February 20, 2008

Ed-oligopolism, here we come

Norm posted a great article Monday on how the public is being pried out of public education in a massive kind of way. It's a summary of Steven Miller and Jack Gerson's report on "The Corporate Surge against Public Schools."

Miller and Gerson refer back to a response they had written a year ago to a report funded by the Gates Foundation et al., which had called for some pretty nasty things when you come right down to it, like replacing public schools with charter schools, eliminating the power of school boards and teacher pensions, slashing health benefits, and forcing poorly functioning kids out of education altogether.

That these people can sleep at night is beyond me.

Once you start breaking down local systems of education and turning ideology, management, and finances over to corporations and pseudo-philanthropists with national influence, you get ed-oligopolism. The super-rich supply the theories, and everyone else buys into them.

From Miller and Gerson:
They would leave education policy in the hands of a network of entrepreneurial think tanks, corporate entrepreneurs, and armies of lobbyists whose priorities are profiting from the already huge education market while cutting back on public funding for schools and students. . .

Essentially, this is a fight of and for the common man. The authors put it this way:
The struggles of the Civil Rights Era made people realize that quality education was a right that everyone deserves. Education today, whether public or private, is a social policy. We make choices about how far it is extended, what the purpose is, what quality is offered, and to whom. Now that wealth is polarizing in this country, corporate forces are determined to create a social system that benefits the “Haves” while excluding the “Have-Nots”.

Privatizing public schools inevitable leads to massive increase in social inequality. . . If the corporate privatizers succeed in taking over our schools, there will be neither quality education nor civil rights.

The system of public education in the United States is deeply flawed. . . .The solution is not to fight backwards to maintain the old system. Rather it is to fight forward to a new system that will truly guarantee quality education as a civil right for everyone.

Central to this is to challenge [emphasis mine] the idea that everything in human society should be run by corporations, that only corporations and their political hacks have the right or the power to discuss what public policy should be. As Naomi Klein stated so well in The Shock Doctrine, privatization “will remain entrenched until the corporate supremacist ideology that underpins it is identified, isolated and challenged”. (p 14)

The real direction is to increase the role and power of the public in every way, not eliminate it. If we can spend $2.5 billion a week for war in Iraq, we can certainly build quality schools. It’s not a matter of money. The issue is who will benefit and who will control. Should schools be organized to benefit the super-rich, or should they be organized to benefit everyone?

Read Eduwonkette and
all the comments in "It's a small world after all" on the interconnectedness of some of the players in this big ballfield. Listen to Chomsky's lecture "Class War: the Attack on Working People." Read The Shock Doctrine, Gerson and Miller's "Education and Commodity," William Cook's Unencorporating Education, and anything else that makes connections for you, so you can get a handle on this intellectual, political and class war. Just because you don't necessarily feel it yet doesn't mean it's not already all around you.

It's the struggle of our lifetime, really, because the outcome will define the way we think, the way we interact with (and maltreat) certain sociological groups, and the way we educate schoolchildren for years to come.

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