Left Ed: Getting Better at Getting the Word Out

by: jeffbinnc

Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 13:00


Addressing a group of civil rights leaders and advocates at this week's meeting of the Urban League, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan accused people who criticize his Race to the Top grants and other education policies of being "intentionally misleading or profoundly misinformed." As highlighted by Paul here at Open Left the other day, President Obama immediately reinforced the message by scolding critics of his education reforms for making "a fuss" over something that shouldn't be seen as "controversial." Then, to complete the triumvirate, the supposed progressives at the Center for American Progress castigated Congress and anyone else who would dare lay a finger on the Obama administration's Race to the Top and other "reforms."

As Paul explained yesterday, what's seldom discussed - not only among leaders of the Democratic party but also in the progressive community - is the actual "evidence" for and against the dangerous proposals being championed by those who consider themselves to be "on the left" of America's political spectrum. Instead people on the left are generally in denial about issues of race and class that are at the heart of the matter. And educators themselves are being played for suckers by the Democratic establishment.

Nowhere was this situation more painfully obvious to me than at last week's Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas. As lots of lip service was being paid to "saving teachers' jobs," not much of anything in the agenda addressed the destructive education policies of the Obama administration. Of course, lots of presenters had high-minded declarations about the importance of schools to democracy and the progressive cause. But no one had anything particularly progressive to say about the direction of school reform.

As news came out during the conference that another 241 teachers were being fired by Washington, DC's autocratic chancellor Michele Rhee for being "ineffective," no one  of any prominence at the meeting pointed out the blatant unfairness of the Obama administration's push to evaluate teachers on the basis of students' scores on standardized tests.

In fact, an attendee I was having coffee with as the news broke was absolutely gleeful about it. "There are too many bad teachers," she explained to me while coolly scrolling through the headlines on her Blackberry, "And they're never made accountable for anything."

At the conference's Education Caucus, which all too symbolically never made it to the final agenda distributed to attendees as they arrived, educators exhorted the progressive blogosphere to push politicians in DC to pass the "edujobs" bill to save hundreds of thousand of teaching positions, a prospect, by the way, that seemed incredibly remote even as the declarations were being made.

The NEA's terrific spoksperson Lily Eskelsen informed the caucus crowd about the vagaries of for-profit education entrepreneurs, the creeping corporate influence on local schools, and out of control charters. And D Kos education blogger annie em backed her up with information about the corrupt Imagine charter schools chain. Yet in the ensuing discussion, a frontpage blogger from MotherTalkers (sorry, didn't get your name) explained how much her audience "like charter schools."

So as the rest of Netroots Nation rolled along on the general affirmations of the first year-and-a-half of the Obama presidency, all of us who care about public schools were left talking among ourselves about the abyss that we all too clearly see our country's school children heading toward.

jeffbinnc :: Left Ed: Getting Better at Getting the Word Out
But when your message isn't getting through, it's never a good idea just to blame the audience. You can have all the facts of the matter at hand, but when facts go up against feeling, you're going to lose every time. So all of us who care about public schools to retool to better engage an audience that has too long looked the other way.
Due to events since Netroots Nation, it could be that the "cat is now out of the bag", as Paul maintained on Friday. Even though the criticisms civil rights leaders aimed at the Obama administration's education policies withered in the face of an actual confrontation, they may have succeeded in at least put civil rights as the frame for the pushback against these policies. Which of course, it is.

Arne Duncan was correct when he declared that education was "the civil rights issue of our time." Unfortunately, he happens to be on the wrong side of it. His clulessness, and that of most other people on the left who support his policies, is steeped in the culture of their context. While they would stand by their claim that it's admirable to turn schools which poor black and brown kids attend into test-taking factories because that's the type of education that's best for "those kids," they would never want to send their own children to such institutions.

Larry Cuban lays it all out here:

"Ignored is the fact that there is a three-tiered system of schooling in the U.S. . . . The top two tiers (which over half of U.S. students attend) are considered by most parents to be either good or good enough for their children. In the third tier, however, big city and rural schools enrolling mostly poor and minority students have largely failed to educate children and youth. Surely, the three tiered system is obvious for anyone with 20/20 vision living in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and other metropolitan areas, particularly to parents who shop around for schools to send their children.
What is also plain to see but is seldom mentioned by policy elites and 24/7 media is the constant conflating of urban and rural failing schools with all U.S. schools. Such a mindless mistake propagates misinformation and sustains a 'crisis' mentality that continually bashes teachers and undermines trust in public schools. Large foundations, enamored by the romance of gritty urban schools, have profited and furthered the idea of a systemic 'crisis' by failing to distinguish between urban low-performing schools and those many schools in the top two tiers that meet parental demands, have low dropout rates, and send over 90 percent of their graduates to college."

