What Is Our Children Learning from Ersatz Education Experts?

We learn from the 2mmnewsletter (Nov. 23, 2009) that entrepreneur Robert Compton has bootstrapped his investment in the film 2 Million Minutes (which, he claims, "reveal[ed]' the decline in American education"!) into a new career/venture as a “global education expert.” The newly-launched 2mm website features his prescriptions for an educationally competitive America, endorsed by notable educators Al Sharpton, Newt Gingrich and former Intel CEO Craig Barrett, and listed in a Children for Change petition that so far has garnered a whopping 53 signatures. Compton’s bright new ideas are the usual mix of “assessment and accountability” measures, pay-for-performance, and limitless expansion of charter schools and of teaching by TFA recruits and private-sector professionals; details are, of course, available by clicking the “Shop my store” tab. School systems will also no doubt be shopping—largely without any public scrutiny--for software and other products sold by companies in which Mr. Compton has an interest.

Let’s not quibble about “global”—the man has at least been to India (four times, he tells us, and “…the sights and sounds are familiar and comforting to [him] now.”). (See “call me Bob” above (with mustache) looking very comfortable indeed at the Taj Mahal). But, you might ask, what qualifies Compton as an “expert” in the field of education?

According to his biography on robertacompton.com, he is or has been an “IBM Systems Engineer, Professional Venture Capitalist, Angel Investor, President/COO of NYSE company, Entrepreneur and Filmmaker”; and “active in over 30 businesses including software, telecommunication services, healthcare services and medical devices.” One of those businesses is Indian Math Online, an on-line learning program in which children “go through a virtuos [sic.!] cycle of mastering mathematics.” They clearly won’t be mastering English from Mr. Compton: the same document informs us that “How a student spends their Two Million Minutes…….. will effect their economic prospects for the rest of their lives. How a society’s teenagers spend their Two Million Minutes collectively will effect their country’s economic prospects.”

Mr. Compton does have an MBA from Harvard (curiously, so did another notable mangler of the English language, G.W. Bush). His biography also lists an “honorary doctorate” from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology—a remarkable achievement given that Rose-Hulman is an exclusively undergraduate institution. Upon receiving his honorary degree, Compton gave a speech entitled “Fortes Fortuna Juvat (Fortune Favors the Bold)." Actually, in the world of US “education reform,” fortune favors the shameless self-promoting huckster.
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