We've all heard the now famous line from the "reform" camp that "Education is the civil rights issue of our era..." I will pause and allow the ironic outrage of such a comment coming from a movement backed by free market billionaires to sink in... As we've seen this past week in Chicago (which also happens to be the petry dish of the Shock and Awe school of Friedman based economics) poor urban, minority communities have been targeted and their schools closed down despite scholarly objections backed by research, community protests led by the people whose kids are being attacked and of course the teachers and their union as well. Here is a piece from an article by CTU President Karen Lewis published in the Chicago Tribune March 29, 2013 :
"I believe 50 schools, however, was Mayor Rahm Emanuel's target all along. It was textbook shock and awe. Start with a large number and slowly dial back until reaching the desired figure under the guise of listening to the community — a page right out of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. Close public schools named for deceased African-American heroes — Marcus Garvey, Mahalia Jackson, Benjamin Banneker, Garrett Morgan — and open charter schools named for living billionaires with no ties or accountability to the people they serve."
|Civil Rights Pioner Rev. Jesse Jackson Marches with CTU President Karen Lewis Absent from Photo are Noteworthty Chicagoans Secretary Duncan, Eli Broad, Barack Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.|
We have heard from no less of a public figure and "Chicagoan" himself Barack Obama and his fellow Chicagoan U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, that "Education is the civil rights issue of our time." See if our Chicago boys can square their rhetoric with some of the numbers coming out of the push for school closings : In Chicago 41 % of the students are black but 88% of the kids whose schools are being closed are black. Does this strike our Harvard lawyer President and our Yale Sociologist as anything that might be considered disproportionate? Or maybe as some of the more candid speakers of our generation have said "Racist?" Meanwhile another school closing orgy of reform is tightening its grip on the throats of Philly's schools as reported in the New York Times :
Action United, a group that opposes the closings, presented data Monday showing that 80 percent of the students affected by the planned closings are black; the district’s enrollment is 55 percent black and 19 percent Hispanic. The group released a Dec. 18 letter it had received from the Education Department saying that the closing plan is subject to an investigation under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and two other laws that are enforced by the department’s Office for Civil Rights. “The district has not demonstrated why closing schools in predominately African-American neighborhoods with higher numbers of students with disabilities serves any educational necessity that could not be accomplished through less discriminatory alternatives,” the group said in a statement.
And to tie this all together, not in my words, though I admit they can be pretty goddamned funny when I get my Blarney on, but in the words of the Washington Post's Jeff Bryant who, in early February, summed up a week's worth of feedback on the current state of American "Education Reform" thusly :
Events this week revealed how market-driven education policies, deceivingly labeled as “reform,” are revealing their truly destructive effects on the streets and in the corridors of government.
From the streets, we heard from civil rights and social justice activists from urban communities that school turnaround policies mandated by the Obama administration’s education agenda are having disastrous results in the communities they were originally intended to serve.
From the corridors of government, we were presented with irrefutable evidence that leaders driving the reform agenda are influencing public officials to write education laws in a way that benefits corporate interests rather than the interests of students, parents, and schools.
These events, in tandem, reveal an inconvenient truth of education reform that should make anyone who promotes these policies question, “Whose interests are being served here?”
I daresay the billionaires and their lapdog politicians cowering behind their phoney curtain of Philanthropy are suffering an acute case of Wizard of Oz Syndrome. Slowly but surely and community by community a growing chorus is rising from the scenes of their crimes. Here in Buffalo we have one that's popular at Sabre's and Bills' games. Apparently they love it in Baltimore as well (swipe to about :30 second mark if you're impatient)