(h/t Core Knowledge Blog)

That the political leadership of our country - even when the top person is black - is pushing policies that are antithetical to the equality of children of different races and income levels should not be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, and especially not to anyone at Netroots Nation who heard Tim Wise explain all too clearly how an antiracist analysis has to remain at the heart the progressive agenda because popular notions about public institutions, like schools, are positive among the white majority until those institutions bcome more populated by students who happen not to be white.

Also critical to more effectively pushing back against the Obama administration's education agenda is for educators to see to some extent that they are being played for suckers in the media. Even as Duncan and Obama appeared to be pressing for money for teacher's jobs - as it became more and more obvious that the Congress would be resistant to funding those jobs - they were working on the other end of the spectrum to use opposition to teachers unions as a way of placating business interests. From Politico:

"Going into November's elections, the administration is now actively trying to counter critics who contend Obama shows an 'anti-business' attitude. The teacher unions make a convenient foil, and Emanuel has argued that business should respect Obama's willingness to stand up for education reform at the expense of labor."

(h/t Rick Hess)

Of course, all of us who care about public schools should lobby the government to provide funds for saving teachers' jobs. But if this is about "the children" then lett's make the argument based on what losing jobs will do to children. For instance, during the education caucus at NN, Lily pointed out that a high school senior who needs to take a second year of foreign language in order to qualify for the college he wants gets royally screwed when the French teacher gets canned for budget reasons. More examples like this please!

Also, all of us who care about public schools need to do a better job of making our case for jobs at the local level, all the while understanding that only about a third of the audience we're talking to even has kids of school age. We need to remind them that what's at stake is the success of a future generation who will be paying their social security and medicare.

So as a new school year is just around the corner, are we also approaching a corner in the debate on education reform? With New York's standardized test-based "success" now becoming exposed as a fraud, and with the racism and classism of the Obama administration's policies being openly discussed in the media, are we witnessing an awakening in the progressive movement?

As Paul explained, "Readers of Open Left know very well who is 'intentionally misleading or profoundly misinformed.' So let's get the word out.


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It's A Tiny Thing, But... (4.00 / 5)
We definitely need to see that education makes it onto the NN agenda for next year--and not in some sort of plain vanilla wrapping, either.

On a more immediate front, the beginning of the new school year is definitely time for us to push as much as possible.  Perhaps we can give some thought to creating an information and argumentation package that others could use for local organizing. I've only got the haziest notion of what this might entail, but that's why I'm throwing it out for everyone to comment on.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


Not really tiny (4.00 / 4)
I think a panel of the leading progressive education thinkers would be a really big thing at NN. This year's panel about the culture wars over curriculum in TX was extremely well attended.

Also, great idea about an advocacy package for the back-to-school season. I have some template stuff I can bring to the fore to get us started.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...


[ Parent ]
I Meant "Tiny" In The Sense That (4.00 / 1)
even the most massively attended panel would be tiny compared to the extent of the fight we face.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Quite true, unfortunately n/t (4.00 / 1)


Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Good idea. (4.00 / 1)
Next year (and the year after) NN will be primarily about cheerleading for Obama, which oddly enough will present some real opportunities in terms of making the right kinds of noises. But especially next year, as certain (cough) people might be open to listening more than they currently are.

NN isn't really a progressive confab, but progressives do attend, even if it means having coffee with ignorant neo-libs who just don't like teachers and especially their unions.

While it's a damn shame most neo-liberals are seemingly immune to facts, they may be willing to take a little time to consider the political costs of continuing to be such idiots about their agenda. So I tend to think a real demonstration of commitment to progressive reform, as opposed to regressive reform, might actually do some good there. On any number of issues.


"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
I Don't Think That Netroots Nation Is Neoliberal Rather than Progressive (4.00 / 4)
In fact, I think that most folks there who do believe the neoliberal line on education (and I have no doubt there are far too many of them) do so more because of ignorance than basic values.  Which makes it an ideal audience for us.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Right. (4.00 / 2)
I didn't mean to say that it is a neo-liberal event, but rather that it's no longer a genuinely progressive one. So both sides attend and I agree with you completely on the ignorance thing.

