Posts Tagged ‘education’
Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms….
We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
Here are your top five posts from the last year, based solely on page views. The biggest thing driving traffic – one or two people who have a bigger megaphone than me passing it along. (My thanks to those people). Was there anything else they shared in common? Let’s take a look.
Also, don’t miss Top Five Posts that No One Read: 2012.
Ari Melber owes Marshall Ganz an apology.
Last week the Huffington Post broke a story about changes at Change.org based on leaked internal documents, because the company apparently was not going to make these changes public. As Melber notes, the changes include “ accept[ing] ‘corporate advertising, Republican Party solicitations, astroturf campaigns’ and conservative political sponsorships.” He suggests this is framed by critics as a betrayal of the sites founding mission (it’s quite clear it’s a pretty radical shift). In the abstract, I can see the point (although I disagree) of suggesting that providing access without respect to political orientation has value, although even if I concede that the secrecy cannot be defended. Yet even so, that change is only one part. But Melber’s not offering a ‘here’s what the two sides said’ story here.
If you apply a traditional coalition paradigm, the story is that Change.org began by teaming up with a loose coalition of liberal groups, found success, and then left them behind as it grew into a something that looks more like a self-sustaining global technology company than a progressive meetup. That is the story of betrayal and “selling out.
But you can also apply an open-source paradigm, where the value of the system is defined by who it empowers and how it works, rather than any pre-set ideological objectives. Think of Wikipedia, or the bottom-up organizing models of Saul Alinsky and Marshall Ganz. Under this view, Change.org is simply expanding its civic services, and the more open, the better. While the open source view has loyal adherents, it is not a conventional ideology. It is a belief in a system.
Navigating a battle between partisan, progressive organizing and decentralized petition drives is, at bottom, like trying to choose between the Democratic Party and democracy.
Did you catch that? What on earth does any of that have to do with “corporate advertising, Republican Party solicitations, astroturf campaigns”? Isn’t that the complete opposite of the “open-source paradigm” or of “small d democracy” or “bottom-up organizing”? And how does progressive values equate with Democratic Party?
The original HuffPo story argued that this move was in response to the controversy over Michele Rhee and Students First, although Melber doesn’t mention it.
Change.org leadership met in San Francisco this summer to hash out its new advertising policy following a public uproar in July over the site’s partnership with Michelle Rhee, whose organization works in opposition to labor unions. “[W]e looked long and hard at our client policy in the context of our vision. This was the most difficult part of the weekend, but after many hours of discussion and edge cases we ultimately agreed that the current closed approach is simply not feasible,” Change.org’s founder and CEO Ben Rattray wrote in an email to staff, which was also leaked to HuffPost by [Campaign for America's Future's Jeff] Bryant.
Labor and progressive organizations, which make up a sizable base of Change.org’s client list, threatened to pull out over the Rhee situation. After reports that Change.org was dropping Rhee and another controversial anti-union group as clients, the site continues to run her petitions.
What better illustration of the problem. Rhee’s astroturf group uses progressive rhetoric to attack public schools and teachers’ unions, with massive corporate backing. Change.org made promises to it users about its relationship with the group, which it failed to make good on, presumably because the relationship was lucrative and was valued above progressive principles.
All this makes a mockery of the sort of organizing the Ganz has championed – and of small-d democracy.
h/t Mike Conrad.
Melissa Harris Perry has a new piece reflecting on the recently concluded successful Chicago Teachers Union strike. Her point – the battle between “reformers” and “teachers” was harming the school children caught in the middle. (This despite the rather substantial student-centered reforms* teachers were calling for – she adopts a standard conceit of corporate ed reformers that they seek reform while everyone else supports the status quo).
I couldn’t help but be reminded of Martin Luther King‘s words.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
The reality is, whether intended or not, when liberals decry conflict, which is standard rhetorical position, they are supporting the position of the powerful. Rahm Emanuel, backed by billionaires (including Donald Trump) is powerful, and the status quo is for him and the other corporate reformers to get their way despite the opposition of teachers, parents, and students without significant resistance. Without resistance, they simply get their way to push their neoliberal reforms.
