Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Must-Read Rip of "Waiting for Superman"

I really encourage everyone to read and widely disseminate the article posted below entitled "The Myth of Charter Schools". Read it here.

The majority of what's out there re: education right now is misinformation, and I think Diane Ravitch is absolutely right that Waiting for "Superman" is a massive P.R. coup for the movement from above to crush public education:
Waiting for “Superman” is the most important public-relations coup that the critics of public education have made so far. Their power is not to be underestimated. For years, right-wing critics demanded vouchers and got nowhere. Now, many of them are watching in amazement as their ineffectual attacks on “government schools” and their advocacy of privately managed schools with public funding have become the received wisdom among liberal elites. Despite their uneven record, charter schools have the enthusiastic endorsement of the Obama administration, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Dell Foundation. In recent months, The New York Times has published three stories about how charter schools have become the favorite cause of hedge fund executives. According to the Times, when Andrew Cuomo wanted to tap into Wall Street money for his gubernatorial campaign, he had to meet with the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a pro-charter group.

Dominated by hedge fund managers who control billions of dollars, DFER has contributed heavily to political candidates for local and state offices who pledge to promote charter schools. (Its efforts to unseat incumbents in three predominantly black State Senate districts in New York City came to nothing; none of its hand-picked candidates received as much as 30 percent of the vote in the primary elections, even with the full-throated endorsement of the city’s tabloids.) Despite the loss of local elections and the defeat of Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (who had appointed the controversial schools chancellor Michelle Rhee), the combined clout of these groups, plus the enormous power of the federal government and the uncritical support of the major media, presents a serious challenge to the viability and future of public education.
Importantly, we cannot challenge this movement to corporatize education by voting Democrat. The Democrats, as nobody could fail to notice right now, are behind this movement 100%. This is not a hold-over from days of Reagan, Bush, and Gingrich: this is a Democrat project now. Voting isn't going to solve this problem: direct intervention by independent social movements is the only way to alter the political landscape here.

Just ask yourself this: how is our for-profit health care system working out for you? How do all of our "market based", purportedly "efficient" private health insurance solutions sit with you? How well does the for-profit, corporate health insurance industry serve your interests? Any sane person can see that it isn't working, that the system isn't efficient, and that the entities in charge of the system don't serve our interests (in spite of the so-called "reforms" passed last year).

Yet this is precisely the model that Arne Duncan and Obama are pushing in the realm of education. They want to use all of the old top-down, corporate tricks: force workers to speed up, work for less pay, to see fellow individual workers as competitors/threats, to seem themselves as isolated individuals, etc. In short, they want to apply the industrial techniques of for-profit corporations to our education institutions. They, in effect, want to smash the idea of public education entirely. They want to privatize education and allow for-profit businesses and fabulously wealthy individuals to determine the future of U.S. schools. Yet we are made to think that teachers, not these forces of destruction coming from above, are the problem.

What is the motivation for this onslaught on public education? It is clear that their reasons are cynical. Why, after all, should capitalists care about education? We know that the only thing they care about is profits, so that is where we must look if we are to properly interpret their intervention in this issue. As the documentary itself makes clear, and as many are generally aware, there is anxiety among the ruling class about the global competitiveness of the American labor force. That means that capital wants to more effectively churn out units that are useful for maximizing profits: "units" which have certain technical know-how re: math and science. Whereas capital might have been persuaded in earlier epochs to take care of this problem via Keynesian methods of public subsidy, today the ideology and praxis of the ruling class is hard-neoliberal.

We must also note that the powerful entities who see charters as a business opportunity are extremely adamant about further colonizing public education and weakening the union. Another (related and often overlapping) force at work here is the hard-Right, who have been pushing for vouchers and privatization for 30 years. As I note above, this group is by no means confined to the Republican Party. These ideas are now commonplace among the Democrats. And why shouldn't they be? The Democrats are every bit as much of a pro-Wall Street party as the Republicans (the arguments between them these days seem mostly revolve around who is the more competent "true" friend of Wall Street).

And amidst all of these extremely powerful groups and institutions... Guggenheim would have us believe that the only villains are the "overly powerful" teachers themselves. The teachers who are routinely shat upon, under-appreciated, and underpaid to do one of the most important jobs in our entire society.

Make sure to get the word out about the sophistry at work in Waiting for "Superman".

No comments: