There have been more than a few events in the past 20 years or so that, even as I accepted their possibility, sent chills down my spine upon learning they actually happened. This sensation of primal fear tended only to grow stronger with time to ponder the deeper significance of such events upon the direction of the nation, a nation in which I now raise a young child.
One was the Supreme Court’s still unfathomable decision to appoint George W. Bush president in 2000. Another was the same Bush’s decision to eviscerate a virtually defenseless Iraq under the pretense of somehow making it into a democracy. A third was the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that permits the military to seize U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities under the pretense of fighting terrorism.
All of the above are clear and unmistakable evidence that strange, terrible and extraordinarily powerful forces have been unleashed in this country, met only with an as yet equally extraordinarily absence of an effective resistance. In very short order in all of the cases above, what shortly before seemed inconceivable almost overnight become what is cynically called “the new normal.”
Add to these now the decision in Vergara vs. California, which may seem small potatoes when compared with the above, but, unless things change in this country and radically so, I fear it is anything but.
The case, we are meant to believe, was brought forth by nine preternaturally litigious kids who just grew tired of being the victims of “grossly ineffective teachers” who, protected by California’s laws on tenure and seniority, robbed them of their civil rights to a fair and adequate free public education. Somehow, the kids’ cause came to the attention of Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur and modern day civil rights leader David Welch, co-founder of Infinera and founder of the advocate group StudentsMatter, and David being David… well, he just had to act. Welch, out of the kindness of his massive heart, massively bankrolled the civil rights lawsuit, hiring none other than the “high-powered legal team chaired by famed litigators Theodore Boutrous and Theodore Olson, ” the same legal team, in fact, that brought us George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election.
The solution to this alleged civil rights case, concluded Judge Rolf Treu, is not to extend probation or hire better administrators or anything sensible and moderate like that. No. The solution, declared Treu, is to gut all job protections for all teachers across the state of California; and, if Boutrous and Olsen and their mega rich employers are to be believed, across the country – just like the Common Core.
Or so goes the dark Disneyland narrative.
What is this decision?
It is many things and none of them good. All of them are portents of a bleak and miserable future for 99 % of Americans.
To be sure, the decision is a particularly powerful and harmful volley in the most insidious, sustained and fantastically financed public relations assault on a legal profession in American history, arguably in human history, otherwise known as “education reform.”
Think about it.
Has there ever been a legal profession that has undergone the barrage of insults and insinuations and insane claims ( education is now a threat to national security) from every conceivable form of media—documentary, newspapers, Hollywood film TV, and radio — as have teachers in the past decade or so?
If so, who? When ?
Vergara is too, if one needed it, yet another billboard proudly displaying the Obama administration’s utter subservience to the American oligarchy whose goal is the privitization of every facet of American public life, beginning with the public school system. Consider the words of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan concerning a ruling that has surely disgusted any serious teacher and will likely dissuade any serious young person from becoming a teacher: “For students in California and every other state, equal opportunities for learning must include the equal opportunity to be taught by a great teacher. The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students. Today’s court decision is a mandate to fix these problems.”
Neither Duncan nor anyone else on planet earth can explain how stripping teachers of due process (tenure) and the dignity and liberty that goes with it can, in any way, shape or form, help students be taught by a “great teacher,” but what the hey.
Duncan, as shameless as ever, did doubtless please his masters with his straight face declaration that the lawsuit was, in fact, brought by children and not yet another saintly billionaire using children to ram into place their stealth agenda.
To be fair, Duncan does see a role for public participation in the privatization of public education: “Together, we must work to increase public confidence in public education,” said the man. After spending years using nothing less than the weight of the federal government to systemically and as a matter of public policy destroy public confidence in public education, this is what the secretary of education would have us do in the wake of this devastating judgement — “work to increase public confidence in public education.”
Some times one has no words.
It is ample evidence of the dark genius of the 1% who have figured out how to manipulate or purchase the institutions and mechanisms created to insure a modicum of democracy and justice – namely, elections and the courts – and use them to destroy democracy and justice.
It is also ample evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the “reformers,” who will use anything, even children as innocent class warriors, to get their way in their stealth class war.
Most egregiously, insofar as the “reformers” have hijacked the language and iconography of civil rights, the most emotionally resonant, heroic and spiritually charged movement in American history, the Vergara decision is, to my way of thinking, outright blasphemy. But not merely blasphemy: Vergara is blasphemy wrapped in perversity, sugar coated in obscenity.
The blasphemy is using the sacred spirit of civil rights for the venal cause of union busting under the shameless pretence of helping kids.
The perversity is the insinuation that magically appearing billionaires who never taught a day in their lives care more about the fate of the urban poor than the teachers who serve them day in and day out.
The obscenity is the political obsequiousness that fortunes that no sane society would even allow, never mind genuflect before, are allowed to dismantle the institutions — unions and public education – that built America, and are doing it in the name of freedom.
But it is a grave mistake to perceive the Vergara decision as simply another attack, however brutal, on teachers and education. Education is merely the conduit. Vergara is an attack on the rights of every worker in the USA, union or not.
The 1% may know little of history, but they know enough about the union movement to know that, in time, the force that revolutionized even non- union industries, forcing them to treat their workers with dignity, pay them fairer wages and provide them with some modicum of security, was the threat of unions. They also know the absence of unions has exactly the opposite effect. Consider the working conditions of most Americans in the land of the free and the home of the brave since the shrinkage of American unions. No due process. No job security. No pension. No nothing but a wage that for most people has not grown since 1973.
It is in this light that the Vergara decision need be seen: as yet another objective indication of a new, if yet to be fully formed, oligarchic despotism where most of us are to live as obsequiously as valets before our rapacious and one dimensional overlords, grateful to have jobs of any kind, more grateful still for their philanthropic gestures.
The Vergara decision is an act of barbaric civic, legal and spiritual violence against the working people of this deranged country. Sooner or later, when people come to fully
understand that the overlords running their lives, those who have bankrolled and orchestrated decisions such as this, could not care less if they or their children lived or if they died, it will inevitably result in barbaric physical violence.
In the immediate future, what Vergara is about is wrecking the teachers’ unions, the faster to privatize the public school system and all of public life so as to create a revenue stream that will continue the greatest transfer of wealth upwards in human history. In the long term, it’s about eviscerating union consciences altogether so that in a generation or so, solidarity among workers (or anyone for that matter) will seem as distant and romantic as the moon, a process already well under way.
It is also about the insanely rich using the trappings of democracy to hollow out democracy, to insure that “government of the people by the people and for the people” does indeed perish from this earth.