The Ed Biz’s Cabalistic Evolutions

One of many strange and absorbing passages in Berlioz’s oratorio l’Enfance du Christ is a swirling little orchestral number called “Cabalistic Evolutions[1].”  It is played as King Herod’s magicians try to assist Herod by dancing up useless spells. The outcome, as we know, is that the Object of their magic escapes, while many innocent children are victimized. That makes this piece an ideal candidate for theme music of the education “reform[2]” “movement[3]”.

Like Herod’s magicians, our own Ed Biz wonder-workers seem to be on a different planet from the one they should be focusing on. Unlike the old-time magicians, our five-star philanthropists are very expensive. A recent article in The New Yorker told about Mark Zukerberg’s Act of Faith in the ability of the five-stars to turn around the schools of Newark, New Jersey. He donated a hundred million dollars, most of which has been spent, much of it on the cabalistic evolutionists. Vivian Cox Fraser tartly and effectively summarized the benefits: “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.” How much were they paid? “The going rate for individual consultants in Newark was a thousand dollars a day.”

The biologist Dr. Helen Epstein describes the magic of five-star philanthropy in another context. Her summary of the process is that the five-stars come in like colonists and make “vague claims of ‘creating sustainable models,’ ‘partnering with other organizations,’ ‘mobilizing communities,’ ‘scaling up capacity,’ ‘using holistic approaches,’ and ‘forming community councils,’” without telling us “how this helps children.” That is a serious omission in a program to help children but easy to overlook if you are on another planet. The problem, of course, is that these people are really, regrettably, and indubitably on this planet, and in ways they do not see, they are dancing up a storm.

[1] In this context, cabalistic suggests secret magic, and an evolution—not the mass noun Darwin used—is a set of prescribed movements.

[2] Nothing gets reformed (see year after year of PISA results).

[3] It is a coterie of ineffective specialists, not a movement.

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