August 25, 2009


Obama's "Race to the Top" initiative, which is like a sledgehammer whacking ed deform deeper into public policy, is the conflation of at least three philosophies, if not more.

Neoliberalism. The first of these definitions sounds tame, the second like a hungry beast:
"a political orientation originating in the 1960s; blends liberal political views with an emphasis on economic growth"

"The policies of privatization, austerity, and trade liberalization dictated to dependent countries by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as a condition for approval of investment, loans, and debt relief." (6)

Neoconservatism. The first makes you feel uncomfortable, the second is terrifying.

"A right wing political movement that opposes liberalism in political, economic and social fields."

"Neocons - Neoconservatism is a political philosophy that emerged in the United States of America, and which supports using American economic and military power to bring liberalism, democracy, and human rights to other countries."

Liberalism. A virtual potpourri of economic and social elements, such as:
The quality of being liberal; Any political movement founded on the autonomy and personal freedom of the individual, progress and reform, and government by law with the consent of the governed; An economic theory in favour of laissez faire and the free market

"broad, large-minded, tolerant"
"having political or social views favoring reform and progress"

And all this doesn't seem strange anymore, because since Obama's been in office, he's morphed.

Gone are the autonomy, personal freedom, broadmindedness and tolerance.

Being fixed in stone is an opposition to all that – plus privatization and an imperialistic federal government that dictates policy to the states. (Who needs State Ed Depts anymore, come to think of it.)

Much to think about, but it feels like a tsunami.

Cartoon credits:
The New Yorker, which I'm very angry with for the Steven Brill article

Since this blog is on hold while there's much to do at the school level against the threats to NYC public education, I'm leaving this reminder of the kind of battle we're in.

Danny Weil's essay in Counterpunch, from whence these two paragraphs:

Neoliberalism, Charter Schools and the Chicago Model
Obama and Duncan's Education Policy:
Like Bush's, Only Worse

. . . What the Obama administration is doing, in tandem with the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, is part and parcel of typical neo-liberal policy making: wielding federal stimulus funds as a financial weapon to force all states to increase the amount of charter schools they host as well as force those states that do not have them to pass legislation authorizing them. Through financial arm-twisting at a time of disastrous economic crisis, the Obama administration plans to use the power of the federal government to create a much larger national market for charter school providers, be they for profit or non-profit, virtual charters, EMOs or single operators.

This is deeply troubling, for many states which do not want charter schools or have found the experiment to be less than adequate and in fact damaging to kids and funding, for traditional public schools will now be forced to choose stimulus money over policy, a form of economic extortion and increased federal and corporate control over decision making, especially at a time when many of these states are literally financial insolvent. This is another example of how disaster politics operates, only this time the disaster is not a natural disaster but an economic disaster that threatens public policies.
Is anyone feeling like I am that we've been ripped off by this presidency?

August 11, 2009

Wearing the right shoes

Frank Rich in the NY Times last Sunday got it exactly right when he said there's a "sinking sensation that the American game is rigged," that the system is in hock to lobbyists and the very, very rich.

I take this very much to heart. In fact, I am way past that "sinking" sensation and know to the bone how entirely rigged this American game is.

The editorial boards of the largest NY papers are caught up in the same sphere of influence, and they've pretty much abandoned the notion of unbiased reporting. A disappointment, but no surprise anymore.

Fortunately, the gap in reportage is being filled by some tireless activists, which means as long as you own a computer, you'll never be more than an hour or two away from the latest education news. These people connect the dots, provide links to other scholarship and muckraking, and tell you when it's time to take direct action.

My warmest and most heartfelt thanks for doing this for us goes to Ednotes (Norm Scott), NYC Educator (NYC Educator), and NYC Public School Parents (Leonie Haimson), a virtual dream team of bloggers. There's also the indefatiguable GothamSchools produced by The Open Planning Project.

I will not include in this list what should have been there all along: Edwize and the NY Teacher, the ethically challenged arms of the UFT/Unity Caucus.

As for myself, I've learned this summer that I've got to come off the computer and spend my non-teaching time in civic protest. There's no other way I'll be able to feel comfortable in my own shoes.