I also agree that it's a good venue in which to make some serious noise.  If I went, I would prefer to go with people who form a group whose intent is to directly compete with the neo-lib contingent. I say this because I would basically view it as an informal party convention in which groups have to compete with each other to be heard by the platform committee and so on. So that's my bias, because that's been my previous convention experience. It can be a lot of fun, actually.

So yes, I see a real opportunity there next year. We interact online all the time, but that pales next to face-to-face interaction. That's where dynamism really pays off.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
Absolutely (4.00 / 6)
people on the left are generally in denial about issues of race and class that are at the heart of the matter

And it's not just education where this is a problem - we see it again and again in just about every policy area.

The flip side of this blindness is the presumption, usually unstated and perhaps not even noticed, that markets and competition are the solution to everything.  As Jamie Galbraith argues, this leaves Democrats to tinkering on the edges of problems rather than solving them (at best - often it leads to destructive, not just ineffective policy.)  Focusing only on what separates Republicans and Democrats as opposed to seeing this fault line within the left makes it hard to make sense of what is going on.

I don't have the answer on how to address this. Certainly, drawing the connections between education and other policy areas can help for people who already think in terms of progressive versus neoliberal.  But for those that don't,and are often resistant to it, it's more complicated.  The drive to make education a civil rights issue once again is a start, but alone it's not enough.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


More On Markets To Come (4.00 / 1)
I promise to at least write a teaser diary this week from my too-slow progress reading Michael Perelman's Railroading Economics, which--among other things--recovers the history of conservative criticism of the market that developed out the catastrophic market failures that hit the railroad industry repeatedly in the 19th century.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I look forward to it (4.00 / 2)
I'm just about to finish The Predator State, which should be required reading.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
The grand irony (4.00 / 4)
As it happens, I'm combining a reading of The Predator State with a re-reading of Democracy in America. If you tend toward optimism, it's not a combination I would recommend. What you'll gain in clarity isn't worth the price you'll pay in depression, especially when you realize how little -- if at all -- we've surpassed De Tocqueville in our understanding of human nature and the history of the democratic impulse.

In my view, the President's speech to the National Urban League, and the obvious pique with which it was delivered, should leave no one in doubt about where he stands. He's a creature of his time and class, the latest figurehead on our ship of fools.


[ Parent ]
Ah, William, Aren't You Forgetting Something? (4.00 / 1)
What you'll gain in clarity isn't worth the price you'll pay in depression,

It's the depression that improves the clarity! We've been over this a couple times earlier this year--or was it late last year?

I'd look it up, but I'm too depressed.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
The circle game (4.00 / 2)
Being an American, a democrat, and something of a Protestant, I'm not a great fan of the karmic wheel, but in this case, it's hard to wholeheartedly endorse the marginal utility of repetition.

In other words, better you shouldn't look it up. The point, if there is one, is to fly off the wheel and hit something, which we're committed to do regardless of our mental state. (I'm pretty sure we've been over that a time or two as well.)

And Paul, honestly, are you ever not working? I'm not complaining, mind you -- I love having such an endless supply of good stuff -- but I do worry sometimes that you'll do yourself an injury....


[ Parent ]
I'm combining it (4.00 / 1)
with The Activists Handbook, by Randy Shaw.  Whether those two lead you to depression or steal you for action is probably a matter of personal disposition.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
education ECONOMICS is never covered here. (4.00 / 5)
1st off, charter schools are chiefly a union-busting privatization scam, no more, no less.

All the costs, including financing, are shouldered by the public, while all the profits - in combination with tax avoidance scams - are returned to investors. It's shocking, but that's all that this is about: MONEY!

Juan Gonzalez nailed it in May on DemocracyNOW! here:

...one of the things I've been trying now for a couple of years is to try to figure out why is it that so many hedge fund managers, wealthy Americans and big banks, Wall Street banks, have-executives of Wall Street banks, have all lined up supporting and getting involved in the development of charter schools. And I think I may have come across one of the reasons: there's a lot of money to be made in charter schools. And I'm not talking just about the for-profit management companies that run a lot of these charter schools.

It turns out that at the tail end of the Clinton administration in 2000, Congress passed a new kind of tax credit called a New Markets Tax Credit. And what this allows is it gives an enormous federal tax credit to banks and equity funds that invest in community projects in underserved communities, and it's been used heavily now for the last several years for charter schools. And I focused on Albany, New York, which in New York state is the district with the highest percentage of children in charter schools. Twenty percent of the schoolchildren in Albany are now attending charter schools. And I discovered that quite a few of the charter schools there have been built using these New Markets Tax Credits.

