depressing to rehash (again) here. Let’s just say the folks at USEDI have leapfrogged over all that.
[OK… It’s getting harder to write about this without being really angry and sarcastic. Anger is probably appropriate, but sarcasm probably isn’t. Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!]