As one who believes in the primacy of language, I try my best to use words as responsibly and precisely as I can. With that in mind, as a person of the Left, few things have annoyed me more than the promiscuous use of the word “fascism” by a certain kind of would-be -Leftist who uses the word not as a description of identifiable political policies, but as a verbal bludgeon to bash in the skull of anyone with whom they disagree. Like all words and more so, fascism is a word to be used judiciously.
That said, anyone with knowledge of political systems who has perused Andrew Cuomo’s proposals on education, and especially his proposals on teacher evaluations for the state of New York, would have to conclude that Cuomo has stepped out of the bounds of known democratic policy and into the realm of fascism. Well into the realm of fascism.
The ideology of fascism has certain very identifiable characteristics, none more so than the consistent invocation of the primacy of the state over both the local and the individual. Bearing that in mind, consider Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for statewide teacher evaluation.
50 % of the evaluation will come from state test scores.
35% will come from an observation from an “independent “ evaluator hired by the state.
15% will come from the principal of the school in which the teacher works.
I do not wish to discuss here the research that completely discredits the idea of standardized tests scores as anything approaching a fair and adequate criteria for evaluating a teacher’s ability to teach. Nor do I wish to discuss the enormous sums of taxpayer money that will be needed for the state to hire “an independent evaluator “ to evaluate the hundreds of thousands of teachers in New York state.
What I wish to do here is merely point out the immense amount of professional autonomy Andrew Cuomo is attempting to usurp in one fell swoop from all principals in all communities in all of New York state, and that such massive and contemptuous usurpation of authority has no place in any meaningful democratic policies or traditions.
It does, however, fit perfectly into the fascist belief of the primacy of the state over all things and all people.
It is a profound indictment of the naked degeneracy of our contemporary political climate that such policies have been posed not by some nut job fringe candidate of a white supremacy group like David Duke but from the sitting Democratic governor of New York in his state of the state address, and there was not immediate and massive resistance.
It is breathtaking and terrifying that, absent a major and sustained resistance of the kind we have not seen in generations anywhere in America, such fascistic policies could well become state law.
The usurpation of local and individual control in the issue of teacher evaluation is, however, merely one example of identifiable fascist ideology in Cuomo’s education policy. Under fascism, for example, labor unions are suppressed or eliminated altogether. Cuomo has made no secret of his desire to suppress or eviscerate the power of all unions but he has shown a particular animus toward teacher unions.
Under fascism, certain groups or people are identified by the powerful as enemies, and campaigns are created via any and all forms of media to convince a populace to unite against them as a common foe. Due to limitless funding of billionaires, the concentration of media by a handful of ideologically driven mega-corporations, and the utter spinelessness of most politicians, precisely such a campaign against teachers has been underway and massively financed for over a decade.
Cuomo has profited from this campaign and consistently and cleverly echoed it. The disdain Cuomo has showered on public school teachers is palpable and growing more so all the time.
Fascism seeks to degrade or completely remove the human element. Cuomo’s proposals seek to achieve this disgusting goal both by the inter-position and domination of bureaucracy ( the outside state hired “expert evaluator”) or, better still, by interposition and domination by techno- bureaucracy ( a standardized state test ) as the latter provides the veneer of “progress” that is used by the wily to fool and trap the uneducated.
The conflation of corporation and state as well as contempt for the intellectual and the arts, both of which can be found in Cuomo’s’ incredibly vulgar test based notion of education, are also principles of fascism.
I am under no illusions that a man as powerfully ensconced, immensely financed, impervious to truth and monstrously ambitious as is Andrew Cuomo can be moved to alter his grotesque perception of teachers and principals across the state. Nothing will stop Cuomo from attempting to bully New York state legislators into supporting policies built on the tacit belief that New York State’s teachers and principals are so utterly incompetent and untrustworthy that they need the ever present eye of the ever growing and all powerful state led by Andrew Cuomo.
I do believe, however, that the overwhelming majority of people are beings of good will and good faith who seek, above all things, a life of dignity and decency, not merely for themselves and their children but for all people, including their children’s teachers and principals.
Dignity and decency for teachers and principals are impossible under Cuomo’s plan.
Slow motion, daily degradation, perpetual demoralization and, in a year or two, mass firings are a virtual certainty.
I do not believe, that is, that the overwhelming percentage of people are in anyway in favor of what Andrew Cuomo is really intending to do to our teachers, to our principals, our schools, our communities, and to our government.
But nor do I believe that many are truly aware of the gravity and long term effects of what Cuomo is proposing. Many, perhaps most, will need to be educated.
It is our job and duty to educate them. In whatever way we can.
Somewhere, many years ago, I recall reading the following words: Good government will come when all things are called by their right name.
I believe there is great truth in those words.
Andrew Cuomo’s education policies are way past even the radical right wing and nothing less than fascistic. We need to call them by their right name and do so repeatedly and loudly until this is understood.
Addendum: Herein is a kinder, gentler version of Cuomo’s policies. See the section on school boards. http://metroland.net/2015/02/05/andrew-cuomo-report-card-shark/