And what happens is, the investors who put up the money to build the charter schools get to basically virtually double their money in seven years through a 39 percent tax credit from the federal government. In addition, this is a tax credit on money that they're lending, so they're collecting interest on the loans, as well as getting the 39 percent tax credit. They piggyback the tax credit on other kinds of federal tax credits, like historic preservation or job creation or Brownfields credits. The result is, you can put in $10 million and in seven years double your money.

And the problem is that the charter schools end up paying in rents the debt service on these loans. And so, now a lot fo the charter schools in Albany are straining paying their debt-their rent has gone up from $170,000 to $500,000 in a year, or huge increases in their rents, as they strain to pay off these loans, these construction loans. And the rents are eating up huge portions of their total cost. And, of course, the money is coming from the state.

So, one of the big issues is that so many of these charter schools are not being audited. No one knows who are the people making these huge windfall profits as the investors. And often there are interlocking relationships between the charter school boards and the nonprofit groups that organize and syndicate the loans. And so, there needs to be sunlight on this whole issue. And the state legislature right now is considering expanding charter school caps, but one of the things I press for in my column, there has to be the power of the government to independently audit all of these charter schools, or we're not going to know how public dollars are ending up in the coffers of Wall Street investors.




They only call it class war when we fight back.

[ Parent ]
"The Bush-Obama School Privatization Plan" (4.00 / 2)
Or perhaps it is better politics to call it "The Bush-Duncan School Privatization Plan".

I think this is the strongest, simplest argument we can make.


[ Parent ]
RR per grad school (4.00 / 1)
The most inefficient RRs would borrow a lot in Europe and go bankrupt.  They would re-organize with a clean slate (no debt) putting better run RRs at a competitive disadvantage.  Some of these would be forced into bankruptcy and the wheel kept turning.  

Complicating the matter, the Erie (and maybe others) was more of a focus for stock market manipulation than much of a railroad.  It was, after all, a railroad that went to NY City but didn't: stopping in Jersey on the other side of the Hudson.  A classic muckraker book , "Tales of Erie" colorfully covered the saga.

Many western railroads were more real estate companies than transportation providers.  The sale of government lands given to the RRs to build was the main focus.  No government, no RRs, no settlers.

You've probably read them but I heartily recommend some opf the older books on the era.  Matthew Josphson's "Robber Barons" from the 1920s or 30s and contemporary stuff like Tales of Erie.  Even "The Octopus."  Schlessinger's book on Reconstruction and Development was boring when I read it but  might seem better now.  Kind of boring and scholarly.

We once looked at a house with a front door rescued from Daniel Drew's mansion.  The house wasn't too good but the door was intriguing, ornate and about the only selling point.  The era itself was kind of like that.  It produced a lot of misery and a lot of ultimately useless results but did leave behind an occasional valuable addition.  Yellowstone was created as the first national park in order to create ridership for a railroad from the tourists.  A few noble schools and museums were created from the loot.  Even then, it left people wondering how many workers had to die to stock the Frick Museum.

This current era of excess seems to be leaving even less valuable floatsam and jetsum.


[ Parent ]
The Twist (0.00 / 0)
that Perelman adds is that the RRs HAD to fail in a competetive market, because standard market economics takes no account of fixed (much less sunk) costs.  There was plenty of other dastardly stuff going on, to be sure, and I've always been distracted by that stuff (not that it's unimportant), so I never focused where he's pointing before.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I was heartened to see education and civil rights joined as issues. (4.00 / 4)
That's a good sign to me. I've been hoping for some time now that seemingly disparate groups would start to see more common ground with each other and start focusing their own memberships on "non-traditional" issues. Like education for starters.

I'd like to see Labor, the enviros and others do the same, since education forms the minds of the young... it affects everyone's interests at one point or another.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
What's new about this? (4.00 / 4)
George Bush Jr. regularly referred to education reform as the civil rights issue of the day:

"Now our challenge is to make sure that
every child has a fair chance to succeed in
life. That is why education is the great
civil rights issue of our time."  

Radio Address, Jan 19 2002.

This is exactly message that helped hatch  Bush's "No Child Left Behind" ...and remember who shepherded this thing through Congress:  Ted Kennedy, George Miller.   As noted above, the heartening development over the past week was the repudiation of this destructive "reform" agenda and the by national civil rights leaders.   Finally, at least briefly, we got real substance over rhetoric in the joining of the two...something that's been missing over the last ten years at least.  


