The scene is a steel bunker, somewhere under Texas. Vader, Voldemort, Moriarty and Gary are meeting to discuss the neoliberal takeover of education. It was Vader’s turn to bring the cake.
Moriarty: Nice cake, Vader. What do you call that?
Vader: It is a Swiss roll [sucks breath through mask]
Voldemort: Gee, it’s my turn next. I might get a Swiss roll too.
Gary: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Can I get a progress report from everyone?
Vader: Well the whole charter school / free school jazz is going well [sucks breath through mask]. We’ve got the U.S. and U.K. deep into it and one of our shadowy think tanks in Australia is on the case [sucks breath through mask].
Gary: Good, good… Just wondering something. We want to privatise education so that big corporations can make money from running schools, right? So why this free school model? I mean, they don’t turn profits and they’re still centrally funded.
Vader: We have to go one step at a time [sucks breath through mask].
Gary: But… like… Private schools already exist. It’s not like they’re unheard of. Why not just privatise all the schools if that’s what we want to do?
Vader: Well poor kids couldn’t afford to go [sucks breath through mask].
Gary: Why do we care? Why don’t we just dish out the money that currently goes to schools directly to parents as vouchers?
Vader: [quizzical expression]
Gary: And about those poor kids – don’t we just want them to be obedient servants who will work as baristas and so on?
Vader: Yes. That is the plan my master [sucks breath through mask].
Gary: So what’s with all this college readiness business? Why do they need to go to college? [Pause] It’s really not good for me but I’m going to have another piece of that Swiss roll [reaches for Swiss roll]
Moriarty: It really is good. I think it’s the best cake we’ve had.
Gary: Steady on… Now I also think there’s something else to resolve. Voldemort, how’s the pro-Microsoft, pro-Pearson, pro-Apple, pro-edtech-industrial-complex going?
Voldemort: Really well boss. We have more systems using computer testing. We’re rolling out computer marking. We have the OECD all up for assessing 21st century skills so our companies will be able to use that to sell their kit. We’ve got up this whole narrative about kids being able to search the net for any knowledge they need, making them dependent on tech.
Gary: Huh. How do we square that with being slavish followers of E D Hirsch’s Core Knowledge agenda? You know, the idea that we should be teaching a core body of knowledge and that things like 21st century skills don’t really exist?
There is an awkward silence
Moriarty: I am not sure about that but the Hirsch thing is going well. We’ve got him presenting at shadowy think tanks. And he’s captured the minds of our blogging foils.
Gary: OK, but about core knowledge – Are will not supposed to be filling up kids with rote, disconnected facts about dead, white, male, European, upper class men?
Gary: Well, I’ve been flicking through the core knowledge sequence and there are units on mesoamerica and the Underground Railroad. What’s all that about?
Moriarty: OK. But it’s very facty…
Gary: Alright, alright. Look, on another matter, I want you all to apply yourself to putting the prefix ‘neo’ to as many of our conspiracies as possible. Right? It sounds kinda ominous like in ‘neoliberal’ or ‘neoconservative’.
Vader, Moriarty and Voldemort signal their assent. Vader is fiddling with his phone.
Vader: It appears that a Mary Bousted from a Teaching Union in England is claiming we are responsible for onerous marking policies and workload generally and that we accept no link between poverty and school performance [sucks breath through mask].
Gary: Really? I didn’t realise those were ours. But they’re bad stuff so we’ll take them.
Vader: OK. I’ll add them to the list.
Gary: Anyone got anything else? No? Well I’d just like to thank Lord Vader for bringing along such a nice cake this afternoon – a ‘Swiss roll’ was it? – Moriarty’s up next week.
Moriarty: No I’m not – it’s Voldemort