Fertilizers, Pills & Magnetic Strips

The Fate of Public Education in America

Gene V Glass, Arizona State University

Published 2008

Now available for Kindle. Click here.

"We shape our tools and then they shape us." With these words, Kenneth Boulding captured one of the great truths of the modern world. In Fertilizers, Pills, and Magnetic Strips, Gene V Glass analyzes how a few key technological inventions changed culture in America and how public education has changed as a result. Driving these changes are material self-interest and the desire for comfort and security, both of which have transformed American culture into a hyper-consuming, xenophobic society that is systematically degrading public education.

Glass shows how the central education policy debates at the start of the 21st century (vouchers, charter schools, tax credits, high-stakes testing, bilingual education) are actually about two underlying issues: how can the costs of public education be cut, and how can the education of the White middle-class be "quasi-privatized" at public expense? Working from the demographic realities of the past thirty years, he projects a challenging and disturbing future for public education in America.

"All readers, whatever their political views, will find much to stimulate their thinking in this book. Its breadth and scope, the variety of data explored, and the stark nature of the argument will provoke both thought and emotion. As he has done throughout his career, Gene Glass once again helps us think more clearly about important issues in education." Ben Levin University of Toronto

"This is the first credible book of the 21st century to anticipate the future of public education." David C. Berliner Former President of the American Educational Research Association; Author of The Manufactured Crisis

"...a wake up call to America about the disastrous consequences of current policies that shortchange the education of the coming majority "Latinos and other 'minority' students" on whom the very future of the nation rests." Patricia Gándara University of California, Los Angeles

"The book makes such impressive sense that one has to believe that its clarity, command of the facts, eye for absurdity, and concern for justice will garner greater support for public education as a common and noble cause." John Willinsky Stanford University; Author of Learning to Divide the World

"Glass (Arizona State Univ.) argues, following Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel H, Jun'97, 34-5758), that "significant inventions in the 20th century ... frtilizers (agricultural technologies) pills (medical technologies) and magnetic strips (nonmoney based credit systems)" have influenced educational policy to the extent that "no longer is the assumption made ... that our nation must have a universal system of free public education." "Older, White Americans entering their retirement years with diminished assets" will increasingly "be asked to support schools that will be serving a younger, browner clientele," he states. In his longest chapter, Glass documents how current reform efforts (i.e., vouchers, charter schools, and tuition tax credits) systematically discriminate against minorities, while US schools are more segregated than before Brown v. Board of Education. He also challenges the view that schools are "failing," and summarizes critiques of high-stakes, standardized testing. Glass's historical perspective and his review of evidence supporting his position are impressive. He rejects simple solutions to public education's endemic problems, but hopes that in the long run Americans' love of justice will prevail over the selfish interests of the graying, currently dominant majority. A valuable addition to any library. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels." G. E. Hein emeritus, Lesley University

"...if you’re looking for a place to begin to understand so as to be able to transform the underlying forces that have been shaping public policy as it pertains to education in the United States, Fertilizers, Pills, and Magnetic Strips ... is a great place to start." Pepi Leistyna in Education Review

"A catchy title does not always produce a book that catches your attention from front to back. Gene V Glass accomplishes both, grabbing your immediate attention with the title, Fertilizers, Pills, and Magnetic Strips, and keeping your attention throughout the entire book." Jim Hattabaugh Superintendent, Mansfield School District, Mansfield, Ark

"Reading this book shattered by paradigm for understanding public education." Michael Thompson Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education