[ Parent ]
You Make An Excellent Point, lorij (4.00 / 3)
What's new, I think, is that this meme, previously used to co-opt the mantle of the civil rights movement's moral authority, is now starting to be taken seriously by people with at least some legitimate claim to that moral authority.  (Though not ignoring for a moment Bruce Dixon's critical perspective on the ease with which the NAACP got snookered into denouncing Sherrie Sherod, for exmaple.)

Somewhat relatedly, I think that Kennedy badly misjudged what Bush was up to, simply because he had an over-abundance of goodwill, and mistakenly tended to believe the same of others as his basic starting point.  That's part of the reason he could get so righteously angry when that proved not to be the case--which, of course, was the side of Kennedy that I found far and away most endearing.  We have lots of folks who see too much goodwill than is actually there.  We have far too few who get righteously angry when the ugly truth is revealed.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
At the very least. (4.00 / 6)
all of us paying attention should take the time to send a supportive message to the national organizations behind the "Civil Rights Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn..."   They are:

Lawyers Committee Under Law
National Action Network
NAACP
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
National Council for Educating Black Children
National Urban League
Rainbow PUSH Coalition
Schott Foundation for Public Education

And why not take the time to at least skim the education policy counter-proposal that earned them the upbraiding by the President at the Urban League...it shouldn't be allowed to just disappear.

Find it at google docs:  
Civil_Rights_framework-FINAL_7-21-10_.pdf


[ Parent ]
This Is An Excellent Idea (4.00 / 1)
please email me (click on my name, my email's on my user page), I'd like to discuss doing more on this.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
This is a very good idea (4.00 / 2)
A similar one would be to contact our members of Congress and tell them to offer these groups their support on this proposal (which is well worth a read).  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for another informative post (4.00 / 3)
Really, I had no idea that these sorts of issues would be controversial within the "netroots".  Guess I don't get out enough!

Well, the fight needs to be taken there.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.


sTiVo's Comment Reminds Me (4.00 / 4)
We need to put together a set of talking points specifically targetting the neo-liberal narratives in the blogosphere.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

That is a great idea (nt) (0.00 / 0)


Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Great idea, very hard first step... (4.00 / 1)
This will be an iterative process, but I think the first step is to get a real understanding of why neoliberals think Race to the Top is a good idea.  You can make a much more convincing argument if you understand their point of view.

For example, I believe statistics that show charter schools to perform no better than public schools would be considered attacking a strawman.  The goal is to use experimentation to find reproducible models that work better.  The fact there are some successes and some failures is both obvious and meaningless.  Let the successes reproduce and the failures die out.

I think there are very strong arguments on why that model isn't very good.  But you have to make that point, not talk past them with what they would call strawman arguments.

I suggest you get yourself a real neoliberal whose an expert on educational policy and have a long, frank discussion.


[ Parent ]
This is not a bad idea (4.00 / 4)
but it can't be the only way to go about it.

Ideologies are not just about express values, they are also about what people take for granted. I think a lot of folks have so soaked up the idea of free markets and competition that they don't realize how heavily this figures in their own thinking.

I think that is part of why neoliberal reformers accuse those who prefer alternative approaches to reform of being anti-reform - they literally cannot conceive of alternative approaches to vouchers, privatization, testing and competition. (The other possibility is that they are lying about their opponents, and I do not believe that is generally the case.)


Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
This Is A Very Important Point (4.00 / 1)
The market mania definitely will make neoliberal true believers see the reality-based "it's not working" as a strawman.  That said, I'm not at all sure that a long sitdown with a true believer would be much help to me--though others might profit by it.

Part of this may well be my own imperfect temperament, but part of it is due to what David says.  I think that the logic can be understood from the literature, and the faith cannot be easily shaken from true believers, but may be much easier to shake in those who've simply not thought about it much.

Bottom line:  I think there's a lot of mileage to be made from showing how the "market knows best" argument in education is fraught with problems because of market failures and the like--stuff that folks like Stiglitz and Akerloff have gotten Nobel Prizes for, so that most Democrats can't/won't so easily shrug it off as a conservatives do.

