Joel Klein’s Edu-Cojones


Today we raise our collective wine boxes to a man who has the biggest, boldest edu-cojones in the business. Reader: meet Joel Klein, former NYC schools Chancellor turned edu-preneur—and most definitely turning a profit. When last we encountered Mr. Klein he’d just finished sounding the alarm bell about the greatest national security threat our country faces: our union-stifled public schools. But there is good news, reader.Joel Klein has now figured out the solution to the national security threat of our time—and it turns out to be the very edu-product that Klein himself is peddling.

You see, Mr. Klein heads up a company called Amplify, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which aims to “disrupt” the K-12 education market by selling a bazillion open source tablet computers to school districts around the country. But how can our cash-strapped schools afford to spend the $17 billion of the $700 billion education market that Klein believes rightfully belongs to Amplify? That’s status quo thinking, reader. The real innovators and edu-preneurs understand that these cash cows failing public schools can’t afford NOT TO hand over the dough.

Klein outlined an American educational system—one teacher in a room of 25 kids, using minimal, if any, new technology—that he said not only fails students but “is a national security issue,” emphasizing that “if we don’t see a dramatic change to using technology in classes, the country won’t go forward.”

What will our new state-of-the art classrooms look like?  In his presentation at the UBS Global Media and Communication Conference, Klein helpfully supplied some before and after shots. Union-stifled, innovation deprived public schools look like this (note bored expression on the face of front row minority student, leading to achievement gaps and national security threats).

Amplify that classroom though and things start to get pretty excellent and innovative pretty quickly:

That’s some blended learning all right. See how engaged front row minority student is now??? Crushing the achievement gap and solving the national security threat of our time turns out to be as easy as writing Joel Klein and Amplify a big phat check.

We’ve now reached the question and answer portion of our presentation. Let’s start with the obvious one: does blended learning, aka paying teachers less in order to buy tablets actually work? Mr. Klein?

“We know this stuff works,” [Klein] said, “students are engaged and learn quicker,” when digital technology is integrated into the learning process.

Sounds good. What about school districts that have doubts about redirecting scarce resources into the coffers of for-profit companies like Amplify?

 Klein said technology is “saving money,” and that “school systems want this.”

Last but not least, how do I know that newly engaged minority student isn’t just playing Angry Birds on his achievement-boosting tablet?

On the teacher side, Klein continued, the tablet lets the instructor see who is absent and present—attendance at the touch of a button—and can create instant chat rooms for class discussion, as well as allow teachers to lock out distractions—they can spot who’s playing Angry Birds when they should be reading—or takeover all the screens in the classroom when necessary. “We think we’re positioned well to build a fresh business model,” Klein said.

What could possibly go wrong??? Send comments and ideas to

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EduShyster is Jennifer C. Berkshire, who has spent the past six years writing about public education and urban schools in Massachusetts.