Those reforms are hurting children, hurting communities, undermining public sector unions, and they don’t work. Children aren’t served by a lack of air conditioning, music and art instruction, or libraries. Children don’t benefit from waiting for textbooks to arrive long after the semester begins. Children don’t benefit from increasing hours spent devoted to high stakes testing and preparing for these tests. Hopefully, we’re beginning to see real organized resistance based on the idea that teachers are valued professionals and that every child deserves the opportunity for a quality public education.
I don’t know if Karen Lewis or other key figures from the CTU will get a chance to be heard on MSNBC in the coming days. So I’ll close with Lewis’ words.
I do not understand why people think what we did was special. I do not understand why people think I’m a leader. I am a teacher who hates what’s happening to our children. We cannot go along with harm. Plain and simple. Sometimes I feel like we’re in that bad psych experiment where people give folks electric shocks because they were told to do so. I am embarrassed by all the attention and I would like to go somewhere and be quiet. I didn’t realize my life would be this nuts.
Respectfully, I understand why people know what they did was so special.
Thanks CTU. In solidarity.
* Seriously, if you haven’t yet, you should read what the teachers are still fighting for: The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.
[Update] Corey Robin gives a quick break down of some of the things the union won that supposedly hurt the kids.
At the GOP convention, Jeb Bush argued in favor of voucher and school choice using the frame of civil rights. Bush, brother of failed president and education reformer George W. Bush, went further, offering an even more inapt metaphor.
“Everywhere in our lives, we get the chance to choose,” he said in a prepared version of his remarks sent to reporters. “Go down any supermarket aisle – you’ll find an incredible selection of milk. You can get whole milk, 2% milk, low-fat milk or skim milk. Organic milk, and milk with extra Vitamin D. There’s flavored milk— chocolate, strawberry or vanilla – and it doesn’t even taste like milk. They even make milk for people who can’t drink milk.”
“Shouldn’t parents have that kind of choice in schools?” Bush said.
This perfectly encapsulates what’s wrong with the corporate ed position. It conflates something as important, complex and far reaching in its consequences as an education with milk, a simple consumer good. That frame justifies turning public education into a profit making opportunity. It supports the deprofessionalization of teachers. It focuses our attention on individuals instead of the ways we systematically provide a different quality to education based on class and race. Choosing 2% one week and whole milk the next is no problem, but shifting your child between schools even once is a huge decision. The choice of milk depends purely on taste while education is a skilled profession. While the analogy has surface appeal, its implication are gross and most people would recoil from them it they were made explicit. Most people, that is, who believe that providing a quality education to all is a basic requirement in a democratic society that is committed to the idea that all people are equal.
How can you say on the one hand that education is a civil right and at the same time it’s like shopping for groceries?
Chief Justice Warren had a better sense of the civil rights issue when it comes to education.
Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.
There’s another important point to be made here, and it gets to the conceit of choice.
“Choice” is the illusion of power. Vouchers were not dreamed up to provide choice, but to deny it. We need to avoid confusing a justification with an explanation.
A recent report issued by People for the American Way called Predatory Privatization: Exploiting Financial Hardship, Enriching the 1%, Undermining Democracy details what’s really going on here.
It is important to understand that targeted voucher programs that allow students from poor families, children with disabilities or students in underperforming schools to attend private schools that will accept them are not the ultimate goal of school privatizers. They are a tactical means to a much larger strategic end, which is the end of public education altogether, as pushed by David Koch in his run for the White House in 1980, echoing his late father’s John Birch Society antipathy to public schools as socialist or communist.
“Like most other conservatives and libertarians, we see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling,” stated Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast in 1997. “In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.” Heartland has received significant funding from right-wing foundations over the years, including the Charles Koch Foundation.
If you doubt that many privatizers seek to dismantle public education, take a look at the many prominent right-wing activists and thinkers who have signed the “Public Proclamation to Separate Church and State,” which proclaims that “I favor ending government involvement in education.”
As Milton Friedman, intellectual godfather of the movement, said “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a free-market system.”