Bottom bottom line:  Whatever else, I heartily agree that it's an iterative process. It's also a group process.  Maybe you'd like to be the one who volunteers for that long sitdown?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
And another thing.... (4.00 / 4)
What they think is wrong with education, and what we think is wrong with it it are two very different things, as jeffbinnc, et al., have taken such great pains to explain. When the usual suspects say things like Education is the foundation of a secure future for our children, our economy, and our nation. what do they mean? Better wage slaves is what they mean, if they mean anything at all. An education which has its own reasons for being is one which just makes trouble for them, and for the system which they inevitably represent, no matter what clichés they're spouting at the moment.

They're not wrong about that, of course, but they are wrong about everything else. They aren't proposing charter schools as a noble experiment in the rethinking of an intractable problem, they're proposing them precisely to recast education as an imperial service agency, and to purge our collective memory of a time when it served any other purpose.


[ Parent ]
Multi prong (0.00 / 0)
I agree that the most important thing is to convince those that haven't really thought of it much.  For those, these sorts of details might not matter.

But I also think it is important to bring in the real neo-liberals and that is much harder.  That will require a much more convincing argument and a lot more evidence.


[ Parent ]
Well, one reason is (4.00 / 2)
when you're defending teachers against these attacks you're easily portrayed as defending the existing system which is basically defending the indefensible.  Urban schools really ARE horrible.  The neoliberal "solution" sounds reasonable simply because it's different from what has been done and failed before.  You have to think about it to realize it can't possibly be a real solution - blaming teachers for many things that are beyond their control.  You cannot be seen as defending the status quo.

Ultimately there is no solution to this mess without changing the society.  I firmly believe that the neoliberal elites who run this country really don't want everyone educated.  They see it as creating too many underlings restive at their rule.

Thus, part of the solution (on the netroots level, where people presumably want to do the right thing) is to challenge them to think about whether the people in charge now are acting in good faith.  If they really did want to educate everyone, would they ever pick these policies?  If we don't think about what they're trying to do, we're spinning our wheels, we'll always be one step behind.  

They (the neoliberals) have a plan.  Do we?

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.


[ Parent ]
Hi Jeff, I have a question (4.00 / 3)
Namely, do you see NEA and other groups forming a counter-program to neo-liberal "reform"? I'm guessing this is an ignorant question on my part, but while I'm seeing teachers and others doing a much better job of "defense," I'm curious as to whether we'll see a more counter-hegemonic "offense" from them?

While saving jobs is usually a great argument it's a fleeting one, so I'd like to start seeing the educators themselves start proclaiming, "We know what to do better than these corporate clowns do and here's OUR plan."

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


Good question Emo (4.00 / 3)
What I told NEA members at the Ed caucus at NN is that they've lost the grassroots - people like us.  They've been too focused on inside the beltway politics where they are being played for chumps and forgot to connect with progressives.  

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Spot on. Thanks. (4.00 / 3)
Personally, I wouldn't tell them they've lost us. Since they haven't really made use of us, they couldn't lose what they didn't have in the first place.

But that can be easily remedied, methinks. They have a huge, multi-faceted constituency if they start playing the game more with their eyes on the prize, instead of always playing defense. This ain't over by a long shot if they can get focused.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
ennnnn........ (0.00 / 0)
Anyone who thinks that we shouldn't fire a ton of teachers hasn't spent a lot of time in impoverished school districts. I agree 100% with your criticism of the standards by which we are deciding what constitutes a teacher worth getting rid of, as well as your criticism of the kind of funding teachers and school districts get in relation to staffing. But I think one thing we need to keep in mind is that undervaluing education is a disease and horrid teachers are a symptom of it. Let's not romanticize every single person who's collecting a paycheck for work in the public school system.

the funk can move and the funk can remove- dig?

Nonsense (4.00 / 5)
Anyone who thinks that we shouldn't fire a ton of teachers hasn't spent a lot of time in impoverished school districts.

This is simply not true. To take only one example, in DC, we have a mayor's race where neoliberal reform has been the main fault line, and it is the people in the more impoverished areas who have opposed mass firings, and those in more privileged areas (on average) that have supported them. It's fine if you want to make an argument in favor of firings, but this is not an argument and it's not true.

Let's not romanticize every single person who's collecting a paycheck for work in the public school system.

Who do you think is doing that?  As I read Jeff, his point is that firing teachers misdiagnoses the problem, and that teachers as a class are being unfairly demonized. I would add, along with the civil rights orgs, that mass firings also have collateral consequences for communities that are already distressed. In general, firings give power to management, they do not necessarily lead to better performance. Good managers know how to get the best from people, bad ones think this blunt instrument is their only tool.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


[ Parent ]
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