Friday, October 15, 2010

NYTimes to teachers: subordinate yourselves to the "Historic Wave of Change"

I quote:
She has acted out of a fear that teachers’ unions could end up on the wrong side of a historic and inevitable wave of change.
Here's more:
“She has shrewdly recognized that teachers’ unions need to be part of the reform,” said Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, an education research group.

Christopher Cerf, a former deputy schools chancellor in New York City who has sparred with Ms. Weingarten, offered a similar, if more skeptical interpretation.

“The earth moved in a really dramatic way,” he said, “to the point that a very successful strategist like Randi has to know that teacher unionism itself is in jeopardy, perhaps even in mortal jeopardy.”
So here's the argument of this atrocious article:
  1. The only way to change or reform schools is to privatize them, bust unions and blame teachers for the social ills of our society.
  2. Since teachers' unions disagree, with 1. they must be mercilessly crushed as "opponents of change".
  3. While you might have thought that the leader of the country's largest teachers' union would disagree with 1. and 2. , in fact she is a "reformer" and appears to be at least minimally rational and "shrewd" enough to recognize that she must keep in step with the blinding light emitted by the "historic waves of change" being pushed through by the likes of "CEO" Arne Duncan.
This is complete bullshit. And the language it uses to make the point is completely batshit insane: "historic and inevitable wave of change"... "movement of the earth"? What's with all of this cosmic imagery? It's almost as though the NYTimes would have us think that the forces scapegoating teachers, smashing public education, and bleeding our schools dry are inevitable forces of nature. Fucking crazy.

As with everything we read in the NYTimes, we need to place all of this bullshit in context. There is a broad attack on public sector employees across the board right now. The attack proceeds by blaming them and making them pay for a crisis that was caused by Corporate America (who, we must recognize, are precisely the folks that are so thrilled about the idea of charter schools, privatized education, "market based" education policy, etc.). The attack on teachers, and thus on one of the most visible and organized public-sector unions, is part of a broader attempt to force austerity on working people in order to make them pay for the crisis. This is just one of the contextual factors left out.

Another is that we've had a neoliberal, market-based education policy has been in place for some time now. As many have pointed out, the Obama administration's education policies have been not only continuous with Bush's NCLB, but, in fact, more stridently Right-wing and anti-union (precisely because the Obama administration has more leeway since progressive groups (wrongly) assume that this administration is less likely to the same things as the Bush administration).

The ideas were cooked up by people who know nothing about education. And the ideas emerge in the context of a global doctrine and political practice, neoliberalism, which holds that we must extend the logic of financial markets to all facets of life. The privatization of education, or more precisely, the corporatization of education, by means of charters is thus part of a larger trend that includes deregulation, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, union-busting, privatization, destruction of the welfare state, etc. In other words this is all part of the infamous package known as "structural adjustment". As David Harvey has pointed out, that is more or less what the US is undergoing right now (minus the IMF).

What is called "reform" these days in education discourse is, in fact, anything but. It is reactionary. It is part of the destruction of the institution of public education. And if we were taught history in this country at all, we'd know that free public education was something for which we had to fight tooth and nail to win. The powers that be didn't grant it willingly. And when they're holding all of the cards, as they appear to be right now, we shouldn't expect that they'd do anything other than attack it.

1 comment:

-sf said...

"As with everything we read in the NYTimes, we need to place all of this bullshit in context."
True, but with one caveat. As with everything we read, see, or hear in any news source or blog, we need to place all of this bullshit in context. Otherwise your reading of the Times piece is spot on, and they've been championing charter schools in excess recently.