More famously, the late televangelist and Religious Right leader Jerry Falwell said, “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them.” At the 2011 Values Voter Summit held in Washington, D.C., in October, one of the most frequent and enthusiastically received applause lines was a call to abolish the Department of Education. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott signed five bills last year that build on the voucher programs put in place by former Gov. Jeb Bush [my emphasis] and promote Scott’s agenda to expand charter schools, virtual schools, vouchers and a program that allows students to transfer out of failing public schools. Florida also gives tax breaks to corporations in return for private school scholarships, echoing ALEC model legislation: With Scott’s urging, that program’s cap increased by $30 million to $175 million while the McKay scholarship program for students with disabilities could nearly quadruple under new looser eligibility guidelines. Florida’s education chief, selected by the state board at Scott’s request last year, is a former executive director of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a group created by right-wing funders to make black parents, rather than right-wing economists and Wall Street financiers, the face of the voucher movement.
Read the whole thing. My only objection is that what is typically called ‘privatization’ is really ‘corporatization’ – a shift of public funds to corporations, which since they are collectively owned and managed and not meaningfully ‘private.’
It’s worth quoting a bit more from Friedman on behalf of vouchers.
Parents could express their views about schools directly, by withdrawing their children from one school and sending them to another, to a much greater extent than is now possible. In general, they can now take this step only by simultaneously changing their place of residence. For the rest, they can express their views only through cumbrous political channels.
As Albert Hirschman said, “A person less well trained in economics might naively suggest that the direct way of expressing views is to express them!” But note too that what Friedman calls the “cumbrous political channels” is what the rest of us call democracy and active citizenship.
Of course we want real choice – students and parents should have options for different educational opportunities, teachers should be given autonomy to find the best ways to teach to their students, administrators and teachers should have the freedom to design programs rather than have things dictated from above. Teachers should have the choice of joining a union to represent them. Everyone should have the option of a quality public education. What corporate reformers like Bush offer is not choice. It’s a top down agenda designed to undermine public education despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans recognize our public schools are essential. The goal is to turn public education from a social right, one that all deserve as a consequence of being a human being, to a product, no different from milk or toothpaste. And Democrats should be condemning this nonsense and articulating this alternative, original, vision. And we should all be demanding that they do, not to mention ditching George W. Bush’s NCLB (No Public School Left Standing).
Of course, some would claim that vouchers are only a Republican idea, and that the rest of what is often falsely called “ed reform”, as if only those that share their vision are interested in change. But as Laura Clawson notes, Bush was also in town to publicize the new pro-parent trigger movie Won’t Back Down, along with former Democratic ed policy star Michelle Rhee. The movie will also be screened at the DNC. (For what it’s worth, the parent trigger demonstrates the incoherence of the “choice” agenda. If not allowing an individual parent to have the government fund their choice to go to a different school despite the wishes of the vast majority of parents to offer public schooling alone, why can we disrespect the choice of 50% minus one of parents to maintain their public school in the face of a slight majority. Any why do triggers only operate one way? The answer is the only choices they respect are those that fit with the top down corporate agenda.)
The long-term shift from social rights to commodification is one of the more important (and disastrous) political projects of my lifetime.
By the way, if you think education is a civil right, you should check out the recommendations of those groups with a long and distinguished history of fighting for civil rights. But they will look very little like those of Jeb Bush.
Of course, Jeb, whose background is more aristocratic then meritocratic, believes it’s the rest of us that are the real racists.
“We must stop pre-judging children based on their race, ethnicity or household income,” Bush said. “We must stop excusing failure in our schools and start rewarding improvement and success.”
I’ll outsource the response to that to Richard Rothstein and Mark Santow.
Politicians and experts typically refer to schools as “failing” if they are filled with low-income children with low-test scores. Faced with enormous challenges, such schools may be doing as well as they possibly can, though. African-American children from low-income urban families frequently suffer from health problems that lead to school absences; from frequent or sustained parental unemployment that provokes family crises; from rent or mortgage defaults causing household moves that entail changes of teachers and schools, with a resulting loss of instructional continuity; and from living in communities with high levels of crime and disorder, where schools spend more time on discipline and less on instruction and where stress depresses academic success. With school segregation continuing to increase, these children are often isolated from the positive peer influences of middle-class children who were regularly read to when young, whose homes are filled with books, whose adult environment includes many college-educated professional role models, whose parents have greater educational experience and the motivation such experience brings and who have the time, confidence, and ability to monitor schools for academic standards.
We won’t be seeing any Bushes working with us to address those problems any time soon.