Posts Tagged ‘racism’

Corporate Education Reformers Continue To Usurp and Debase the Language and Iconography of Civil Rights

January 9, 2014
 Gov. George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse doorway  not unlike how racists of today stand in the doorways of charter schools.

Gov. George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse doorway not unlike how racists of today stand in the doorways of charter schools.

Given the horrific history of race relations in the United States and our continued collective struggle to come to terms with this essential issue, of all the low life angles taken by corporate education reformers and their allies in government, none is lower and more repugnant than their calculated usurpation of the language and iconography of the blood stained civil rights movement. Arne Duncan began by braying on and on about how education is “the civil rights issue of our time ” ever since Obama installed him on his throne at the Department of Education in 2009. Duncan’s multi-millionaire hedge fund manager pals and the chorus of tax exempt-non-profit-organization warriors have been echoing the line ever since. And they have been doing so with absolute impunity. New Yorkers were treated to a variation of this theme just a few weeks ago during Commissioner John King’s “forum” in Brooklyn, where well fed, middle class white operatives of Michelle Rhee’s StudentFirstNY organization earned their pay by insinuating, when not our right declaring, that opposition to the Common Core State Standards was somehow depriving the African American children of Brooklyn their civil rights.
The corporate ed reformers and their allies have been repeating the line for so long they seem to be utterly oblivious to how offensive they are.

Consider the language and imagery of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington on Wednesday in his simultaneous defense of school “choice” and attack on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to make charter schools pay rent.
“Our committees in the House will remain vigilant in their efforts to ensure no one from the government stands in the school house door between any child and a good education,” said Cantor, in remarks at the Brookings Institution.”

As they are an allusion to one of the more repugnant if horrifically powerful images of the Civil Rights struggle, the words “ no one from the government stands in the school house door” leapt out at me and hit me like a hammer. And I suspect they did so to many with even a cursory knowledge of a time, not so long ago, when the power of the state was arrayed to uphold outright, undisguised, naked racism.

There is but one infamous “ stand in a schoolhouse door” moment in American history and Cantor, though a moral ignoramus, has to know this. The stand in the schoolhouse door was made at the University of Alabama by proto-Tea Partier, segregationist Governor George Wallace on June 11, 1963. Wallace’s stand was a symbolic gesture in a failed attempt to block the entry of two black students, Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood, into the university. The image made Wallace nationally famous, or infamous, overnight. Exactly as he knew it would.

It’s hard to believe that Cantor stumbled upon his choice of an image innocently. It is simply too loaded for that. And it is simply to powerful. And it’s hard to forgive someone who would use such words and such an image to implicitly link people like de Blasio or, by extension, anyone who opposes charter schools, with figures like George Wallace and his repugnant politics. But that is exactly why such words and the images they conjure up are used.

Someday, and hopefully soon, someone will write the comprehensive history of the corporate reform campaign and their ruthless and insidious campaign to privatize the American public school system. When that happens, there should be a chapter devoted exclusively to the wholesale usurpation and manipulation of the language and images of the Civil Rights Movement in this effort. For the souls of those who suffered so bravely and with such nobility, it is the very least that can be done. In the meantime, we do well by calling these people out for what they are: usurpers and worse.

Students First NY InJect Racial Politics Into Battle over Common Core

December 11, 2013

It was with deep and increasing sadness that I read the steady stream of emails coming in real time from my colleagues attending New York State Commissioner of Education’s John King’s Common Core “listening tour” which set up base in Brooklyn last night. The sadness did not stem from the fact that my colleagues were essentially silenced by a calculated maneuver by Michelle Rhee’s Student First NY organization to ensure no voice but theirs was heard by bussing people in early in order to gobble up all of the speaking slots, even as they reportedly repeated the same lines over and over again.
I expect such anti democratic machinations from all corporate education reform front groups, that much the more from anything associated with a ruthless monster like Rhee. What saddened me was the conscious injection of race into what us is ostensibly meant to be an airing of pedagogical policy. The line of thinking I read about again and again and again was that if you opposed the Common Core Standards – presented somehow as a matter not of pedagogy but of civil rights — it was because you are a racist and you did not want children of color to succeed in school.

That’s it.

This is very, very ugly and purposely divisive stuff. Indeed, it could scarcely get uglier or more divisive.

But in a way it makes sense: an ugly, brutal and suicidal sense but sense anyway. It is a kind of toxic combination of cynicism and desperate hope, one in which you have the city systemically starving schools in impoverished and minority neighborhoods and the predatory cunning of the corporate education reformers of which Common Core is a crown jewel preying off of that poverty.

For when you ram into existence, by some of the most insidious and antidemocratic processes possible, a billionaire backed experiment on the children of an entire nation; an experiment created by some of the most arrogant and ruthless souls on earth (Bill Gates, David Coleman); an experiment based on nothing but endlessly repeated rhetoric and slogans (“making kids college and career ready”) and one that that has been greeted by parents and teachers alike with incomprehension and disgust, you would do well to have evidence of the amazing success you claim such an experiment brings.

But since the creators of the Common Core — in an act of unprecedented and unconscionable hubris — did not even bother to field-test the thing, there is no evidence to be had of anything anywhere.
So what do you do when people start asking questions? How can you defend the indefensible? How do you support something with no evidence to support it with?

You can’t.

But you can try to change the argument. Ergo: the problem with the Common Core is not with the Common Core (which is perfect at conception) but with anyone and everyone who opposes it for any reason, no matter how sound. According to the New York Times, people oppose the Common Core is because they are Tea Party nut jobs or left wing conspiracy nut jobs. Or because they want teachers to coddle their kids. According to Arne Duncan opposition stems from the fact that suburban moms just can’t handle the reality that their kids are dumb and their schools sucks as badly as they really do.

All of this is ugly but it also silly. To introduce the element of race into this discussion in a nation where racism has been its most disgusting and perhaps most permanent reality is anything but silly.

Such a move is meant not to promote dialogue but to end it. No decent person wants to be called a racist or to be accused of promoting racist policies, which is what many at last night’s “forum “ apparently claimed opponents of the Common Core are doing. This line of thinking has no more credibility that those of Arne Duncan or Joe Bruni or Bill Keller and it should be given no more credibility. What is credible and what must be heard is the very real anguish and near despair that produced such thinking. It did not come out of nowhere.
In a few hours John King will hold another “forum” in downtown Manhattan.
I have no idea if Students First NY or some other billionaire backed front group will attempt to pull a similar stunt but this time around I will be in attendance, as will many of my friends and colleagues and I hope to speak to the issue at hand and not be drowned out by confusion and ugly corporate sponsored obfuscation.